A part of being positively optimistic and powerful is standing up for yourself and for others that are mistreated or marginalized. This doesn’t require a lot of neck-twisting, eye-rolling, or cussin’ folks out. We have so much more power than we think we do simply by expressing our grievances as calmly and respectfully as we can. Sometimes, this may require us stepping back from the situation to calm our emotions and put our unintelligible, angry thoughts into a form that is clear and persuasive.
We all have different strengths. My husband is a persuasive speaker. He probably can convince a dog that it’s actually a cat. Although I can be articulate when I want to be, I know for sure that I can go into beast mode when I write. I would rather treat someone’s life with my pen rather than play the dozens with my mouth (but best believe I have my moments!).
Two years ago, I had to put my treat-your-life writing skills to work when a Chicago Public Library employee treated me like one of Cinderella’s black step-sisters. I won’t go into the details of the incident, partly because I half remember it and also because the specifics aren’t important. One of the library employees, not sure of her title, was unnecessarily rude so I took it upon myself to send a very long, detailed email to a general email address that I found on the Chicago Public Library website (email@example.com in case you need to put someone in their place).
I didn’t really think anyone would respond. My husband didn’t think anyone would respond. However, I had to give it a shot because I was so upset about the incident. To our surprise, I received the following email: (Note that I removed the identifying information of the library branch that I had the issue with simply because this was a one-time event and they usually have good customer service.)
Dear Ms. (Removed my last name)
I apologize for the bad experience you had at the (Removed library branch name) branch yesterday.
I’ve forwarded your complaint to the Library’s Assistant Commissioner for Neighborhood Services, who oversees this branch.
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago, IL 60605
Then I received this email:
Ms. (Removed my last name),
Thank you for taking the time to let us know about the service you received at the Chicago Public Library (Removed library branch name) Branch. We do apologize for the inconvenience you experienced and the rude service you described. I’ve included your concerns as you’ve stated below. The branch manager at (Removed library branch name), (Removed branch manager name) is a very service oriented manager and will address you concerns with the staff. I know Ms. (Removed branch manager name) would be happy to talk with you about the details of this incident in order to direct her efforts towards correcting such behavior appropriately. She can be reached at (Removed telephone number of branch manager).
Please feel free to contact me if I can be of further assistance. I do plan to follow up with (Removed branch manager name).
We hope you will continue to enjoy the resources and services offered by the Chicago Public Library.Best Regards,Roberta V. WebbDistrict ChiefSouth District(312)747-0171 (voice)
I’m showing my P.O.P. community these emails to show you that it is possible to have your voice heard when lodging official complaints about poor customer service received at public institutions. Sometimes it seems like there is very little accountability in public service offices (DMV anyone?), but we have to speak out for the potential for any type of change to occur. Speaking out doesn’t have to involve screaming loud for more impact. If you feel disrespected or mistreated by a public or private sector establishment, you can definitely use your pen or keyboard to voice your concerns without losing your self-respect or adding more lines to your rap sheet.
Recently, the Chicago Park District has become the focus of my writing wrath. The short story is I was looking forward to finding a summer program for me and Little L to do this summer. Last summer, we took a swim class for babies 6-18 months at the University of Illinois at Chicago and took a music class for babies 6-12 months at the Old Town School of Folk Music. The classes were fine, but I think I was too ambitious. It was a tad bit stressful to get my then 10-11 month old to both classes on time and in good spirits.
This summer, I was looking forward to finding a Chicago Park District program that may be a little bit closer to home. I was extremely disappointed (angry really) when I logged on the Chicago Park District website to discover tons of classes for Little L’s age range (1.5-3 year olds) on the North and Southwest sides of the city, which consist of predominately white and Hispanic neighborhoods, but very slim pickings of classes in this age range where we live on the Southeast side of Chicago (full of predominately black neighborhoods). I saw one swim class somewhat near me (maybe there were two or three, but definitely a stark contrast to the plethora of classes available in other areas). Where were the arts & crafts, gymnastic, or gardening classes for young toddlers on the Southeast side (or even West side, the other predominately black section of the city) like in the areas heavily populated by whites and Hispanics? You guys already know that my hands are hot and ready to shoot an email off to firstname.lastname@example.org to tell them exactly how I feel.
What do you all do in hopes to spark change? Do you find that writing emails or letters to establishments or politicians help? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook.