‘Zoombombers’ disrupt library Black History Month event

Screenshot of Brookings Public Library's event featuring Negro Leagues Baseball historian Phil Dixon.

BROOKINGS – A Zoom event hosted by the Brookings Public Library featuring Negro Leagues Baseball historian Phil Dixon was interrupted by multiple attendees who aimed to disrupt Dixon’s presentation.

Zoombombing or Zoom raiding refers to the unwanted, disruptive intrusion, generally by Internet trolls, into a video-conference call, according to Wikipedia.

“In a typical Zoombombing incident, a teleconferencing session is hijacked by the insertion of material that is lewd, obscene, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, Islamophobic, or antisemitic in nature, typically resulting in the shutdown of the session,” according to Wikipedia.

Ten minutes into the Brookings event, the offending attendees began drawing lewd images and racial slurs on the screen, shouting, and indecently exposing themselves. The offending attendees were removed, and the presentation continued successfully, according to a City of Brookings press release. The authorities were promptly contacted.

Dixon’s presentation was the fourth event in a larger series of the Library’s Black History Month events funded by the Libraries Transforming Communities: Focus on Small and Rural Libraries grant, an American Library Association initiative that helps library workers better serve their small and rural communities. Until this point, there have been no other interferences with the library’s Black History Month programming.

“We are disheartened that this hateful sort of disturbance took place at Phil Dixon’s talk. It went directly against the Library’s goals for our Black History Month series, as well as the values that the Library upholds,” said Mikaela Neubauer, the Brookings Public Library’s community services coordinator who was running the event. “We can only condemn the actions taken by those responsible, thank our presenter for his professionalism, and look ahead to more positive and productive programming for our community.”

Though the presentation continued after the interruption, Dixon addressed the crowd before launching back into his discussion of Negro League Baseball teams and players from eastern South Dakota and the greater Midwest.  

“Racism is real, and these types of programs help to unify us. That’s what we’re trying to do – unify,” Dixon said. “There’s always going to be someone out there with an ulterior motive. But if we come together to share the great history of America, the real, true history of how people worked together and people made things work in even the most difficult times, then I think we’ll be OK.” 

Situations such as this one will not hinder the community’s objectives, the city press release said. 

“This incident further affirms that such programming addresses a need that is both vital and pressing,” Brookings Human Rights Commission (HRC) Vice Chair Dianne Nagy said. “We take incidents like this just as seriously as letting out dogs on marches, hoses, or being drug behind a truck,” said commission Chair Nieema Thasing. “The HRC will remain ever vigilant with our mission.”

The library’s last Black History Month event will continue as planned. At 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 4, the library will host a “More Than a Month” Community Conversation to discuss the topics addressed throughout the month’s programming and how the community of Brookings can promote diversity and inclusion year-round.

“Phil Dixon’s event, and all of our other Black History Month events, are meant to be a safe place to learn, grow, and talk openly about topics of Black history and culture, as well as community building. This time that safety was threatened, yet we didn’t let it stop us from going on with the presentation,” Neubauer said. “Culturally diverse and informative programming is vital for this community, and the library will continue offering events like these, no matter what backlash or obstacles we may face.”

The edited version of Phil Dixon’s presentation with the zoombombing incident removed will be available for viewing on the library’s Facebook page (@bkglib), under the “videos” section. 

More information about upcoming Library events can be found on the Brookings Public Library website calendar (brookingslibrary.org) or on the library’s Facebook page.

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