In the Tabby Storytime Theater on a Thursday afternoon, an African folk song played over speakers, children pounded drums and shook maracas, and Fred Provencher quietly pondered the future of his city.
The Feb. 18 event at the Huntington Beach Central Library was billed as a “Children’s Hour,” and there was no mention of the genocide in Darfur, the immigration debate or the hate crimes that once dogged Surf City’s reputation. The children present were elementary school age and younger, so the program centered on upbeat diversions: a tribal folk tale, a children’s author doing monkey impressions and enough percussion instruments to go around.
But Provencher, the founder of the HB Reads program, hoped the festivities would have a more lasting impact. Since 2008, he and his colleagues have set up a month of events around town trumpeting diversity and human rights, and this year, teens and adults were busy learning about the Lost Boys of Sudan — a group of refugees who were given an opportunity to escape the violence in their native land and start over in the United States. Meanwhile, the youngest kids, who were too young to understand the plight of refugees, simply soaked in the joys of another culture.