In his poem “The Dream Keeper,” Langston Hughes tells dreamers to bring him their dreams, “that I may wrap them in a blue cloud cloth, away from the too rough fingers of the world.”
Grace Lawrence is a dream keeper for a place inspired by the poet himself — the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center in Corona.
“They had the vision for the future, they had a dream,” Lawrence said of the people who founded the library back in 1969. “We were the dream keepers — we had to keep the dream alive and make it become a reality.”
Lawrence, the president of the East Elmhurst-Corona Civic Association, received the civic award from Borough President Helen Marshall for her devotion to a long roster of local organizations, including Community Board 3, the Jackson Heights Development Corporation and the NAACP.
She also chairs the Library Action Committee of Corona-East Elmhurst, the group that founded the Langston Hughes Library, and in that role she has already seen many a dream fulfilled. Langston Hughes became a branch of the Queens Borough Public Library in 1987 and moved into a new state-of-the-art building four years ago.
Now the library’s vision has spread.
“A lot of the libraries now have adopted the very same things that we pioneered about,” Lawrence said. “They have a lot of cultural programs now. We were really the leaders. It was a struggle — everything was a struggle.”
As a civic leader, Lawrence fights to maintain the quality of life in her community and ensure that residents get their fair share of services.
But she sees herself as part of the whole, a member of the community who learns from her neighbors as she fights for them.
“The best way you can accomplish a lot of goals is by coming together,” she said. “I have met a lot of wonderful people and people from all walks of life, and they have really broadened my life — not only that, but they have also enriched it.”