The mystery is history

The mystery is history

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About now in the school year a search is on.

Students round up a few likely suspects:

http://www.floridamemory.com/onlineclassroom/history_fair/#bet

They probe into their past. And they

create a short script, or construct a table display

or write an essay about the object of their attention.

If they are passionate and well-informed and are favored

by the local, regional and state judges, they find

themselves in our nation’s capital for the National

History Day Fair.

A shake of the dance rattle  (traditional turtle shell or

modern day metal can) please, as I mention with

pride that this time around Betty Mae Tiger Jumper,

is highlighted as a worthy subject.

She receives a fine digital shout out directed at students: http://www.floridamemory.com/onlineclassroom/history_fair/

http://id.loc.gov/authorities/names/n93123557.html

Will students look closer at the woman who authorized me to

tell her story to younger readers?

Because she wrestled alligators, she grabs attention. For grade school

age,  a creative collaboration produced the gold medal, Florida Book

Awards title, She Sang Promise: The Story of Betty Mae Jumper.

It features a letter to readers from her son, Moses Jumper, Jr. and illustrations from Lisa Desimini, with  my text vetted by

the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

What pulls middle grade students in is that Betty Mae began

kindergarten at middle school age.

High school researchers may want to explore death threats

she survived, her election as the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s

first woman leader, her role in forming a four-tribe coalition

to speak with one voice. her appointment to a presidential

commission.

The 2014 national theme on rights and responsibilities is a smooth fit

for this trailblazer.

Brava! Betty Mae Tiger Jumper. Added to a list of

non-Native men and women who our nation’s students have presented

on, since at least 1974.

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all images copyrighted by the author

PLUS – an additional resource from this site (any returning readers, apologies for the previous non-working link) is:

https://bookseedstudio.wordpress.com/about-this-site-writer/bookseedstudio1/

Here First

They Were Here First

I am aware of this, about American Indian Tribal members:

American Indians aren’t “people of color.”

And also, for many American Indians, being called American Indian, or being known as Native American, isn’t a preferred moniker.

What is?

Specificity, such as the name of the Tribe and, if it’s known, the group of that Tribe (what pueblo or village or area the Tribal member hails from.)

With resources I’ve listed below, which are also found more on this site here, you may be amazed about aspects of a topic that comes ’round every November (Native American month) for school (home school too) and college educators.

And if your school is near a Tribe, or if your students or you have a special interest in our nation’s history, you likely go to this topic year-round.

print books-

DO ALL INDIANS LIVE IN TIPIS? Questions and Answers from the National Museum of the American Indian

A NATIVE AMERICAN THOUGHT OF IT: Amazing Inventions and Innovations by Rocky Landon and David MacDonald

online –

OYATE

Oyate.org

AMERICAN INDIANS in CHiLDREN’S LITERATURE

American Indians In Children’s Literature

One thing to learn is that long-beloved and well-intended children’s picture books and novels that have earned esteemed awards, aren’t always held in regard by Tribe members. Often it’s because of cultural appropriation & misunderstandings continued in the books.  It can be as brief as not including the word  “stereotype” where it should be placed. Or it can be as deep as taking a ceremony or elements of it that are spiritual and religious, and treating them as entertainment.

Some of the nay-sayers about published children’s literature on Tribe topics are also experts in all of children’s literature. And how fortunate that is for researchers & writers. Which brings me to a puzzle.

Why is it that some authors who want to write about these Tribe topics, appear uneager to absorb the details out there about stereotypes and other depictions.

I was fortunate to attend an important book event. A published picture book author, more published than me with my one picture book, after looking at my illustrated biography of an American Indian Leader, talked with a disdainful tone about an irritation.  It was that this author’s idea to write about an  “Indian legend” was finding publisher pushback because it might be “misappropriation” of someone’s heritage.   The author, who revealed no strong connection in life experience or research or work with a Tribe, was piqued at the thought of that questioning from the editor.

Good for that editor/publisher.

We are one

“We are all one. And if we don’t know it, we will learn it the hard way.” – BAYARD RUSTIN quoted in WE ARE ONE, an illustrated biography for young readers, by Larry Dane Brimner

In my crowd, I am often late to knowledge.

Clarity about the meaning of the everyday term for where I live in the cosmos – the universe – ONE SONG – only arrived when I became a mother. This  left me giddy.  ‘One song, one song, one song,” I remember lilting to my baby girl as we danced around the room.  And then I thought of the Beatles: “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together..”

WE ARE ONE is the perfect title for an illustrated biography of one of the most famous men of the Civil Rights Movement you have yet to hear of.  I am late, very late, to know about him. I feel privileged that Larry Dane Brimner is the person who brings him to me.

With recent events in the country of pharaohs,  watching the expression of oneness in Cairo,  it’s a good time to examine WE ARE ONE, The  Story of Bayard Rustin. Without this book, black history months such as this one is, would come and go with nary a mention of Rustin.

I hope this title earned  a shelf of awards.

The author has tackled  a key person in U.S. Civil Rights history who is under-represented on children’s bookshelves, as far as I can tell, from skimming the titles out there.

Secondly, Rustin was gay and a member of the  Communist Party in the United States. To his great credit, Larry Dane Brimner presents these topics with more than a cover-the-bases sentence for each of these area of Rustin’s complex life.

Finally, he knocks the socks off the reader by uncovering one outstanding fact after another of this unsung hero.

For example –

Who convinced the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. not to carry a gun and not to keep an armed guard at his house in Montgomery during the tense days of the civil rights protests of 1955 & 1956?  It was the peaceful protest that Dr. King became synonymous with.

Who repeatedly tested the color barriers on public buses & also the response of Southern bus drivers & riders, in 1942 long before Rosa Parks (1955) , and was hauled off the bus and arrested?

Whose arrest for sitting in a “white” seat while living his peaceful life as a black man, resulted in his working on THE CHAIN GANG in North Carolina?

After getting off the chain gang (think COOL HAND LUKE, there is a movie in Bayard Rustin’s life ) whose article about that chain gang labor, in The New York Post, helped bring about an end to the North Carolina chain gangs?

Who was a Quaker?

Who credited his peaceful protest guidance of the Civil Rights movement to his grandmother?

Who organized  every detail of the Aug. 28, 1963 rally for equality on the National Mall – from details about what kind of box lunch each bus rider should bring for themselves, to how to get 100,000 mainly poor black folks, safely from their small home towns to the nation’s Capitol?

From the author we learn the answer to each of these questions is: Bayard Rustin.

Before reading this book, my answer to a lot of these questions would have been something like,  “Well, somehow I thought King had done that.”

Rustin is the fella who created the crowd for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , at the Washington Monument that August 28 of 1963. Rustin brought people with no means to travel, with the challenges of  travel & lodging for black folks, to fill up  the long Mall in Washington, D.C. He did this without e-mail, cell phones, tweeting, Facebook, MySpace, ATMs &, well you know the ways of today.

This is a fabulous biography. I enjoyed everything, especially I liked reading about his West Chester, Pennsylvania family, where the grandmother, was a Quaker and therefore a pacifist. Grandma Julia married a man who had been born into slavery, Janifer Rustin. Not only that, he was a slave in the North, so when Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect, it didn’t “free” Janifer Rustin. That happened a year after, when the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by the U.S. Congress.  We begin to see the kinds of stories the young Bayard learned, growing up with Mr. and Mrs. Rustin. Bayard Rustin was born in 1912 and passed on in 1987.

Faced with this wealth of material, I’m not sure how I would have crafted the story. I might have been tempted to just keep the Bayard Rustin file open, indefinitely, seeking subjects easier to translate to teachers and those they tutor in civics and Civil Rights topics.

We are all fortunate, every one, that Larry Dane Brimner chose to delve into the topic and emerge with a lively and enlightening story.

Unlike many of the authors whose books I choose to write about here, I don’t know Brimner as a pal. I liked  chatting with him at a book-signing table last year as he met teacher fans, but it was a brief contact & I got no sense of who he was, other than another writer sitting on a high chair before a table with a stack of books my his side & a smile on his face for each person who presented a crisp hardbound illustrated book toward him to sign.

I apologize to the school intended to be gifted the copy that I had Brimner sign.  I have kept it far too long since November when I bought it. But with this post going up in mid-February, I will take it there next visit.  And I am grateful to my pal

Joan Broerman for her early recommendation of this title.

For more on Mr. Rustin, in addition to Larry Dane Brimner’s valuable book, there is an excellent resource I found from the material in the back copy of WE ARE ONE, at Columbia University’s oral history project.  You may also want to see Mr. Rustin on the cover of LIFE magazine in 1963. Those were the days we received not only LIFE but LOOK, every week at home. So that means he was in my living room & likely, I saw this same cover on our coffee table, but being a little kid, it didn’t sink in.  I am thankful for this chance to understand, through the teachings of Mr. Rustin that WE ARE ONE.