A heart-lifting moment in recent conversations on race & how to counter racism in this beautiful USA, is the community children’s literature coming-together, of June 4th, 2020.
It collected under the banner #KidLit4BlackLives & I heard about it through #TheBrownBookshelf, my guide for 13 years, to fabulous books I might otherwise not have known about & some titles I was already seeking.
Jackie Woodson warmly welcomed us to the table, hosted by Kwame Alexander. But the best thing about it is that so many soon-to-be luminaries were invited onboard with now-famous, once-unknown, contemporary, award-winning children’s-book creators of color. I especially enjoyed meeting a 9-year-old future leader, zooming in from overseas. Correction: Leader. Period.
It’s exciting to see thousands of publishers, editors, educators, parents & creators of books for young people, listening/learning from an evening of vivid voices that are predominantly from people of color. We all pledged to learn more, learn harder, learn better, about what our community needs to do to improve.
Following the event, which he attended, graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang shared this thoughtful instagram conversation with a beloved esteemed educator who was 10 during the 1967-68 riots in the USA, which led to the Kerner Commission. (divot to the right, to flip to each page.) Educator Tony Green believes that the country needs a national commission that has broad ethnic representation (unlike the all-white, male Kerner Commission) to create implementable provisions that will move the USA forward in the wake of a shameful litany of black lives lost after an incident with police. That is one part of a larger racial issue, which involves food deserts, poverty, imprisonment and health care access. I would like to see this country’s Native American/American Indian population included in this national discussion.
I loved how Ms. Woodson, whose BROWN GIRL DREAMING, is a favorite of mine, asked everyone to speak out when a racist remark is heard, when it comes directly to you from your uncle who is a wizard at guitar-playing, or the friendly neighbor who grows sweet cherry tomatoes two streets over. “That’s not kind,” is a starter, before walking away. “I don’t feel good being around thoughts like that.” Doesn’t have to be a long lecture. Shouldn’t be. Jerry Craft knew how to get a conversation going in many families, such as in Florida, where I live. He said to share how, “Save the Whales doesn’t mean that dolphins don’t deserve to live. Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that ALL Lives don’t matter.”
The evening was awash in appreciation for people regardless of their skin, the quality of their home, their unemployment status or the labels on their clothing. More kindness, more thinking before speaking, more interest in people of color all through the year, and not just at a significant anniversary of birth or death, or a standard celebration time, or month, is a step toward shedding racism.
To revisit these speakers, make time for the recorded event. Above, find & follow #TheBrownBookshelf link, which also includes a rich list of resources.
Appreciations to political cartoonist Nathan Archer, Florida chair of the National Cartoonists Association, for this #BlackLivesMatter 6/2020 image shared on his fb page.