So, what DO y’all want?

January 1, 2018

Some days I feel like the old school griot of The Brown Bookshelf whose only job is to remind folks of the origins. You know? I’m here to remind folks where we started and compare it to where we’ve come. So, in that spirit, I got to thinking that maybe behind-the-scenes publishing is saying of writers of color – look, so what do y’all want anyway?

The question is frustrating at best and insincere at worst because representation is the answer. Always has been the answer. And there are no tricks tied to representation. If I tell you that I want to attend your party, I don’t mean – can I send my neighbor to attend for me? Writers of color want to attend the party AND…now pay close attention, because there is an AND. AND we want to be asked to dance.

Verna Myers, an Inclusion Activist (because we’ve reached a time where such a thing must exist) says that “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” So yes, we want to be invited and we want to dance.

The longer people of color are not partying with everyone else, the more that’s required of representation in literature. In 2007, when we launched BBS, our goal was to highlight our voices in kidlit. We wanted to make sure that the few of us at the party were actually getting to hold the mic now and then to showcase our books. Our hope, was that when readers and gatekeepers realized we were out there, that it would increase our numbers.

Ten years later, that’s barely the case. Worse, ten years later, there’s a new bugaboo – more people wanting to tell our stories and publishing thinking it’s okay. Because, apparently, as long as the story is told through the lens of a Black character well then *dusts off hands* our jobs are done here.

According to Cooperative Children’s Book Center, in 2007, of the 3,000 books they received only 77 were by African Americans while 150 were about us. Ten years later – of 3,400 books received by CCBC- 94 were by African Americans while 287 were about us. Do you see the problem here?

Just barely half of the books about us were written by us (51%) in 2007. And ten years later, though there was a 48% increase in books showcasing African Americans, only 33% were written by us. More books about us, but even less by us. That means the bouncer is stopping us at the club door, in droves, while everybody else is inside partying to OUR stories.

That’s why the question of what we want is insincere. Playing dumb only wastes our time. But, if plain English is in order – We want to tell our stories. All of them. Urban. Rural. Suburban. Historical. Contemporary. Fantastical.

Sorry, but no we don’t want anyone else telling our stories, because they’re OURS. Because we live as Black people everyday. So yeah, we know what it’s like. Why on earth would anyone tell that story? How could they?

And anyone asking – Well why can’t I… – go back to the beginning of the blog post and start over. Read it until you understand why.

We’re having a hard enough time showing African American children in a broad scope of stories. It’s insulting to constantly explain that we want our kids to hear what few stories exist, to come from their mommas, poppas, aunties and uncles.

Spare me any confusion or anger because I want my story told by someone who is familiar with the source material. Ten years ago, I was more willing to engage a discussion about that. So, you’d have to get in your time machine to elicit my empathy.

Meanwhile, I ask you this – how crazy would it sound to you if I went into a party, danced with your shoes on and then came back out and was like- Whew, that was a hell of a party. You should have been there.

NOTE: The representation stats for Native Americans is abysmal, with only 55 total books represented in 2016. While Asian Americans and Latinos aren’t winning this battle, by any means, I want to note that statistics show they’re experiencing slightly more success on being able to represent themselves. In 2016, 90% of books received by CCBC about Asians were written by Asians and 61% for Latinos. Tiny, barely there victory.

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Voices of Change: A Teen Reflects on Freedom

November 14, 2017

Freedom

By JGL, 13

What’s the use of freedom, if we’re not really free
You say all religions will be treated equally
Don’t ostracize Muslims, let them be

What’s the use of freedom, if we’re not really free
Our president doesn’t support free press, it may be gone soon
Forthright writing is only found once in a blue moon

What’s the use of freedom, if we’re not really free
We should be able to articulate how we feel, without repercussion
Don’t be aloof, have a genial discussion

What’s the use of freedom, if we’re not really free
Justice should be fair and resolute
Regardless of race and gender, or the point is moot

What’s the use of freedom, if we’re not really free
You can’t purge the world of guns
But people shouldn’t bask in violence or flaunt weapons for fun

What’s the use of freedom, if we’re not really free
Don’t make the accused wait in anguish
While they continually languish

What’s the use of freedom, if we’re not really free
Search should be legal and follow the rules
Don’t make people scapegoats or play them for fools

What’s the use of freedom if we’re not really free
My premonition is that if we follow the constitution’s true meaning, we’ll be great
We need to instill love and exterminate the defect of hate

Read about Voices of Change on The Brown Bookshelf:

The Brown Bookshelf opens up this space to you — to young readers, to parents and caregivers, to educators, and all who work directly with children and teens. See previous entries here.

What are you thinking? How are you feeling about what is happening in our towns and cities, our world? Where do we go from here? What would you like to see happen? What do you want to do? How can we offer our support?

Please feel free to share your words and/or images with us, by sending them to teambrownbookshelf@gmail.com. And we will post them here. Posts with profanity, explicit imagery, etc will not be accepted or published. Unless a contributor requests otherwise, we will share first initials, age and/or position only.


Shining the Spotlight: The Brown Bookshelf Salutes Great Books for Kids

November 11, 2017

If you’re attending AASL, please join us for our Shining the Spotlight program today in Room North 124A from 10:40 a.m. to 11:40 a.m. The BBS team will be represented by Gwendolyn Hooks, Kelly Starling Lyons, Tameka Fryer Brown and Crystal Allen.

Following the session, Crystal will sign at booth 223 from 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Tameka will read in Authorpalooza at 12:15 p.m.

Tameka and Kelly will sign in Authorpalooza at 12:30 p.m.-1 p.m.

Here’s the list of books we featured in our book talk:

A Night Out With Mama by Quvenzhane Wallis, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat written and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe

One Shadow on the Wall by Leah Henderson

American Ace by Marilyn Nelson

Visiting Day by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James Ransome

Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Crown by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon James

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History written and illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth, illustrated by Chris K. Soentpiet

My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood by Tameka Fryer Brown, illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Tiny Stitches by Gwendolyn Hooks, illustrated by Colin Bootman

Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick

Tea Cakes for Tosh by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by E. B. Lewis

The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown and The Wall of Fame Game by Crystal Allen, illustrated by Eda Kaban

In Your Hands by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Brian Pinkney

The Ring Bearer written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Preaching to the Chickens by Jabari Asim, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James Ransome

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Don’t Call Me Grandma by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Thank you for your support.


Voices of Change: A Poet’s Call

October 25, 2017

 

“That Village”

By Johnny Ray Moore

 

Let’s all become that VILLAGE,

Just like we used to be?

That VILLAGE made of KINGS and QUEENS, 

A place of DIGNITY.

Back then, WE RAISED our children,

We taught them RIGHT from WRONG,

When problems came and shook their FAITH,

We urged them to HOLD ON.

We even PRAISED our ELDERS,

They PAVED THE WAY for us,

And, if they needed ANYTHING,

We GAVE without a fuss.

That village was a place of STRENGTH,

Where MEN made PEACE with MEN,

And WOMEN stood beside their mates,

Right to the very end.

The CHURCH, also, had POWER,

It gave much HOPE to many,

It taught SALVATION was for all,

And DID NOT COST A PENNY!

And furthermore, that VILLAGE was,

Designed to keep us grounded,

Instilling precious HARMONY,

The BEST THING ever founded.

So, as we sometimes toil with doubt,

STAND TALL and PERSEVERE,

Because, THAT VILLAGE WAY OF LIFE,

IS STILL SO VERY DEAR.

Johnny Ray Moore is a poet, children’s book author, greeting card writer and songwriter. His acclaimed board book, The Story of Martin Luther King Jr., has sold more than 100,000 copies. His children’s poetry collection, Silence, Please (Clear Fork Publishing), debuts in April.

 

Read about Voices of Change on The Brown Bookshelf.

The Brown Bookshelf opens up this space to you — to young readers, to parents and caregivers, to educators, and all who work directly with children and teens. See previous entries here.

What are you thinking? How are you feeling about what is happening in our towns and cities, our world? Where do we go from here? What would you like to see happen? What do you want to do? How can we offer our support?

Please feel free to share your words and/or images with us, by sending them to teambrownbookshelf@gmail.com. And we will post them here. Posts with profanity, explicit imagery, etc will not be accepted or published. Unless a contributor requests otherwise, we will share first initials, age and/or position only.


Voices of Change: A Parent Speaks

October 16, 2017

Blackness
by Brenda Payne Whiteman

I love my blackness
Good to know who I am
Hailing from my parents’ and ancestors’
Collective womb
Nurturing, strong and proud

I face a cold world
When pain is inflicted
With words that cut into my heart
Sharp as a knife
By looks that burn a hole in my soul

I feel invisible at times in a sea of whiteness
By those encaged in bold, cocky entitlement
Basking in their reality

I have news
The world does not revolve
Around you
It revolves around us all

We all share this planet
As human beings
Who laugh, cry, and bleed the same red
No one is more supreme than you or me
We all have something to give

Brenda Payne Whiteman is an aspiring children’s picture book writer and a member of the New Jersey chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is a parent, age 58.

Read about Voices of Change on The Brown Bookshelf.

The Brown Bookshelf opens up this space to you — to young readers, to parents and caregivers, to educators, and all who work directly with children and teens. See previous entries here.

What are you thinking? How are you feeling about what is happening in our towns and cities, our world? Where do we go from here? What would you like to see happen? What do you want to do? How can we offer our support?

Please feel free to share your words and/or images with us, by sending them to teambrownbookshelf@gmail.com. And we will post them here. Posts with profanity, explicit imagery, etc will not be accepted or published. Unless a contributor requests otherwise, we will share first initials, age and/or position only.


Call for Submissions – 28 Days Later

October 11, 2017

28dayslaterlogoIt’s that time. The submissions window has officially opened for the 11th annual 28 Days Later campaign, a Black History Month celebration of black children’s book creators. We will take nominations today through November 10th.

Over the past decade, we have proudly saluted more than 250 authors and illustrators through our signature initiative. But there are so many more who deserve to be showcased.

That’s where you come in. Help us identify under-the-radar and vanguard black children’s book creators we should consider featuring. Let us know who we should check out so we can give them the praise they’ve earned.

After the submissions window closes, we’ll research the names you’ve submitted and our internal nominations. Then, we’ll choose the stand-outs who will be the next class of 28 Days Later honorees. The celebration of their work begins February 1.

Too often, the work of black authors and illustrators goes unsung. With 28 Days Later, we put these talents in front of the folks who can get their books into the hands of kids – librarians, teachers, parents and booksellers among others.

Nominate your favorites in the comments section. Please note that due to the limited resources of the team, we can only take nominations of traditionally published books. We may highlight a small number of self-published children’s book creators for the 28 Days Later campaign, but these authors and illustrators will be internally nominated.

You can check out past honorees in the 28 Days Later pull-down tab in the menu above. If you could make sure your nominee hasn’t already been featured, that would be a great help.

Spread the word and nominate often. With your support, we can make a difference. Thank you.


Voices of Change: Youth Speak

October 2, 2017

 

strongerthanhate

Artwork by JGL, 13

 

 

Untitled

-by A, 13

Strove through strife
A motto for Black children
Blackness is excellence
We are not too dark to be noticed
It is not a reason for abuse
Blackness is beauty
Community
Magic
Love
Hardships
Strength.
They tried to shape our hands
To fit only chains
We made a fist.
To show love
In our community
To hold a pen
Mightier than a sword
To hold a microphone
That ensures we will be heard–
Say it loud
Be it loud
Black and proud.

 

 

 

 

What are you thinking? How are you feeling about what is happening in our towns and cities, our world? Where do we go from here? What would you like to see happen? What do you want to do? How can we offer our support?

 

Your lives matter. The Brown Bookshelf opens up this space to you — to young readers, to parents and caregivers, to educators, and all who work directly with children and teens.

Send your submission to teambrownbookshelf@gmail.com

 

Please feel free to share your words and/or images with us, by sending them to teambrownbookshelf@gmail.com. And we will post them here (Unless a contributor requests otherwise, we will share first initials, age and/or position only.)

Read this for more about Voices of Change on The Brown Bookshelf.

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