"We have rarely been encouraged and equipped to appreciate the fact that the truth works, that it releases the spirit and that it is a joyous thing." —Toni Cade Bambara
Sharing Culture Through Children's Literature: How and Why We Need to Share Multicultural Stories
This is was a small but well organized and powerful conference hosted at the Tri-Cities Center of Old Dominion University (Norfolk & Portsmouth VA). LUCY stands for Library Upgrades for Children & Youth. The conference highlighted four authors—Jacqueline Jules, Christina Gonzalez, Janet Wong and myself, Cheryl Willis Hudson. Participants had the chance to meet authors, hear about their multicultural experiences and how those experiences can benefit school and public librarians as they reach out to the young people of Virginia and beyond. Reasonably priced at $30 per participant, this 1st conference was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Laura Bush 21st century program. For more information on future and continuing events contact LUCY@odu.edu (Roxanne Mills, LUCY Manager).
A few thoughts by Cheryl Willis Hudson, author and co-founder of Just Us Books, Inc.
February 28, 2011
As an African-American author and publisher of children's books I am delighted when the month of February arrives. February is a short and usually a cold month, but in publishing it's also arguably the best time of the year for exploring and celebrating Black history and culture through books. For writers of African descent, Black History Month means higher visibility in bookstores and in school libraries. It means more author visits. It means an increase in book sales. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, to have this kind of interest and excitement about Black history, culture and experiences throughout the year?
When I attended segregated schools in the mid fifties and early sixties, Negro History Week (which became Black History Month in 1976) was the most exciting time of the school year for me. I was inspired by the school-sponsored Black history essay and oratory contests, by classrooms competing to display the most creative Black history bulletin boards, and by teachers who decorated classrooms and hallways with photographs of distinguished Black heroes and sheroes. I marveled as the names of leaders like Carter G. Woodson, Mary McLeod Bethune, W.E. B. DuBois, Toussaint L'Ouverture, George Washington Carver and Marian Anderson and their achievements were announced over the PA system. I recited poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar and Langston Hughes. And I beamed with pride when the entire school stood and sang in loud, proud voices "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing." There were very few books and other resources for our teachers back then, but for us Negro History Week was an exciting time of true cultural reflection, appreciation and celebration.
Many changes have occurred in our country since the early sixties. Not only is there a Black History Month, but the birthday of an outstanding Black leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a national holiday. And our country is led by Barack Obama, the nation's first African-American president. During February, documentaries, commercials and print ads spotlight aspects of Black history. Bookstore shelves are stocked with picture books, novels, biographies and materials that reflect and celebrate Black history and culture more than at any other time of the year. The spirit of celebration, I believe, is and should be high.
But as soon as February ends, so do most of the documentaries, commercials and prints ads. The books quickly disappear from shelves. And too often, Black authors and artists and their stories are forgotten or marginalized, that is, until the next February.
That won't happen on this blog. We affirm and celebrate Black history and culture 365 and 24/7. And we welcome your feedback and your comments, too.
Cheryl Willis Hudson is an author, editor and publisher of children's books. In 1988 she and her husband Wade co-founded JUST US BOOKS, an independent publisher of children's books focusing on Black history, culture and experiences. Visit them at www.justusbooks.com
A book is a gift that a child can open over and over again. Whether serving as a window or a mirror reading a book has the capacity to bring children great joy in self-discovery. Why not read a book with a child today?