On 13 June, this blog quietly celebrated its 9th birthday. It honestly doesn’t feel like I’ve been blogging that long. It also seems odd that a blog would hang around that long. I suppose I should change wholeheartedly to Tumblr, but that too would be outdated in time as well. Over the next few weeks I plan to update my layout here and try to come up with something new and different to freshen things up here and CrazyQuilts so that my reader-and myself- will keep coming back. And, maybe I’ll prepare some sort of celebration for my 10th anniversary!
I spent my morning in the garden as I do most Sundays and my mind filled with blog posts, as it will do in that peaceful place. I reflect on how much I enjoy the garden because of its diversity: the wide variety of flowers and plants and well as the age and ethnic diversity that makes up the gardeners themselves. This year, I planted black-eyed peas and crowder peas, simply because my mom used to grow them.
Yesterday, I went to the local farmer’s market and met a new friend. At this market, the vendors must have produced everything they sell. So, I was amazed when my new friend told me she bought a mango. Ah, yes, a Midwest mango: a bell pepper. I told her of friends who used to call the pepper a mango, but they quite when they had a real mango. She replied that she always has and always will call it a mango.
How do you affect things that are stem from the core of who others are? Goethe said “Everybody wants to be somebody; nobody wants to grow.” I don’t want to be somebody, if I did, I would have taken a different career path. I want to facilitate growth in others through literacy. Not only should readers, all readers, be able to find themselves in books but, they should realize how words and information position them in the world. Native American children and children of color receive a very direct message that they are positioned outside mainstream America when they see how outnumbered they are on most bookshelves in America. Crystal Paul, a black woman, learned a lot from books when she was growing up.
I, like any child writer, was basically making the characters into magical versions of myself, using my own experiences and personality. But, still, the characters were always white. I didn’t notice this until later. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? At an age where imitation is everything, I learned that stories were only written about white characters, so even when I wrote about my own life, made up my own characters, the heroines in my mind was always white.
I appreciate her honest sharing of this frightening fact of life.
So I say “no” because Marvel Comics uses black culture and people as decorations, window dressings. They are objects that are to be used when convenient but rarely respected or valued in their own right. I mean, come on: with the right hand, you’ve got the EiC announcing hip hop variants in October, and then with the left, the company announces at SDCC that the new Blade book is going to done by white guys. Again.
And of course, there was the big Comic Con news from Reginald Hudson, Denis Cowan, Derek T. Tingle and Orlando Jones regarding Milestone 2.0 and plans for Static Shock, Christopher Priest and the Dakota Universe. We cannot underestimate the messages comics deliver our young people about the world around them.
Everyday, we become more aware of how those in libraries, publishing house and technology control the information. So, imagine what happens when a black women tries to take control of the message, write the code and make a living at doing it.
“I naively thought that if we were great at what we do, if we had the “facts” on our side, we would get a ton of support from the tech community. What I totally underestimated was how being so damn great, without permission to be “great” or even “be” in tech, without explicit sponsorship, meant the likelihood of us receiving sizable support was as close to zero as statistically possible.”
Read more because this story does have a good ending. It taught these black women the language of asking and resulted in funding for the documentary #ReWriteTheCode “a data collection project we started in Feb 2015 to find, document, and share details on black women startup founders.” We have to learn from each others’ stories. We have to find ways to tell them ourselves because there are people like Jane Resh Thomas who led one of her students to write
I am angry that someone [Resh] who speaks every semester on writing gently and truthfully about pain placed her own need to feel heard over the pain of others – including the children we all are learning to write for. I am angry that someone with the comfort and privilege of a position of power above us students gave this lecture On High about how others’ pain can be invalid… if we cannot personally feel it. Or rather, if an old, straight, white woman cannot feel it.
This screams of the need for more Native Americans in Academia and in publishing and in editing and banking and economics and writing and illustrating and librarians and in technology. In places where we can write not only the words and images but also the codes. But if we don’t see ourselves doing these things in books or movies or television shows, why would we ever imagine we can? Literacy should empower and if it doesn’t, then does it do any more than enslave us?
We do have the power (though not always the finances!) to be in some spaces where conversations are had, dreams are crafted and movement is financed. We can sometimes make the choice to venture to the clubs, the workshops and the conferences. So many conferences every summer. I have to admit the International Literacy Association was a new one on my radar but I wasn’t too sure about a literacy event with Shaquille O’Neal and Octavia Spencer as the headliners. I’ll look for reports in the following days. I really appreciated Dr. Marilisa Jiménez Garcia’s reflections on the Children’s Literature Association’s annual conference, only confirming that I need to put this conference in my calendar.
ChLA is an organization which has historically been committed to social justice. Overall, I think it would benefit from relationships with scholars doing ethnic studies and education research, an initiative listed in their Diversity Committee Plan 2009-2013. Collaboration with these fields would enable exchanges from the perspective of theories such as critical race theory (CRT) and Latino critical theory (LatCrit). I would also encourage children’s illustrators and authors to attend the conference to see how their work is impacting future frameworks and interpretations. ChLA is still a smaller and more manageable conference than meetings such as American Library Association (ALA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and/or National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE). It’s smaller, welcoming environment perhaps makes it more suitable for increasing the participation of scholars of color through mentoring events or spaces designed to nurture the needs of future faculty. Katherine Slater of Rowan University and chair of the Membership Committee said that ChLA plans to incorporate activities, including panels, speakers, and discussion groups that nurture diversity.
The next conference will be 9 June 2016 at Ohio State University in Columbus, OH, a very easy drive from here.
Well, I came home from the garden with lots of tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapeño peppers and sweet potato leaves. I lined a pan with the leaves and placed tomatoes, peppers, cooked rice and tilapia on top. I roasted the dish, as my dear friend from the Congo taught me to do and I had a very different, very delicious meal.
Wishing you a very diverse reading filled week! I’ve got an interview with Lyn Miller-Lachmann coming in my next post!