Category Archives: Black Lives Matter

Across That Bridge

“Darkness cannot overcome darkness, only light can do that. Violence can never overcome violence, only peace can do that. Hate can never overcome hate, only love can do that.”

The life of Representative John Lewis was inspirational. The more I learn about this great American leader, the more I admire him. I just finished reading his 2017 book called  Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America, in which he told his own story of his path that lead him to the bridge in Alabama that day, his commitment to the ideals of his country and to the concept of non-violent protest for change, and his deep love of humanity. But as the title suggests, it is more than his story. His vision for change and the future of our country is a gift and a legacy for all of us! This book should be required reading for all of us. Do we still have “civics” classes in high school? It would definitely be on that reading list. And it should be on every book list for understanding the Black experience and for “becoming anti-racist.”

“But we must accept one central truth and responsibility as participants in a democracy: Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.”

There are eight chapters in this book, and Congressman Lewis called them his “lessons.” Each one is full of wisdom, insight, and compassion.

CHAPTER 1: Faith
CHAPTER 2: Patience
CHAPTER 3: Study
CHAPTER 4: Truth
CHAPTER 5: Act
CHAPTER 6: Peace
CHAPTER 7: Love
CHAPTER 8: Reconciliation

I have written these lessons on freedom and meditations on change for the generations who will take us into the future, for the dreamers young and ever young who should never get lost in a sea of despair, but are faithfully readying themselves for the next push for change. It is for the parents who want to inspire their sons and daughters to build a more just society. And, it’s for the sons and daughters who hear the call of a new age. This book is for the people.

It is for the grassroots leaders who will emerge not for the sake of fame or fortune, but with a burning desire to do good. It is for all those willing to join in the human spirit’s age-old struggle to break free from the bondage of concepts and structures that have lost their use. It is for the masses of people who with each new day have the chance to peel the scales from their eyes and remember it is they alone who are the most powerful agents of change. It is for anyone who wants to reform his or her existence or to fashion a better life for the children. It’s for those who want to improve their community or make their mark in history. This book is a collection of a few of the truths that I have learned as one who dreamed, worked, and struggled in America’s last revolution.

I know that there are quite a few books coming out now on the life of this great man, but this would be my recommended starting place to learn more about him and his important contributions to our nation.

Kindred

I actually read Kindred, by Octavia Butler, last year, but did not review it when I finished it because there was so much from the story to process and absorb. What I’ve discovered in the months that have passed since I finished it, is that it was a powerfully haunting experience to read it. I’ve thought a lot about it and don’t know when a book has stuck with me, haunted me, quite like this one. It was a powerful reading experience because Octavia Butler, being such a gifted writer/storyteller, makes you feel as if you are right there with her main character, Dana, throughout all her experiences, in the past and in the present. Those experiences were profoundly life-changing. Experiencing firsthand the life of her enslaved ancestors, being catapulted back and forth to the time of her ancestors and then back to her life in present times brought an incredible depth to Dana’s understanding of her own life experience. And it had a powerful impact on those of us who traveled with her. It is definitely a book I would highly recommend, although it is not an easy story. And for anyone wanting to gain more understanding of the black experience in this country, this is a creative and fascinating book to read.

from the publisher:

Butler’s most celebrated, critically acclaimed work tells the story of Dana, a young black woman who is suddenly and inexplicably transported from her home in 1970s California to the pre–Civil War South. As she time-travels between worlds, one in which she is a free woman and one where she is part of her own complicated familial history on a southern plantation, she becomes frighteningly entangled in the lives of Rufus, a conflicted white slaveholder and one of Dana’s own ancestors, and the many people who are enslaved by him.

During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother.

Author Octavia E. Butler skillfully juxtaposes the serious issues of slavery, human rights, and racial prejudice with an exciting science-fiction, romance, and historical adventure.

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

 

 

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the States,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the 50 United States. This book took place in Maryland.

Books to Start Important Conversations With Children

I have always loved reading children’s books, and so I am now exploring the wealth of books on  diversity that are available to teach the Black and Brown experience to children. These books were checked out of my library’s e-book collection, and I’m very happy to say that they are being read by a lot of people right now! That fills me with hope! I enjoyed reading them and will post a mini-review of each one. They are all really good, and some are real treasures, like Nikki Giovanni’s poems.

I Am Loved, by Nikki Giovanni.

A beautiful little book of poems. The illustrations and the poems were beautiful and moving.

from the publisher:

There is nothing more important to a child than to feel loved, and this gorgeous gathering of poems written by Nikki Giovanni celebrates exactly that. Hand-selected by Newbery honoree Ashley Bryan, he has, with his masterful flourish of color, shape, and movement, added a visual layering that drums the most impartant message of all to young, old, parent, child, grandparent, and friend alike: You are loved. You are loved. You are loved. As a bonus, one page is mirrored, so children reading the book can see exactly who is loved—themselves!

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, by Duncan Tonatiuh

This was an historical happening that I had never heard about, but it is an important story to read with children when talking about segregation.

from the publisher:

Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.

A Kids Book About Racism, by Jelani Memory

This little picture book, written by a Portland, Oregon, author, is a great way to start conversations with children about racism. It is powerful in it’s simple, straightforward language and information.

from the publisher:

Yes, this really is a kids book about racism. Inside, you’ll find a clear description of what racism is, how it makes people feel when they experience it, and how to spot it when it happens.

This is one conversation that’s never too early to start, and this book was written to be an introduction for kids on the topic.

Ruth and the Green Book, by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Gwen Strauss

This is a powerful book about the difficulty of traveling for families of color back in the 1950s. A good way to start the conversation about Jim Crow laws and how things have, or have not, changed since that time.

from the publisher:

Ruth was so excited to take a trip in her family’s new car! In the early 1950s, few African Americans could afford to buy cars, so this would be an adventure. But she soon found out that black travelers weren’t treated very well in some towns. Many hotels and gas stations refused service to black people. Daddy was upset about something called Jim Crow laws . . .

Finally, a friendly attendant at a gas station showed Ruth’s family The Green Book. It listed all of the places that would welcome black travelers. With this guidebook―and the kindness of strangers―Ruth could finally make a safe journey from Chicago to her grandma’s house in Alabama.

Almost to Freedom, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Colin Bootman

This was a very moving story about the Underground Railroad.

from the publisher:

Lindy and her doll Sally are best friends – wherever Lindy goes, Sally stays right by her side. They eat together, sleep together, and even pick cotton together. So, on the night Lindy and her mama run away in search of freedom, Sally goes too. This young girl’s rag doll vividly narrates her enslaved family’s courageous escape through the Underground Railroad. At once heart-wrenching and uplifting, this story about friendship and the strength of the human spirit will touch the lives of all readers long after the journey has ended.

If you haven’t read any of these little books, I highly recommend them for parents and grandparents to read with their loved ones, and for teachers to start important discussions with their students (of all ages). The conversations they inspire would be heartfelt.

My Anti-Racist Education

I am a Learner. That’s why I became a teacher (and also because I loved spending my days in the hopeful and inspiring world of young people). So in trying to deal with the horrific events of the last few weeks, I realized that I have so much to learn. So I am beginning an important undertaking:  I am now focusing on educating myself on how to become Anti-Racist.

“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
Angela Y. Davis

“The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.’ What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an anti-racist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an anti-racist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.”
Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist

And one of the most hopeful things I’ve discovered in making this commitment to become anti-racist is that so many other people are doing the same thing! I took the photo above just this morning when I got on the library website to look for some e-books to add to my growing list of books to read on this subject. Every. single. book. has a waiting list of weeks and weeks! My heart soared with HOPE to see that there are so many other Learners out there!

On this page, I will keep a list with links to my reviews of books and other resources that I’ve found and appreciated, so please come back here occasionally to see this self-education journey.

BOOKS READ AND REVIEWED:

  1. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
  2. Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historical Presidency, by Pete Souza
  3. They Call Us Enemy, by George Takei
  4. Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  5. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  6. Dear Ijeawele: or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  7. Becoming, by Michelle Obama
  8. Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America, by John Lewis
  9. Kindred, by Octavia Butler

READ BUT NOT REVIEWED (yet):

  • Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
  • The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
  • Barracoon, by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison

CHILDREN’S BOOKS ABOUT THE BLACK EXPERIENCE AND DIVERSITY:

PODCASTS:

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Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna

Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna, by Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton, is a wonderful introduction to the culture of Kenya, and a fascinating memoir of a talented Maasai boy. Mr. Lekuton tells his boyhood stories and tells how, with the help of his tribe, he was sent to study in an American college, St. Lawrence University in New York.

from the publisher:

Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton gives American kids a firsthand look at growing up in Kenya as a member of a tribe of nomads whose livelihood centers on the raising and grazing of cattle. Readers share Lekuton’s first encounter with a lion, the epitome of bravery in the warrior tradition. They follow his mischievous antics as a young Maasai cattle herder, coming-of-age initiation, boarding school escapades, soccer success, and journey to America for college. Lekuton’s riveting text combines exotic details of nomadic life with the universal experience and emotions of a growing boy.

After graduating from St. Lawrence, he taught middle school in Virginia for many years, and then was accepted at Harvard University where he earned a Master’s degree in International Education policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

He returned to Kenya in 2007, and was elected as a representative in the National Assembly of Kenya. He was reelected in 2013. His work has been dedicated to improving the lives of young Kenyans through education.

To bridge cultures you must mix people together,” he says. “Education and travel are the best teachers.

This was a very enjoyable book, a wonderful introduction to Kenya and to a young boy who grew up to be an inspirational man.

Click here to listen to Joseph Lekuton’s TED Talk, “A Parable for Kenya.”

 

I chose to read this book for my personal challenge, Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a book about Kenya.

Emmanuel’s Dream

Emmanuel’s Dream: the True Story of Emmanuel Osofu Yeboah, by Laurie Ann Thompson, tells the story of a boy from Ghana who was born with a deformed leg. He lived in a time and place where there were no rights for people with disabilities, but his mother did not want his disability to define his life. She encouraged his independence, and instilled in him a drive to succeed and to live his life with no “disability.”

Even as a young child, Emmanuel showed great creativity and courage in how he made adaptations that would help him to do the things he wanted to do. He joined in the neighborhood soccer play with the other children by making some makeshift crutches and doing things with only one leg that were hard for those with two legs! They soon developed a great respect for him. When he wanted to learn how to ride a bike, they helped him. Riding a bike would become an important part of his adult life.

As he grew, Life was never easy for him. His mother became very ill when he was thirteen and he left home for the city to find a job that would help his family. At first no one would hire him because of his disability, but he persisted and did find work. Two years later, at Christmastime, he returned home to care for his dying mother. Her last words to him have guided him through the rest of his life!

“Be respectful, take care of your family, don’t ever beg. And don’t give up!”

Emmanuel had a big dream. He wanted to ride a bike all around Ghana sharing his message with everyone — that disabled does not mean unable!  He wrote to the Challenged Athletes Foundation, in San Diego, California, asking for help to make his dream come true. They sent him a bike, helmet, and all the gear he needed, and he trained and started his long ride. He rode nearly 400 miles in ten days, and talked with everyone he met, including farm workers, government officials, and reporters. He became an inspiration to all and a national hero.

In his own words: “In this world, we are not perfect. We can only do our best.”

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a book that takes place in Ghana.

A Long Walk to Water

“The fighting was scattered all around southern Sudan, and now the war had come to where Salva lived.”

A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park, is the true story of ll-year-old Salva Dut, a Sudanese boy who became one of 20,000 “Lost Boys” during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005).

A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.

Linda Sue Park is one of my favorite authors from my years of teaching Sixth Grade. My students read her book, The Single Shard, when we studied the Pacific Rim countries, and always liked it. So when I was looking for books to read for my “Wanderlust” self-challenge to read more books from or about different countries and cultures of the world, I knew that many of her books would fit well. This one was so well written, and I was captured by the story of this courageous boy.

It is a sobering yet uplifting story to read. The brutality of war is not softened for young readers, but it is also not graphically portrayed. The focus is on the Salva’s courage and his resilience, his leadership and his hope for the future despite severe deprivation and despair.

During Salva’s long walk across the desert to a refugee camp, he finds his uncle who protects and encourages him.  His uncle’s words became his guiding mantra for the rest of his life.

Most of all, he remembered how Uncle had encouraged him in the desert.  One step at a time … one day at a time…Just today—just this day to get through . . .   Salva told himself this every day. He told the boys in the group, too. And one day at a time, the group made its way to Kenya. More than twelve hundred boys arrived safely. It took them a year and a half.

At the end of the book, there is a short piece written by Salva for the readers of this story:

I overcame all the difficult situations of my past because of the hope and perseverance that I had. I would have not made it without these two things. To young people, I would like to say: Stay calm when things are hard or not going right with you. You will get through it when you persevere instead of quitting. Quitting leads to much less happiness in life than perseverance and hope.     ~Salva

I highly recommend this book, and it is definitely one that could be used in the classroom for helping students understand the complex issue of refugees. There is so much hope in this story, with its messages of courage, perseverance, and resilience. And the life that Salva has built since those days in truly inspiring.

You can learn a lot more about both Salva Dut and Linda Sue Park by watching interviews with them, watching a Ted Talks by Salva, and visiting the web site of the life-saving organization he and some friends started: Water For South Sudan. Here are some links that I found very interesting after reading the book.

Salva Dut and Linda Sue Park

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a book from Sudan and South Sudan.