Thank you, 27th Annual African American Children's Book Fair!!
It’s February, and I am continuing our year of gratitude with a personal thank you to everyone I met on Saturday at the 27th African American Children’s Book Fair, which was held at the Community College in Philadelphia. Please find their website here: http://theafricanamericanchildrensbookproject.org
My first thanks goes out to the first responders I saw on my drive from Fairfax to Philly. Within 15 minutes of getting in the car I was navigating two major accidents on the freeway - and I am so grateful to those who help us when we need it most.
Next I want to say a huge thank you to Ms. Gayle from the line. I entered the gymnasium at 12:19 pm wondering how and where everything would get going. There was already a line forming so I just stepped right up. Making conversation (apparently not a lost art), we started chatting up and down the line about our motivations for being at the event, and the importance of diversity and teaching our history. Ms. Gayle, with her daughter, had brought 10 children to the event, from a group they are running - “Rites of Passage” - which teaches African American children about their history and provides homework help once a week. This was their first field trip. Ms. Gayle was so supportive of Stories Like Me: she told me not to listen to the naysayers and to go for my dreams. We agreed on the importance of representing all types of diversity in children’s books, and that the local bookstore served a very important purpose in the community.
Joining us in the line was a wonderful lady from NOVA, a middle school Social Studies teacher, who was generous with referrals and ideas to both myself and Ms. Gayle. Her passion and creativity inspired me, and I’m so happy our students get to have teachers of her caliber. I hope we can reconnect at the next festival.
Next, the doors opened. The gymnasium was big and within a few moments I’d figured out where I was headed: to the Author and Illustrator wall.
My goal for the day was to be present with a beginner’s mindset, and to feed my spirit by talking and sharing with these fine authors and illustrators my hopes and dreams for Stories Like Me. It was an exercise in courage, being able to introduce myself, say why I was there, and just enter into conversation.
Thank you to the authors and illustrators who listened to my dreams, clapped, supported our mission, and shared their time and ideas so willingly. This list is not exhaustive - so please forgive me for not capturing everything as clearly as I could.
To T.R. Simon: Thank you for speaking to me, introducing me to Sharon M. Draper and for taking the picture of us! (woot woot!) I can’t wait to learn more about the authors you represent and more about your own books. Your time and thoughtful guidance made my day.
To Sharon M. Draper: Thank you for being so supportive, and for letting me take the picture! I will look forward to keeping you posted on our store plans and to hosting a special speaker event when the time comes.
To Kwame Alexander, a local NOVA resident and author, for chatting about books, children’s bookstores, and being super supportive of our mission.
To Derrick Barnes and Ron L. Smith - for letting me fangirl - and take a picture!
To Ron L. Smith: I so appreciate you sharing your story as an author, and I plan to see you again at the upcoming conferences and festivals in Maryland. I am so glad to have met you and to have your support for the store.
To the 3 women authors and illustrators, whom I met in a group, and who clapped when I told them of my intentions with Stories like Me: THANK YOU! This filled my spirits and kept my courage going.
To Gordon C. James, Illustrator: I can’t wait to see and carry more of your work.
To Diane Taylor of Taylor Made Publishing and author G. Todd Taylor: Thank you for sharing your books with me… All three of us definitely have a passion for children being able to see themselves in roles and futures that are often not present in mainstream media. I look forward to keeping in touch and to introducing your books to our store.
To Sharee Miller, whose books are a perfect match for our collections; I can’t wait to carry them in the store.
To Dr. Marietta Collins, whose book and advocacy are humbling. Something Happened in Our Town follows two families - one White, one Black - as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children's questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives. Thank you for the work you’re doing, and for the gifts you bring to all children. For more information and resources please go to EmbraceRace.org.
Finally - one more to shout out - to the mom who helped her son write a book on a train - by typing it on her phone. Way to GO!! Kimberly Garvin, who shared her son’s (Saadiq Wicks) story as a stutterer, and how he wanted to communicate this to other children through writing a book, having already started a non-profit himself at age 8. I look forward to adding their book, When Oliver Speaks, to Stories Like Me, as I know it will support many children who will see themselves in this story. I was excited to be able to share a moment with such wonderful people.
Thank you again, Philadelphia, and to the organizers of the 27th Annual African American Children’s Book Fair. It was an exciting day - and one that has me more inspired than ever to build our diverse and inclusive bookstore.
Finally -Thank you, Chris (my husband)- for helping me navigate when my Waze wasn’t working - so I could make it safely home.