A petition spearheaded by BrownGirlMagic, https://www.change.org/p/scholastic-scholastic-remove-the-two-happy-slave-books-from-circulation circulated on Facebook and Twitter and so many people got behind it and helped thrust the movement forward to demand that Scholastic remove the “happy slave” books. Thanks to social media, everyone’s Facebook posts, tweets and an article from SheKnows.com about the ordeal which quoted me, Kia Morgan Smith, and two other petitions as well, Scholastic released this statement:
"(January 17, 2016) Scholastic is announcing today that we are stopping the distribution of the book entitled A Birthday Cake for George Washington, by Ramin Ganeshram and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, and will accept all returns. While we have great respect for the integrity and scholarship of the author, illustrator, and editor, we believe that, without more historical background on the evils of slavery than this book for younger children can provide, the book may give a false impression of the reality of the lives of slaves and therefore should be withdrawn.
Scholastic has a long history of explaining complex and controversial issues to children at all ages and grade levels. We do not believe this title meets the standards of appropriate presentation of information to younger children, despite the positive intentions and beliefs of the author, editor, and illustrator.
Scholastic provides a wide variety of fiction and informational books and magazines which teachers, parents and children rely on, including many devoted to African American experience, history and culture. We are also committed to providing books, magazines, and educational materials that portray the experience of all children, including those from diverse communities and backgrounds, and we will continue to expand that commitment through our global publishing channels."
Thank you Scholastic for hearing our cries, receiving the word and understanding our perspective. This is indeed a victory for our children, but still there is more work to be done. We need editors who understand our perspective and who are not just talking pieces for you. We need you to accept manuscripts from authors of color who understand our perspective and we need people of color, blacks, Latinos etc behind the scenes making decisions from the editors to book fairs, to book clubs. We need you to not be afraid to publish books with African American characters that are NOT slave books. We don’t want slave books! There are beautiful stories about children at family reunions or a whimsical tale of siblings who reluctantly embrace a new baby (I once self-published Goony Goo-Goo and Ga-Ga Too) or a book about young black superheroes, family get-togethers or whatever other wonderful tales that hold us in the best light. We hope Scholastic will let go to the slave narratives and leave those alone. I hope more books about whimsical black childhood experiences do get produced.
I also want to note that I messaged the illustrator Vanessa Brantley Newton, one because I am a fan of her work and my daughters have ALL of the Ruby and the Booker Boys books she has illustrated; and two unfortunately she is in the middle of this and the work she has previously done should not be discounted. She has made beautiful depictions on countless books and that should count for something. HOWEVER, Vanessa and the editor Andrea Davis-Pinkney both had a HUGE opportunity to offer insight to ensure that this slave book should have never gone into production. This was a serious err in judgment and a misstep on their part because they should have been gatekeepers for our babies! So while some people are bent out of shape because we also took Vanessa and Andrea to task, it HAD to be done because the burden was on them to watch out and make sure this kind literature to rewrite our history was never published. Our ire against them is justified. When there are so few black leaders in decision making positions in big publishing houses, moms like me rely on them to speak for all of us.
We want books like Ruby and the Booker Boys that Scholastic took off shelves with a vibrant little girl of color. And if Scholastic HAD promoted those books like the happy slave book, I’m sure they would sell MILLIONS of copies. You have to PUSH those kinds of books in the same way you push books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Scholastic has to get behind black books and show the joy and wonder and nuances of our people.
Big Congratulations to three Brown Girl Magic Ambassadors Mikaela Smith, Kaitlin Smith and Ryann Robinson who were chosen as Teen Travel Ambassadors for the Passport Party Project, which is a National Geographic award-winning global awareness initiative that gifts underserved American girls ages 11-15 with their very first passports and gives them their first international journey. These young ladies will travel globally to Toronto Canada in June as Teen Ambassadors for the Passport Party Project! How exciting!
The program was created by Tracey Friley. Tracey launched Passport Party Project, a grassroots initiative to provide underserved girls the tools they need to obtain their first passports. When the program’s first phase wrapped up, 100 girls had received passports and six young travelers made their debut international journey to Belize. Funded by Expedia.com, the program proved such a success that Friley got busy plotting her next steps.
“To struggling families, international travel is a luxury, an unattainable goal,” says Friley. “So passports aren’t a priority because they don’t feel they can travel internationally anyway. But I think travel should be available to everyone, particularly children. The sooner they explore, the better for the world.”
The program is now in Phase 3 with a June 2016 travel date.
A passport is the ultimate ticket to ride, the key to unlocking the world and engaging with new ideas. But securing one can be a hurdle. Little more than a third of Americans have passports—compare that with 67 percent of Canadians who hold one—and it’s not just the price ($135 for adults, $105 for minors) that holds would-be travelers back but also the uncertainty of how to travel. This challenge is even more pronounced in poor urban areas.
Prior to completing the passport application process, girls will participate in a series of online global awareness training workshops (programmed with the collaborative help of an NGO specializing in global citizenship) that include coursework in areas that teach responsible and sustainable travel/tourism and give girls the knowledge, understanding, and values they will need to participate fully in ensuring their own, and others’, well-being and to make a positive contribution, both locally and globally.
For more information about the Passport Party Project, visit: PassportPartyProject.org
Hidden Figures is a truly inspirational movie that will have you laughing, crying and fill you up with pride. The movie is about three brilliant African-American women at NASA -- Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) -- who serve as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) into orbit, a stunning achievement that restored the nation's confidence, turned around the Space Race and galvanized the world.
And it was wonderfully positive! Not once did you see these black women curse each other out, get catty, or neck roll. They walked with grace and commanded respect and ultimately they got it. These women had brilliant minds and could calculate numbers beyond what us regular folks can comprehend. So many girls of color have been inspired and want to pursue STEM careers because of the possibilities. This movie makes us proud and brown girls everywhere should be ready to take FLIGHT and use their MAGIC to make a difference!