Real Experiences for BHM 2016: Black Literature for Kids

Today's Black history moment is near and dear to my heart. If you know me personally, you know that I to read and I to write; in fact if you knew me in high school, you probably thought I'd go to school and major in English or Creative Writing and were shocked to find me in Math & Computer Science. Interestingly I abhor English classes--particularly American Lit.

It all stems from a very brief moment that had a very lasting impact on me as a young Black student. We were turning in our summer reading assignments and 4 people were complaining that they didn't understand Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin. It was one of the books we had the OPTION to read--I repeat, OPTION, as in they could have stopped at any point during the 3 months we had to do the assignment and chosen a different book. They wanted mercy from the teacher, whom I was confident was going to laugh. But she didn't laugh, or chastise them. She said they didn't understand the book because of "culture difference" and to my surprise, gave them a pass. From kindergarten through AP English I was REQUIRED to read exactly 4 books that were not written by or about white people. 3 were about Black people (deeply sorry for the Hispanics and the Native Americans that got 0 class time) and none of them occurred in American Lit. In American Lit we read Theme for English B (*rolls eyes* people there are other Black American writers, let cousin Langston breathe!--nah he's not my cousin but I'mma claim him anyway). That teacher told me something I witnessed first hand throughout school: Black literature wasn't important and it wasn't a requirement for students to understand Black culture or the Black experience, but it *was* important that I understand White literature, White culture, and the White experience.

My animosity towards English only grew over time, boiling over when our AP English teacher told me I read "too much Black literature" then tried to correct my critique of a White authors' portrayal of a Black Southern family (I mean, who am I to tell him what it's like to be Black and Southern, huh?) But if it weren't for Black literature I'd probably be illiterate or a physchopath; writers like Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Countee Cullen, etc. kept me sane! Truly though, it's Black children's book authors that deserve the credit, that's where my love of literature grew. I got to meet Eleanora E. Tate, my favorite author when I was a child. She autographed my favorite book, and encouraged me to keep writing and to keep reading. She provided an environment for people like me to fall in love with the story, to get immersed in the characters, to see myself from a Black lens instead of as the plot point or the magical negro or whatever other tired trope my English teachers subjected me to. Reading is fundamental, so it's crucial that at those early ages we have a voice in literature and are able to experience and appreciate it. I see Tiffany A. Flowers in my timeline constantly publishing and I'm proud to see that Black children's lit still has people dedicated to it. Perhaps if reading was diverse from early on we wouldn't retreat into these bubbles where we are unable to appreciate other cultures #ReadingIsImportant #WritingIsPowerful #BlackLitIsAmericanLitToo #MakeItCount #BlackHistoryMonth2016

No comments

Post a Comment




Book Review,Food,Testimony
© 2022 all rights reserved
made with by templateszoo