Category: Family

Chance The Rapper Donates $1 Million to Improve Chicago’s Mental Health Services

Chance The Rapper (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to the Associated Press, hip hop artist and philanthropist Chance the Rapper has announced he’s donating $1 million to help improve mental health services in Chicago.

Chance, a Chicago native, made the announcement Thursday during a summit for his nonprofit organization SocialWorks, saying those involved “want to change the way that mental health resources are being accessed.”

Six mental health providers in Cook County will each get $100,000 grants and SocialWorks is starting an initiative called “My State of Mind” to help connect people with treatment. Members of the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Chicago Department of Public Health were present for the announcement.

On Thursday, Chance also announced plans to give money to 20 additional Chicago Public Schools. His nonprofit has given millions to Chicago schools in recent years.

Sen. Kamala Harris and Colleagues Introduce Bill to Congress to Improve Maternal Care Access for Black Women

 

Kamala Harris
PHOTO: CHIP SOMODEVILLA/GETTY IMAGES

by Abby Gardner via glamour.com

The U.S. is one of 13 countries in the world where maternal mortality rates are worse than they were two decades ago. And that alarming statistic hits one group of women the hardest.

For women of color, pregnancy and childbirth are often a matter of life and death. The risk of death from pregnancy-related causes for black women is three to four times higher than for women of other races. It’s something California Senator Kamala Harris has been vocal about in the past. And she’s pushing to make sure this maternal mortality crisis is being recognized and rectified through new legislation, as well.

Harris (along with 13 Democratic colleagues) introduced a bill Wednesday that she hopes will help lessen the discrepancies in treatment. The Maternal Care Access and Reducing Emergencies (CARE) Act would create two grant programs. One will address implicit bias based on stereotypes by supporting special training programs in medical, nursing, and other training schools. The other will incentivize maternal health care providers to offer integrated health care services to pregnant women and new mothers and reduce adverse maternal health outcomes, maternal deaths, and racial health disparities.

“Health equity for Black women can only happen if we recognize and address persistent biases in our health system,” Harris said in a press release.

The maternal health of black women has long been suffered in the dark, but in recent months we’ve heard harrowing stories of pregnancy and childbirth complications from two of the most famous women in the world: Serena Williams and Beyoncé.

RELATED: This Way Forward: Community Based Solutions For the African-American Childbirth Crisis

Williams has been incredibly open about her emergency C-section, followed by blood clots in her lungs that threatened her life and required further surgery. And the intensely private Beyoncé revealed in Vogue‘s September issue that she had been on bed rest prior to the birth of twins Rumi and Sir due to toxemia (or preeclampsia) which causes swelling and hypertension. She, too, required an emergency C-section as her life, and the lives of her twins, were at risk.

For Harris, the bill is a continuation of her fight to bring black women’s maternal health care front and center. Earlier this year, she introduced a resolution to designate April 11-17 Black Maternal Health Week.

According to the CDC, the cause of an increase of pregnancy-related mortalities in America is unclear. For women of color, who face a myriad of health care disparities from access to racial bias perpetuated by stereotypes, the combination has proved life-threatening. Racism, researchers say, is at the center of this crisis.

“For example, even when we take medical history into account, black women are two to three times more like to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women with the same condition. And while maternal mortality rates are certainly greater for poor women than wealthier women, poverty alone can’t explain these disparities either. An analysis of maternal deaths in New York City found that black women who had at least a college degree still had greater mortality rates than white women who had not graduated high school,” obstetrician and gynecologist Jamila Perritt wrote for Glamour after Williams came forward with her childbirth experience.

“The bottom line is, black women are dying wholly preventable deaths.”

The Los Angeles Times notes that Sen. Harris’ bill could face an “uphill battle” given that Republicans currently control Congress and few bills may pass in an election year. Other sponsors of the bill include U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Doug Jones (D-AL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Tom Carper (D-DE), Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

“This bill is a step towards ensuring that all women have access to culturally competent, holistic care, and to address the implicit biases in our system,” Harris said.

Source: https://www.glamour.com/story/senator-kamala-harris-bill-maternal-mortality-crisis

Applications Now Open for 2019 Disney Dreamers Academy to be Held at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida

Disney Dreamers Academy Class of 2016 (photo by Gregg Newton)

100 high school students to be selected for all-expenses-paid mentoring experience of a lifetime

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Applications are being accepted now through Oct. 31, 2018, for the Disney Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey and Essence magazine. This annual outside-the-classroom mentoring program is scheduled for March 21-24, 2019, at the Walt Disney Resort in Florida.

The program helps 100 select high school students, ages 13-19, from across the United States jump-start their life goals and pursue their dreams. Disney Dreamers Academy turns the entire magical setting of Walt Disney World into a vibrant classroom.

Disney Dreamers learning how to build rides in Imagineering workshop (photo courtesy of Disney)

Students participate in a series of sessions and workshops designed to help them imagine bright futures, make exciting discoveries and learn how to put their goals into action. Disney Dreamers engage in a wide variety of experiences at Walt Disney World while working side by side with celebrities, community and industry leaders and Disney cast members.

For more than a decade, Disney Dreamers Academy has inspired young people from across the country by fueling their dreams and showing them a world of possibilities as they prepare for the future.

Each year, students participate in hands-on, immersive career seminars in a wide range of disciplines found at Walt Disney World. Participants learn how to improve their communication skills, what it means to be a leader and networking strategies, among other skills. They are also inspired by celebrity speakers and other special guests who share their stories and provide insights on how to achieve their life goals.

The second decade of Disney Dreamers Academy is focused on challenging young people to relentlessly pursue their dreams through the “Be 100” campaign. This promotional push is inspired by the powerful impact Disney Dreamers Academy has made on graduates, who have gone on to become doctors, nurses, engineers, pilots, journalists and more. Some have started their own public relations firms, while others have worked with national political leaders.

Applicants must answer essay questions about their personal journeys and dreams for the future. Studentsare selected based on a combination of attributes, including strong character, positive attitude and determination to achieve their dreams. A parent or guardian accompanies each student on the trip.

This four-day, all-expenses-paid experience at Walt Disney World will continue to help change the lives of young people in 2019.

For more information or to apply, visit DisneyDreamersAcademy.com

University of Pennsylvania Professor Ebony Elizabeth Thomas Offers List of Children’s Books That Accurately Depict Slavery

U Penn Prof. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas (photo via penntoday.upenn.edu)

by Greg Johnson via penntoday.upenn.edu

Children in the U.S. are often introduced to America’s troubled and cruel history through movies, television programs, and children’s books. Historical fiction is frequently the means by which children learn about atrocities such as the enslavement of African Americans, racial segregation, Japanese-American internment, and the genocide of Native Americans.

Discourse about these topics in children’s literature can be difficult in light of the books’ overall function to inspire, transmit values, and spark young minds. But an omission or inaccurate portrayal of the crimes and suffering can do lasting societal damage to readers and how they see the world.

Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education, has for the past decade been exploring representations of slavery in children’s literature. Over the last six years, she and her research team have compiled a database of 160 children’s books covering slavery that were published between 1970 and 2015—almost half of all the children’s books on slavery published in the 35-year period, many of which are no longer in print.

An expert on children’s literature and the teaching of African-American literature, history, and culture in K-12 classrooms, Thomas says parents, teachers, and educators must consider questions of readership, ethnicity, class, gender, story, background, intended audience, and difficulty when selecting books for their students.

Thomas supports the criteria put forth by scholar Rudine Sims Bishop that children’s literature about slavery should, in part, celebrate the strengths of the black family as a cultural institution and vehicle for survival, and bear witness to African Americans’ determined struggle for freedom, equality, and dignity.

A page from Ashley Bryan’s “Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life.”

Ashley Bryan’s “Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life” is a book Thomas points to as one that successfully gives an accurate depiction of slavery, humanizing African Americans held in bondage while also conveying the truth and difficulty of slave life.

“I recommend this book. What you’re getting here is 11 slaves’ lives and dreams that are being brought to life by this author,” she says. “[Bryan] is representing their complexity in the illustrations, his writing of the poetry. I highly recommend this because it balances humanizing enslaved African Americans, but he’s also showing the complexity of their lives.”

On top of her 160-book database on slavery in children’s literature, Thomas is conducting reader response surveys in Philadelphia public schools, and has published two articles on representations of slavery in children’s books.

Thomas also praises “Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom” by Shane W. Evans; “All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom” by Angela Johnson; “Freedom Song: The Story of Henry “Box” Brown” by Sally M. Walker; “Almost to Freedom” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; “The People Could Fly: The Picture Book” by Virginia Hamilton; and “Love Twelve Miles Long” by Glenda Armand.

Additionally, she is working on a book about slavery in children’s literature tentatively titled “Reading Racial History,” and she serves on the advisory board of Teaching Tolerance’s Teaching Hard History project.

Thomas says children’s literature is a prime site for social reproduction, and an unexamined site of social progress, regress, and/or transformation.

“If you have children’s media that’s regressive, and the children of today are going to be the adults of the mid-to-late 21st century, if we don’t change the children’s media that they’re being fed by, just like we still remember and talk about ‘Peter Pan,’ ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and other fictions of the long-ago Victorian and Edwardian eras, they’re going to still be influenced by these current writings—from ‘Harry Potter’ to problematic books about slavery—deep into the 22nd century.”

Read more: https://penntoday.upenn.edu/news/representing-slavery-childrens-literature

Happy Father’s Day: Important Lessons Dads Teach Us

father and son talking while in the park
(photo via blackdoctor.org)

by Peter Jideonwo via blackdoctor.org

Father. Dad. Daddy. Papa. Pop. There are many different words we use to define one of the most important men in our lives. More than the disciplinarian. More than the one that wore hats and ties. More than “the fixer.” Along with mom, he’s the one who taught you how to be you…and as well as the true value of being you.

Black men, we celebrate you. Not just on Father’s Day, but every day. Here’s some of the things the precious men in our lives have taught us…

Be yourself. It’s up to you to define who you are. Don’t let anyone tell you what specific things you can or can’t do because you’re a man or a woman. If you want to be a surgeon, go for it. If you want to cook, cook. If you want to build something, be careful and don’t hit your finger with the hammer. If something needs to be cleaned, clean. Do you.

Handle your business, no excuses, no explanations. Being a truly great human being can mean many things, but having excuses is not one of them. Always be responsible.

Give and it shall be given. You need to be resourceful, and one of the most valuable resources are people.  Rewarding people what they’re worth is key.

Try. Try. Try. It’s not always easy, but don’t give up doing the things you love to do. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, follow your heart and take pride in doing the things that bring you joy.

There is great value in a hard day’s work. Many children remember their fathers getting up early, working 6 days a week, always taking great pride in making a living. Years later, these are the children that rarely complain when they’re at work…because they remember that Dad always worked harder.

Education is key. You cannot put a price tag on a good education.  Don’t settle for anything less than this. It’s something that no one can ever take away from you.

Be there for your children. Of all the things that kids remember the most about their fathers, things like money and fancy gifts aren’t generally at the top of the list. More valuable to them are those times Dad took them to the park, taught them something new, or simply took the time to spend some time with them.

It’s never too late to do what you want to do. Always try your very best to follow your heart and your dreams. Maybe it’ll hit you later in life what you really want to do. There’s nothing wrong with this. Just make sure you go for it.

Procrastination is a thief of time. Why put it off tomorrow? That is, unless you happen to have a time machine.

Having God on your team means you have the greatest teammate. No matter how tough life gets, having a relationship with God can help move mountains.

Have fun, go out…but not every night. Going out with friends and having fun is great. But don’t…

… be that guy/girl that’s out every single night. You’ll save money, people will have a better opinion of you, and when you do go out, those times will feel more special and you’re more likely to have more fun.

Always put something away for a rainy day. Save, save, save.  Don’t just spend everything.  There will come a time when you will be thankful that you did.

Never forget the beauty of being a kid. Things like working and saving money are essential and important things. But so is keeping a tight hold on your sense of fun, not taking yourself too seriously, and never losing the ability to just let go and be silly sometimes.

Source: https://blackdoctor.org/10279/things-my-dad-taught-me/

Good Black News Wishes You and Yours a Happy Mother’s Day in 2018


Good Black News joins in the honoring and remembrance of the women who gave us life, nurtured and raised us, and also offered us solace, counsel and wisdom. To all the mothers out there – be they Aunties, Grandmothers, Cousins or Friends – thank you for all you do!  Happy Mother’s Day!

Connecticut Lawmakers Vote Unanimously for Bill Geared to Recruit and Retain More Teachers of Color

(photo via United Federations of Teachers)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

According to the CT Post, this Monday Connecticut State Representative Patricia Billie Miller (D-Stamford) helped push through an unanimous bill to direct the state Department of Education to take more steps to recruit and retain minority teachers. The Senate previously approved the measure, so it will pass to Governor Dannel Malloy‘s desk for a signature.

Miller, who grew up in Stamford, didn’t have a black teacher until she was in the eighth grade. That teacher helped Miller become a successful student, she said. So years later, Miller was dismayed when her daughter, now 28, also only had one black teacher in Stamford schools. “It helps when you have someone in front of you that looks like you,” the Democrat said Monday.

State Representative Patricia Billie Miller (D-Conn) [Photo: Erik Trautmann / Hearst Connecticut Media]
Although non-white students are approximately one third of Connecticut’s school population, teachers of color are only 7 percent of the state’s public school faculty, according to the state Commission on Equity and Opportunity.

The bill Miller voted in favor of directs the Department to modernize its educator certification processes, develop private partnerships to increase recruitment and intervene where necessary in local board of education’s efforts to prioritize hiring minority teachers.

Lawmakers of both parties noted the diversity of thought and culture that teachers of color can bring to a classroom, benefiting children of all races. “We are providing a deficient education to our children if we are not providing a school system and faculty that reflects this state and this country,” said Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, D-West Hartford, House chair of the Education Committee.

Ieshia Champs, Single Mother of 5, to Graduate Magna Cum Laude From Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law

Ieshia Champs stands at center with her children (left to right)  E’mani, 5, Kaleb, 8, Khassidy,11, Davien, 12, and David, 14. (Photo: Richard Holman Photography) 

by Kerry Justich via yahoolifestyle.com

Ieshia Champs never could have imagined what she would achieve when she grew up, as she bounced around family homes, entered into the foster care system, and had her first child at age 19. But nearly 14 years and a total of five kids later, this mom is about to graduate from law school after a difficult journey — and she says her faith led her through it all.

The 33-year-old, who is originally from Port Arthur, Texas, has been through a lot. However, from the looks of her beautiful family in her recent graduation photos, it seems like the more trying times might have been worth her consequent path. From leading her to Houston and to a church that provided her with guidance, as well as the people she would quickly call family, Champs is now seeing that her earlier struggles are coming full circle. And it all goes back to one Child Protective Services caseworker, Gail Covington, who picked her and her siblings up when Champs was just around 7 years old.

“I’ll never forget it,” Champs tells Yahoo Lifestyle, of the moment Covington brought them to a home outside of the chaos that the little girl was used to. “I cried so hard because I missed my familiar surroundings, even though they were horrible. And one day, I woke up in time for school. I actually had a bed to sleep in, and we had brand-new clothes on the floor. It was then that I realized my friends had no idea about this type of life.”

What Champs explains as the “drug-filled environment” where she lived with her mom was the norm for everyone in their neighborhood. Once she had an idea of another type of lifestyle, she began to wonder what she could do about all of the people left behind without help. Her teachers introduced her to the idea of becoming an attorney and providing a service similar to what Covington provided Champs. However, she would eventually return to a toxic environment soon thereafter.

Being adopted by a maternal uncle, Champs says that she and her siblings eventually ended up back in an apartment with their mom — which ended up leading her down a bad path. “We really didn’t have much guidance,” Champs explains. “My sister ended up having her first baby at 14. I ended up dropping out of school my 10th or 11th grade year, and I ran across my kid’s father. We ended up having our first child, and then we had a second. And it just kept going.”

It was when Champs had three children and a fourth on the way that her life began to change. Her sister enticed her to attend a service at the Ministers for Christ Christian Center in Houston, led by Bishop Richard and Louise Holman, who she now refers to as dad and mom. Champs recalls a service where Louise, who serves as a prophetess, called the mother of five up to the front of the church and offered up information about her future. Louise said that God wanted Champs to go back to school to get her GED, so she could eventually follow her dream of becoming a lawyer — a dream that Champs had never shared with Louise.

“She told me that God would take care of me,” Champs says of Louise’s encouragement. “During that same year — it was 2009 — I ended up having a house fire, I lost everything that I had. I got laid off from my job, the father to two of my children died of cancer while I was seven months pregnant, I literally tried to kill myself, and I ended up going back to get my GED.”

Champs credits the inspiration and prayers from the Holmans for her getting an associate’s degree in paralegal studies at Houston Community College, and a bachelor’s degree at the University of Houston. Both degrees eventually brought her to the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, where she’ll be graduating in May. Although receiving her Juris Doctor degree was far from easy, she commends her five children for making it possible.

Giving her time to do both her work and rest, Champs says that her eldest son, who is now 14, has been amazing at taking the other four children — ranging in age from 5 to 12 — to a quiet place in the house to do activities or eat a snack. In order to honor this commitment, she decided to include them all in her graduation photos, which were taken by Bishop Richard.

“I’ve been attending Ministers for Christ for about 10 years, and [Richard] is not just my bishop,” Champs says. “He’s a professional photographer, and he knows my story. So I wanted him to be very active in that.”

Champs’s children pose proudly around her. (Photo: Richard Holman Photography)

Now, as the bishop’s photos circulate around the internet, Champs’s older children are beginning to understand what “going viral” means. However, Champs remains focused on what she wants to do with her doctorate once she passes the bar exam, which is to become a general attorney with a specialization in family law and juvenile law, and eventually become a judge.

“I feel like with what I’ve been through as a child and in my upbringing, I can probably help some of these juveniles who may feel like there’s no hope for them,” Champs explains. “I want to be the one to fight for those children who are in these horrible living arrangements. To try to help them reconcile with the family, or if not, give them the same opportunity that I had.”

Source: https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/single-mother-5-proudly-poses-children-law-school-graduation-photos-012231390.html

Michigan State University Receives $1.5 Million Grant to Build Slave Trade and Ancestry Database

MSU African Studies Center Facebook Cover Photo (via facebook)

via newsone.com

$1.5 million grant gifted to Michigan State University by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will go towards the cultivation of a database that harbors information about former slaves, MSU Today reported.

The database, which is part of the institution’s Enslaved: The People of the Historic Slave Trade initiative, will encompass data surrounding those who came to America during the Atlantic slave trade; giving individuals the opportunity to explore their ancestry, the news outlet writes. Individuals who utilize the database will also be able to view maps, charts, and graphics about enslaved populations.

The project is being spearheaded by Dean Rehberger, director of Matrix: The Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences at MSU, Walter Hawthorne, professor and chair of MSU’s Department of History and Ethan Watrall, who serves as an assistant professor of anthropology at the university.

MSU Today reports that the project will go through several phases and take nearly a year and a half to be completed.

Hawthorne believes that the database will allow scholars to delve deeper into the dark history of slavery. “By linking data compiled by some of the world’s foremost historians, it will allow scholars and the public to learn about individuals’ lives and to draw new, broad conclusions about processes that had an indelible impact on the world,” he said in a statement, according to the source.

Michigan State University has one of the top African history graduate programs in the country and leaders at the institution believe that this new project will further its impact in this space. Institutions who have partnered with MSU for the project include Emory University, Vanderbilt University, Harvard University, the University of Maryland and others.

Slavery has been a common topic at colleges and universities across the country with many institutions coming forward to acknowledge and come to terms with their ties to slavery. Rutgers University recently paid tribute to former slaves by renaming parts of its campus after individuals who built the university from the ground up.

Source: MSU Today

Author Jacqueline Woodson Named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress

Author Jacqueline Woodson, whose professional accolades include a National Book Award (Brown Girl Dreaming), four Newbery Honors (Brown Girl DreamingAfter Tupac and D Foster, Feathers and Show Way) and a stint as the Young People’s Poet Laureate, has been named the sixth National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, for 2018–2019. Her appointment will become official at an inauguration ceremony on Tuesday, January 9 at the Library of Congress, presided over by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. And Woodson will accept the proverbial torch, passed from author-illustrator Gene Luen Yang, who has just completed his two-year term as Ambassador and played a key role in recruiting her.

The National Ambassador for Young People program is sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Children’s Book Council, and CBC’s charitable arm, Every Child a Reader. The Librarian of Congress selects the Ambassador based on the recommendations of an independent committee comprised of various children’s literature experts including educators, librarians, and booksellers. Among the criteria for the Ambassador post are: contributions to young people’s literature, the ability to relate to kids and teens, and dedication to fostering literacy in all forms.

In a statement, Hayden shared her enthusiasm for Woodson’s selection. “We are delighted that Jacqueline Woodson has agreed to be the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature,” she said. “I have admired Jacqueline Woodson’s work for years, especially her dedication to children and young-adult literature. The Library of Congress looks forward to Jacqueline’s tenure of encouraging young readers to embrace reading as a means to improve the world.”

Woodson says she never saw herself as Ambassador. In fact, she had contacted Yang, a friend, about a year ago to put forward the name of someone else (who she declines to name) she thought would be a great choice. “I had called Gene to put a name in the hat,” she said from her Brooklyn home during a telephone interview. “He told me, ‘Well, we have someone else in mind.’ I figured he was blowing me off.” And even when talk of the honor came up in passing, years ago, Woodson wasn’t sure she would ever be a good fit. “Earlier on, when the position was first starting to get some traction, and Jon Scieszka was the Ambassador,” she recalled, “people were asking me if I would ever do it, and I said, ‘Heck, no! There’s no way I could do that.’” She was busy with her writing and had just welcomed a new baby at that time. Over time, “I kind of had the sense that I had put the kibosh on it,” she added.

But more recently, Yang called and asked if Woodson would consider taking on the appointment. She continued to champion another author (“someone younger!” she joked), but Yang persisted. “He went through all the ways in which he thought I would bring something to the Ambassadorship that was needed at this time,” Woodson said. “I thought about it, I talked to my partner about it, and I was still a bit reluctant. But then Gene said that Dr. Hayden was really into me taking this position. And I love Dr. Hayden.” Woodson explained that one of the rules in her life has always been, “When it comes to Enoch Pratt Library [Hayden’s former library, in Baltimore], I can never say no to them. I did my first reading there way back when Last Summer with Maizon came out, and I have loved everyone there. I thought, OK, if Carla Hayden is asking me to do this, I’m not saying no to it.” On a more philosophical note, she continued, “I think you are often called to do the work you’re not quite ready to do, or willing to do. And for me that’s a sign that I need to push through and do the work that’s needed.”

Woodson has chosen the phrase “Reading = Hope x Change,” as her platform as Ambassador. “I definitely believe that reading can change us and shape us in so many ways, and through it we can be exposed to people and places and ideas that we might not otherwise come across or confront in real life,” she said. “A platform about the importance of reading and having conversations across the lines of books is really important to me.”

Woodson says she will use her message to address something she has been noticing. “Young people are getting labeled ‘reluctant reader,’ or ‘advanced reader,’ and the labels in front of their names begin to try to tell them who they are,” she lamented. “I would like to see less of that and more of just kids who read.” What they read shouldn’t matter and how they read it shouldn’t matter, she said, “just so long as they can have conversations and have a deep understanding of and a deep love for what they’re reading.”

One of Woodson’s foremost goals as Ambassador is to reach young people in areas of the country that are traditionally underserved. “My family and I are going to the opening of the Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice [acknowledging victims of lynchings] in Alabama this spring. I’m going to stay and try to visit some schools in Alabama and Mississippi in some of the places where they don’t get to meet writers or ambassadors every day,” she said. Additionally, she says she’s looking forward to going into juvenile detention centers and other places “where the underserved can begin to tell their stories.”

Though she’s not exactly sure how kids will relate to her in a new role, she’s excited to find out. “The thing that always brings me the greatest joy is meeting the young people,” she said. “I’m always surprised when a kid’s in awe of me as an author—I think ‘I’m just Jacqueline Woodson and I wrote a few books.’ But they’ve been studying you so long and you walk into the classroom and you’re like this superstar to them. Then you work yourself back to connecting to them so that they see you as a human being and they see themselves as young people who can do what you do. In this position it’s the same. I would love for young people to see themselves as national ambassadors of many things, today and always.” She cites the example of her own family. “I always tell my kids when we go to other countries, ‘You are ambassadors for this family. When you walk out there people are going to have ideas about this family, and how you represent yourself is going to make a difference in how they think.’ ”

The opportunity to talk about reading is another high point she’s anticipating. “I am excited for the young people’s reactions and the interactions that we’ll have around literature, and really talking about reading,” she said. “In the past mostly I’ve talked about my books and my writing process. Now I can talk much more about my reading process and the reading process, and the conversations that can be had where there isn’t a right or wrong. Did you infer from the book? Who cares? I want to know what you loved about the book and what made you mad and I want you guys to agree and disagree and have real true conversations and make amazing text-to-life connections about the book.”

Asked if there’s anything that might be scary or daunting about her new position, Woodson is reflective. “It is a very scary time to be alive,” she said. “And given that, I think of [poet and activist] Audre Lorde saying ‘we can sit in our safe corners mute as bottles and we will still be no less afraid.’ I do believe this is all I have—my words, I have the words that I write down, I have the words that I speak out, I have the words that I take into classrooms.” Woodson says she accepts that there will be hatred in general, and hatred online questioning why she would be chosen as Ambassador. “Risk of backlash and people not being kind, but that’s been the risk my whole life,” she said. “It’s not going to keep me from what I’ve been called to do.”

To read more, go to: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/75729-jacqueline-woodson-named-national-ambassador-for-young-people-s-literature.html