"Books that center Black joy are important for a very simple reason: they show Black reality." - Kelly J. Baptist, author
I think children have had enough of stories about oppression. Let’s show them hope for the future and faith for the present. And one of the best and creative ways to do that is through children’s books. It allows for us to tell any and all kinds of stories. Why limit Black children to a single narrative.
— Darnell Johnson, illustrator
During many of the library's Let's Talk Race Community Conversations we do the Check Your Privilege Challenge. After, I often feel guilty because I always have more fingers up than the other black people in the room. I'm pretty sure no one has ever gotten off the elevator to avoid being on with me because I'm the type that slows down so the door will close and I can avoid being in an elevator with other people. As an extremely shy young person I probably tried to avoid people more than they tried to avoid me. My life has not been filled with trauma and I have truly been blessed. I have to remind myself that I should not feel guilt in the fact that I have had a different lived experience than some others. That plays a big part in the books I choose to read.
We need diverse books but we also need diversity in our diverse books. There are far too many books that focus only on oppression and painful and traumatic situations of black people. Don’t get me wrong these stories need to be written and read but there is more to being black than slavery, the Civil Rights Movement and police brutality. The world also needs to see the beauty and JOY in being black. We have varied lived experiences like every one else and they are not all rooted in trauma and pain.
I want my daughters to be able to read a book about a little girl that is just doing normal every day kid things like them. Not dealing with a father in prison or a mother on drugs or living in poverty. Those aren’t my lived experiences and they aren’t their lived experiences either. They need to have a Window into the world of what other black people have been through and are going through but they also need a balance with a Mirror that reflects their lives and things they can relate to.
The Richland Library #OwnVoices initiative is a space for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) staff members to provide thoughtful and well written book reviews, book lists and blog posts. These posts work to promote authors of marginalized groups and their work about the life experiences of these under-represented groups through their own perspective. The series invites our customers to learn one more way we are continuing the conversation in our community and speaking our voice. Find more resources on race, equity, and inclusion, here.