Author Charles R. Smith Jr. admits to having a love/hate
relationship with Black History Month. He loves celebrating black
culture that month but hates ignoring it the rest of the year. And he
gets tired of always celebrating the same people. He wanted to praise
some of the less well known black achievers, particularly modern day
ones. Fortunately his editor write a Black History Month book focused
around the number 28. This fortuitous idea resulted in 28 Days:
Moments In Black History That Changed The World.
Beginning with Crispus Attaks whose murder by British soldiers
started the Boston Massacre (Day 1) and ending with Barack O'Bama's
inauguration (Day 28) Smith presents readers with defining moments in
black history. This is not, however, a book to skim. The form of
each narrative is shaped to perfectly compliment its subject.
The verses celebrating Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe have the
rapid fire cadence of a tennis match.
from paddle to racquet
and learned to chase
the ball and smack it."
The biographic information on astronauts Guion (Guy) Bluford and
Mae Jemison comes in the form of a pre launch countdown.
"Guy is one of five astronauts on board the space shuttle Challenger.
Age five, Mae declares she wants to be a scientist when she grows up.
'Don't you mean a nurse,' her kindergarten teacher asks.
'No, a scientist,' Mae says."
(Gotta love her persistance.)
Shane W. Evans' collage like illustrations mirror this
expressive variety. World War I hero Henry Johnson races across an
explosive warscape. Rosa Parks, handcuffed, is a study in
determination and dignity. The intricate snow flakes in the
background of the portrait of North Pole explorer Matthew Henson
convey the bone deep cold in the air.
Again this is a picture book of real value for children older
than preschool. Each of the individuals profiled is worthy of in depth
study. I think very few kids walking the face of this earth who
wouldn't be curious about at least one of them. Maybe a future Black
History Month class or club project could involve kids singly or in
groups studying different people and reporting back. Add some jazz
music or spirituals and traditional foods and you can have a party.
Think I'll spring this idea on my book club for next year.
BTW there is a day 29 focussed on the reader, encouraging her/
him to make a difference in the world.
"will your questions change laws,
will your words inspire others,
will your name be passed on
by fathers and mothers?
Will the fire in your spirit
spark a revolution,
will your actions advance
On a personal note, I had three chances this past week to read my
poetry aloud: a writing workshop on Monday where I won a prize, an
open mic on Thursday, and a coffee house on Friday. It's always so
wonderful to be in a space where people are really into each other's
work and there's enough safety and support for some of us to try for
the first time and others of us to try new ideas and material.
A great big shout out goes out to the people who made these events
possible, especially my friend, Dylan Cunningham, who did an
exceptionally good job of running a coffee house for the first time.
Sent from my iPod