Black Kid Lit Creators Discuss the Meaning of Juneteenth

Author and teacher Torrey Maldonado asked friends and fellow authors, "What does Juneteenth mean to you?"

On Thursday, President Biden made Juneteenth a federal holiday. It doesn't just give federal workers an immediate day off, it offers an opportunity to learn about the history and share the meaning of the day.

Torrey Maldonado

After a friend asked author and teacher Torrey Maldonado (What Lane?) what Juneteenth meant to him, Maldonado wanted to know what it meant to others as well. So, he put the question to a group of his friends, who just happen to be some of kid lit's preeminent Black creators, including Jacqueline Woodson, Tracey Baptiste, Nikki Grimes, and Carole Boston Weatherford.

“Juneteenth is knowing about the plundering that enslaved you and understanding the power of your freedom,” Woodson said. 

“Juneteeth is about shouting, stomping, laughing, rejoicing, and celebrating as one because we survived," said Alicia Williams. "It is Black joy, Black pain, Black victory, Black history, Black stories, and Black survival. It is about freedom."

Lesa Cline-Ransome spoke about Juneteenth's meaning specifically to this time in history and the core of the celebration: “Right now, in this moment, Juneteenth matters because it is a time to amplify Black voices. At its heart, Juneteenth is a time to gather, support each other, and to create community wherever we are as we remember the legacy of those who came before us. Because they survived, we will continue to survive. Because they thrived, we continue to thrive.”

Read all of the creators' answers in a post that Maldonado wrote on The Brown Bookshelf.

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