The Brown Bookshelf Spotlights Black Kid Lit Creators' Thoughts on Juneteenth

Author and educator Torrey Maldonado has once again asked his industry friends why  Juneteenth matters.

For the second year in a row, author and teacher Torrey Maldonado has asked some of his Black kid lit friends to answer the question: “Why does Juneteenth matter?”  The Brown Bookshelf posted the responses.

Last year’s contributors included Jacqueline Woodson, Tracey Baptiste, Nikki Grimes, Carole Boston Weatherford, Alicia Williams, and the late Floyd Cooper.

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

“At its heart, Juneteenth is about family,” said Cooper, who wrote and illustrated Juneteenth for Mazie.

This year's post includes Brandy Colbert, Antwan Eady, Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, and Frank Morrison. 

“They are some of kid lit's preeminent Black creators and Black advocates of Black books," says Maldonado. "There are some of readers' and critics' favorite authors, illustrators, and book advocates; and new rising stars who folks will be glad to hear from as we carry the Juneteenth torch that Floyd Cooper upheld as we keep shining light on what Juneteenth means to us.”

When asked if any particular answers stood out this year, Maldonado says, “Everyone's words are riveting, and it's beautiful to see that there is a through-line of agreement on what Juneteenth means, and a theme of celebration while responses range from funny to deeply intimate and personal to essential social commentary.”

These answers can help spark conversations in classrooms about Juneteenth, discussions Maldonado says shouldn’t only happen in June.

“No one should put a deadline on when Juneteenth gets discussed,” says Maldonado, who is also a teacher in New York City. “The best educators revisit topics to reinforce understanding and deepen meaning and create extension activities; so, educators should offer opportunities to those still in school to learn about the history and share the meaning of Juneteenth after June 19th, and this 2022 post will be essential for discussing Juneteenth with young people and educators and families.”

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