Tag Archives: Race issues

Why You Should See Selma

In celebration of MLK Day today, we wanted to share two perspectives from Lee & Low staff members on why you should see Selma, the new movie based on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Much has been said about the lack of Academy Award nominations for the movie, but nevertheless moviegoers are uniformly in agreement that Selma is one of the best movies of the year. It offers a meaningful historical context for current events and a springboard for deep discussion, making it a valuable learning experience as well as a straight-up great movie.

Here’s why we think seeing Selma is one of the best ways you could spend MLK Day: Continue reading

Interview: Katheryn Russell-Brown on the research behind Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

Katheryn Russell-BrownReleased in September of 2014, Little Melba and Her Big Trombone is the story of Melba Liston, a little-known but trailblazing musician who broke gender and racial barriers to become a famed trombonist and arranger. We interviewed author Katheryn Russell-Brown to get a better sense of the research that went into writing the book.

Were you able to talk to any of Melba’s friends or family when doing research for the book? If so, what was that like?

Katheryn Russell-Brown: Yes indeed. I spoke with Leslie Drayton who co-led a band with Melba. Melba did not have children of her own, but she considered Leslie her “musical son.” He talked to me about Melba’s personality, how she carried herself and some expressions she used. I still keep in touch with him. Continue reading

Protesting Injustice Then and Now

In August we wrote to you about the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Our publisher said then that the matter of representation was urgent; now, four months later, we see that urgency for what it is: a matter of life or death. Michael Brown’s name now sits alongside new names like Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Akai Gurley. How many more names will need to be added before things change?

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Recap: Horn Book’s Mind the Gaps Colloquium at Simmons College

On October 11, 2014, I attended a colloquium called Mind the Gaps, hosted by The Horn Book at Simmons College in Boston. There was an all-star line up consisting of Peter Brown (Mr. Tiger Goes Wild), Gene Luen Yang (Boxers and Saints), Andrew Smith (Grasshopper Jungle), and Steve Sheinkin (The Port Chicago 50), to name a few. Roger Sutton, Editor in Chief of The Horn Book, played a big part in pulling all these folks together for a day.

One of the highlights was the keynote by author/librarian Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (No Crystal Stair). Here’s a snippet from her speech:

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Keynote speaker, Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Photo credit: Shara Hardeson

“We are here at Simmons trying to solve this problem while one of the biggest stories in the news is that Apple released a new iPhone. Yet ALA struggles to get a one-minute spot on one network to announce the nation’s most prestigious children’s book awards. Is this our world now? To quote one of my favorite library patrons, ‘Have we dumbed down society so much that what is truly significant is not considered important?’ This conversation is significant. So how do we make it important?”

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16 Diverse Shows We’re Looking Forward to Watching This Fall

As we noted in our post last week, this year’s Emmy Awards weren’t as diverse as we hoped they might be. Still, the television medium has taken some big strides diversity-wise in the last few years and we’re looking forward to what’s ahead. Fall 2014’s TV season is about to start and there are some amazing diverse offerings on the horizon.

Returning:

Grey’s Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes’s medical drama with one of the most diverse casts on network TV, returns for its eleventh season.

Elementary, starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as a modern day Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson, returns. We just love this show.

Sleepy HollowSleepy Hollow normalizes POC (people of color) characters as leads in a fantasy-world setting, in which their race isn’t an “issue” but definitely a part of who they are as characters. It tackles historical issues like slavery head-on (for example, Ichabod’s reaction to Abbie being a cop), and it centers Abbie’s experience as the hero of this tale.

Ultimately, it’s epic and funny and fascinating—it tells a good story.

Scandal, Shonda Rhimes’s political thriller, returns with Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, queen of the Perfect Pantsuit. Whether you love or hate this show, one thing’s for sure: it’s impossible to stop watching.

The Mindy Project, Mindy Kaling’s rom-com, is back for a third season, featuring a strong, smart Indian American woman front and center as its main character.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Andre Braugher earned an Emmy nomination for his role in this sitcom set in a Brooklyn Police Department, which has been praised by many for its truly diverse cast and nuanced representation.

Premiering:

Fresh off the Boat is the first sitcom starring Asian Americans since Margaret Cho’s All American Girl in 1994. There are 18.9 million Asian Americans in the US. It’s time to see some positive representation! Fresh off the Boat

The Minority Report with Larry Wilmore will replace Comedy Central’s Colbert Report. Larry Wilmore, also known as the “Senior Black Correspondent” on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, will be one of the first black comedians to anchor his own show in the coveted 11:30 pm spot. 

Black-ish, starring Tracee Ellis Ross and Anthony Anderson, follows a middle-class African American family in a mostly-white neighborhood.

Selfie looks fun and funny, a fresh take on My Fair Lady, with a nicely diverse cast across the board.

Cristela, “in her sixth year at law school, is finally on the brink of landing her first big (unpaid) internship at a prestigious law firm. However, she’s a lot more ambitious than her traditional Mexican-American family thinks is appropriate.”

How to Get Away with MurderHow to Get Away with Murder stars two-time Oscar nominee, Viola Davis, as “the brilliant, charismatic and seductive Professor Annalise Keating, who gets entangled with four law students from her class “How to Get Away with Murder.””

Jane the Virgin is a retelling of Venezuelan soap-opera Juana la Virgen staring Gina Rodriguez.

Survivor’s Remorse, produced by LeBron James, follows Cam Calloway, a young basketball prodigy who is thrust into the limelight after getting a multi-million dollar contract with a professional team in Atlanta.

Honorable Mentions:

Galavant is about a dashing hero, determined to reclaim his reputation and his “happily ever after” from the evil KingJada Pinkett Smith as Fish Mooney Richard. Karen David stars as Isabella. It’s unclear from the previews what role Isabella will ultimately play overall, but Karen David is the top-billed woman in the cast, so we have hopes her character will be important!

Gotham, WB’s new origin story on Batman and several villains, will have Jada Pinkett Smith in the role of Fish Mooney. Zabryna Guevara will star in the role of Sarah Essen.

Have we missed any? Let us know in the comments what diverse shows you’re looking forward to this fall!

Thoughts on Ferguson and Recommended Resources

The following is a note from our Publisher, Jason Low, published in this month’s e-newsletter:

image from BirdIt’s been a hard few weeks for those of us following the news out of Ferguson, Missouri. While the exact details of Michael Brown’s death remain unknown, we can already see how this latest incident fits into a larger narrative in this country in which people of color are routinely discriminated against and subject to violence based on the color of their skin. Healing and change cannot begin until we as a country acknowledge the role racism plays not just in events like Michael Brown’s death, but in the everyday lived experiences of the 37% of America that is not white.

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11 Educator Resources for Teaching Children About Latin American Immigration and Migration

What an amazing week to see the response of last Sunday’s post and hear what many of you are facing, doing, and aspiring to in schools and communities. In addition to using children’s books to initiate conversations, deepen background knowledge, and humanize the events, here are eleven teaching resources to help you provide the best information, context, and perspective for your students.

Amazing Faces mirror

  1. Colorín Colorado is a free bilingual service that presents information, activities, and advice for educators and Spanish-speaking families of English Language Learners. One of my favorite sections is “Reaching Out to ELL Students and Families” because it gives explicit tools on how to create a welcoming classroom environment, learn about our students’ backgrounds, and reach out to parents of ELLs.
  2. Educators For Fair Consideration (E4FC) offers educator guides to support teachers and school staff in supporting undocumented students in school and beyond graduation.
  3. Colorlines contributes award-winning daily reporting, investigative news, and analysis on issues of race with a subsection devoted to child migrants. They also have a campaign, Drop the I-Word.
  4. Continue reading

11 Books on Latin American Immigration and Migration

11 BOOKS onLatin American Immigration & (3)As media coverage has intensified around the events of children crossing the U.S. border, many educators and families are wondering, “What should we tell our students?” For some children, this may be the first time they are learning of these countries. But for many others, these events may involve their own heritage or depict their families’ experiences. Using books to talk about the recent events can be an opportunity to learn about a new region and help children see the cultures and people beyond these events.

We’ve put together a list of 11 books (many of which are bilingual English/Spanish) that teach about the emotional journey families and children must undertake along with the physical journey. These stories allow children to see each other and themselves in characters who are living life to the fullest and refusing to let any obstacle stand in their way.

Whether you are looking to explore the themes of the DREAM Act, learn more about the journey of one’s own family, or see America from a different angle, these books reveal the complexities, challenges, joys, and surprises of coming to a new place. Join these characters as they share their challenges and excitement in moving to a new culture and new school, helping their families adjust, and juggling their home culture with a new culture.

1. A Movie in My Pillow/ Una película en mi almohada

Poet Jorge Argueta evokes the wonder of his childhood in rural El Salvador, a touching relationship with a caring father, and his confusion and delight in his new urban home.

2. Amelia’s Road

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Where’s the Diversity, Hollywood? Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blockbusters Overwhelmingly White, Male

Summer blockbuster season is in full swing. For many moviegoers, that means escaping to a galaxy far, far away—or perhaps just a different version of our own planet Earth—through science fiction and fantasy movies. As fans clamor for the latest cinematic thrills, we decided to focus our next Diversity Gap study on the level of racial and gender representation in these ever-popular genres that consistently rake in the big bucks for movie studios. We reviewed the top 100 domestic grossing sci-fi and fantasy films as reported by Box Office Mojo. The results were staggeringly disappointing, if not surprising in light of our past Diversity Gap studies of the Tony Awards, the Emmy Awards, the children’s book industry, The New York Times Top 10 Bestseller List, US politics, and the Academy Awards, where we analyzed multi-year samplings and found a disturbingly consistent lack of diversity.

The Diversity Gap in Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films infographic (click for larger image)
The Diversity Gap in Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films infographic (click for larger image)

(see end of post for a list of included movies in each category)

Among the top 100 domestic grossing films through 2014:

• only 8% of films star a protagonist of color 

• of the 8 protagonists of color, all are men; 6 are played by Will Smith and 1 is a cartoon character (Aladdin)

• 0% of protagonists are women of color. 14% of protagonists are women 

• 0% of protagonists are LGBTQ

• 2% of protagonists are people with a disability

The following interviews with two prominent entertainment equality advocacy groups shed more light on the subject.

Marissa Lee Marissa Lee is co-founder of Racebending.com, an international grassroots organization of media consumers who support entertainment equality. Racebending.com advocates for underrepresented groups in entertainment media and is dedicated to furthering equal opportunities in Hollywood and beyond.

Imran Siddiquee

Imran Siddiquee is Director of Communications at the Representation Project, which is a movement that uses film and media content to expose injustices created by gender stereotypes and to shift people’s consciousness toward change. The Representation project was the follow-up to the critically acclaimed documentary Miss Representation.

Jason Low: Do these statistics surprise you? Why or why not?

Marissa Lee: The statistics are certainly striking, especially since sci-fi and fantasy belong to a genre that prides itself on creativity and imagination. These statistics aren’t necessarily surprising, since lack of diversity in Hollywood films is a well-known problem. There have been enough studies and articles, and any moviegoer can pause to notice there is a disparity. . . . Hollywood can’t go on pretending that this isn’t a problem.Hollywood can't go on pretending like this isn't a problem.

JL: Do you think the American movie-going audience would support a big, blockbuster sci-fi/fantasy movie with a diverse protagonist if a studio made it?

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Talking to Kids about Current Events and Conflicts

block quote for jill (1)Breaking stories, developing crises, and unexpected catastrophes often involve more than one country, community, and culture. As our children listen in to the radio while stuck in traffic or the evening news program over dinner, it can be easy to think that if we don’t explicitly bring up the news story, then our children don’t know it’s happening.

In fact, children are incredibly perceptive when their parents and adults close to them are distracted by news or alarming events. Many children also pick up information from their peers.

While we don’t want to overwhelm or scare our children, it is important to discuss what is going on. Children need honest portrayals of a community at its best during a time we might be seeing it at its worst.

How do we talk to children about these events and use these moments as opportunities to have respectful, honest (albeit age-appropriate) discussions?

Picture books are invaluable conversation starters. Conflicts and disasters have complex origins and multiple players. Issues of race, class, religion, and gender are often entangled in the events or portrayal of the events. Children’s books dealing with conflict or natural disasters can frame the event in contexts and meanings suitable to their developmental stage. Stories with children as the main characters allow children to identify with the characters over universal themes.

When a “newsworthy” event happens, this may be the first time the child learns of this country, group of people, or culture. By the same token, the conflict or event may involve the child’s own heritage or culture. Using picture books to talk about a current event or conflict can be an opportunity to learn about a new region and help children see the culture and people beyond this event.

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