Growing up Black in America has a specific narrative of crime and violence. This narrative is constantly reinforced by our movies and television, showing black men to be criminals and black women as objects to be used and thrown away. Children are often not presented with positive versions of this story. For almost three decades, The Annual African American Children’s Book Fair has been providing children with that image.
Walking onto campus on a Saturday is usually uneventful, often there are only a few people sleepily heading to class. That was not so on February 1st as families eagerly head to CCP’s gymnasium from all corners of the campus. Children big and small, with smiles across their faces, have discovered the joy of reading and want to make it there before the good stuff’s gone!
Walking into the gym, excitement grew. Families wait patiently in line, and walk table to table getting their fill of excellent literature from the African Diaspora. Daughters sit atop the shoulders of their fathers to get a better view of the books, grandparents recommend books and advice to the younger generations and Roary mingles with the small children. The feeling of the room was one to rejoice, one of celebration. Not only did children proudly attend the event, but children proudly worked the event. They sat behind their tables conversing with not only people of their age but adults about the fine literature they had to offer. The communal aspect of the event was as greatly important as the literature itself.
A beautiful and surprising detail of the event was that there was a diversity of families in attendance. Families containing one black parent or none, all with the goal of educating their children on black literature. The black children, able to stay in touch with this part of themselves and interact with other children who look like them and the children of other races able to consume a kind of literature that is often neglected to be included in schools. Living in a place as diverse as Philadelphia, it’s nice to see this.
Among the forest of tables was a woman with a sticker on her shirt taking a photo with a young girl. The book in her hand is “Simone Visits the Museum”, and her name is Dr. Kelsi Bracmort. Bracamort is a DC native, accomplished intellectual and children’s literacy mentor. The book is about the day of a young girl and southeast DC native Simone; she’s gone to the museum with her mother and this is the story of lessons learned, including the importance of family. The content seems relatable and tasteful, two aspects that are important aspects to have in a book for young black girls and boys. The lessons contained within these pages are something that every child needs to learn, and it’s important the black children see people that look like them learning these lessons. As important as the art and the words are, it’s even more important that Bracmort was there taking photos and conversing with these children. She’s not only has a warm inviting personality but she’s very accomplished. It’s important children see there are many options in this life and they should shoot for the stars and do what brings them joy, and I believe her presence did just that.
If you weren’t able to make it to this year’s fair, mark your calendars for next year as it’s always held on the first Saturday of February. It’s become a family tradition for many and it could be for your’s as well, and did I mention it’s free?