A Monthly Column by Anthony D. Fredericks
This month’s column is different. There are no photographs. There are no illustrations. It’s just the basics: Black letters, white background.
If you’ve been following the news the past few weeks you know this country is in crisis . . . a very deep and commanding crisis. Voices are calling, crying for justice in an unjust world—a world in which eight minutes and forty-six seconds have forced us to look at who we are and what we believe. A world in which eight minutes and forty-six seconds ended one man’s life and catapulted the American consciousness into a familiar, yet uncomfortable, fact of life: Racism is this country’s ultimate pandemic.
Vice President Joe Biden put it succinctly when he said, “I thought we had made enormous progress when we finally elected an African-American president. I thought you could defeat hate, you could kill hate. But the point is, you can’t.”
The shadows of Jim Crow–like conditions continue their seep through the American landscape and the American conscience. Like unseen microbes, they lurk in politics, skulk in commerce, loiter in neighborhoods, prowl through school systems, and stalk the unknowing. They are a miasma that both corrupts and depletes.
However, we have the power (and the morality) to address this infection. We are writers! Our words carry power; they carry influence; and most importantly, they carry the winds of change. What we write has the promise to transform minds, alter perception, and effect a more positive attitude about a community we affectionately know as “humankind.”
A children’s book has enormous potential to address both a social injustice and personal decision. Innosanto Nagara’s A is for Activist opens kids’ eyes to the values of community, equality, and justice. This is a book that inspires hope for the future in concert with a call to action. Commanding illustrations combine with a dynamic text to show young readers that there are things worth standing up for, irrespective of age, ethnicity, geography, or station. It is a message of promise.
Read Jacqueline Woodson’s Each Kindness and, no matter your age, your education, or your political perspective, you are changed! In a mere 32 pages, Woodson offers us insight into who we can become as human beings . . . who we can become as neighbors to each other. The lesson is subtle, yet commanding; it is personal, yet universal. This is not a book with a moral; it is a book with a conscience. Your conscience. My conscience.
And so, a generation awaits our words. What will we say and what will we share? The time is ready. The audience is waiting. Write! Now!
Tony is a writer of children’s books.