On June 19, 2020 I had the pleasure of attending Canada’s first #KidLit4BlackLivesCanada rally (via zoom). This event was hosted by Nadia Hohn, a Canadian Black author who lives in Toronto, and was sponsored by A Different Book List & Ground Wood Books. For those of you who do not know on June 19, 1865 Texas abolished slavery. As a result, they call it Freedom Day. It is also called Juneteenth.
The event had a total of 22 speakers, including the host. It was educational and empowering. It was educational for me, a member of a visible minority, who works at the library. Although many of the speakers were of African Descent, It was interesting to hear the voices of other visible minorities. It was eye opening for me to hear how people from other visible minorities consider themselves allies in the Black Lives Matters movement. I also learned that books can be used as a weapon to help educate people about diversity.
I was disappointed to discover that the library has books by only four Black Canadian authors. Sarah Raughley, a Young Adult (YA) fantasy writer, wrote the Effigies trilogy. As of right now we have books 1 & 2. We will order book 3 titled Legacy of Light, which will complete the trilogy. If your kids like football then the picture book The Stone Thrower written by Janel Richardson is worth a read. It is about why the former CFL quarterback Chuck Ealey moved from Ohio to Montreal in order to play professional football for the CFL instead of playing for the NFL. Zetta Elliott wrote Dragons in a Bag, a book about a little Brooklyn boy who has to deliver three dragons to a magical world. Lastly, we have Itah Sadu who wrote Please Clean Up Your Room and Christopher Changes His Name.
I was delighted to learn that we have books from some of the allies, such as Catherine Hernadez (Filipino Chinese), who wrote a novel titled Scarborough. It is a fictional book about what it was like growing up in a low-income neighborhood in Toronto that is culturally diverse. S.K. Ali (Muslim Canadian) wrote The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family, a story is about two sisters and their first day of school. One of the girls wears a Hijab for the first time and we see how everyone reacts to that. Ali is also a YA author who has written Love from A to Z, Saints and Misfits and Mecca the Blessed, Medina the Radiant: The Holiest Cities of Islam). Lastly, we have Robin Stevenson who is a gay Canadian author. She wrote Pride: Celebrating Diversity & Community), this title speaks for itself. Other books include The Summer We Saved the Bees, Impossible Things (YA) and Ghost’s Journey: A Refugee Story.
Some of you might be asking yourself who cares. I care. I care because Nadia, like so many other Black Canadian Authors, are unheard of – at least in our library. We have books in the library about Black People, but there is a lack of books written by Black people. In 2016, Malaika’s Costume (written by Nadia Hohn) won an award for Exceptional Caliber from the Canadian Children’s Book Center. It was in the Best Picture Books of 2016 magazine. I was working here in 2016 so I have to admit that I missed out on this book. I missed the mark so much so that my boss informed me that we did have that title at one time in our collection, but due to a lack of circulation it was eventually weeded.
It is important that our library represent all people. As a result of my findings, my boss has given me the task of finding books from Canadian Black authors to help expand our library collection. People say it all starts with a conversation. I say, let’s start one.
Education is the key. However, if people do not ask questions, how can we learn or grow? In the seven years that I have been working here, I do not recall anyone from the Black Community ever approaching me to discuss the contents of our library. In February, Black History Month, we barely get any traffic. At least, this has been my experience.
I am on a mission. I will need the help of the people in our community. My mission is to help our library acquire books that will be a reflection of the people in today’s changing society.
If there are books that you would like our library to buy, you can make a suggestion for purchase by logging into your account on the library portal. If you need any assistance with this, staff will be happy to help you. And do come to say hello to me, I’ll be happy to meet and discuss with you.
Until the next time