Looking for America

Looking for America

However, diversity means only that there is racial and cultural variety. It doesn’t reveal the way individual groups understand one another or how much they care to know and learn ideas about each other. But the time is ripe for organizations such as the CSK task force and for those of us who care about children’s books to take the lead in teaching about race, racial equality, and also racism. It is important that the new millennium’s children know how to think about the world they see. And we can help them to better understand the world by sharing our knowledge of children’s literature.

African-American artists and writers have added strongly to the expanding canon of American children’s literature, bringing a wide range of fresh literary and illustrative into public view. CSK Award-winning titles such as John Steptoe’s Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughter: An African Tale (Lothrop, 1987), Faith Ringgold’s Tar Beach (Crown, 1991), Walter Dean Myers’s Fallen Angels (Scholastic, 1988), Mildred Taylor’s The Road to Memphis (Dial, 1990), and Tom Feelings’s Soul Looks Back in Wonder (Dial, 1993) are but a few of the books that have contributed greatly to the creation of a more inclusive, more tolerant society.

By means of the CSK task force’s public awareness campaign, we hope also to catch the attention of promising artists and authors who need our support in order to grow. Somewhere out there, I suspect, there is more than one young Virginia Hamilton or Jan Spivey Gilcrist; there are Walter Dean Myers and Brian Pinkney fledglings. I knew very little about children’s literature when I started out. I learned from publishers and editors. And I learned from an organization that gave a breakfast and awards honoring new makers of art and literature.

The early CSK breakfasts started small but grew large. They have become so vitally necessary that even I, a notorious morning grouch, no longer complain about getting up at a beastly hour to attend the overflowing, sumptuous breakfast. The best reward is the pleasure of being introduced to artists and writers who are experiencing their first taste of public recognition and are accepting what often are their very first awards.

I attend the breakfast whenever possible, knowing it is my joyful responsibility to be counted, to mean something to the ideal of heterogeneity, and to matter to those unknown bards and painters who will come up next. Besides, it’s fun; it’s exciting to be there. It’s that progressive spirit of my Dad and others that I find there, and which reminds me that when one goes looking for America, one is bound to find it.