Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Much talk about the Coretta Scott King Awards

A great conversation has resurfaced. Happens this time every year. The question(s): Why are the CSK Awards only open to Black folk? And how is Black defined, at a time when racial lines are getting blurred so fast, we don't know who's made up of what anyway?

Esme Codell expressed her thoughts, and she made some good points. She said: "I have a very hard time with an award that claims to 'commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood,' and yet uses the author’s race as a criteria. I find this contradictory."

Esme is absolutely right. I read some of the other comments posted there, and her readers presented fair arguments.

Then I reread Marc Aronson's piece, Slippery Slopes and Proliferating Prizes. For the most part, I agreed with him, too. Rewarding great literature based upon the color of its creator's skin probably isn't the best (or fairest) way to bring more kinds of books to more kinds of kids, especially at a time when our country just elected its first Black President, an accomplishment that happened only because people looked beyond skin color.

But then I reread Andrea Davis Pinkney's rebuttal piece, Awards That Stand on Solid Ground. I agreed with her more.

Ms. Davis talked about "unintentional neglect," and how many of the . . . awards givers . . . for lack of better words, come from backgrounds with limited exposure to people and experiences beyond their own.

For that reason alone, I'm glad we have the CSK Awards, and that their guidelines are set the way they are. My fear is that if the CSKs changed their guidelines, awards season might roll around each year with very few, if any, Black recipients.

So even though some folk "have a very hard time" with the award, I'm willing to swallow that pill in exchange of an awards season that breeds literary stars like Jerry Pinkney, Kadir Nelson, Floyd Cooper, Ashley Bryan, Sean Qualls, Nancy Devard, Shadra Strickland . . . in addition to the others.

Gives me something realistic to aspire to.

1 comment:

Teresa said...

Thanks for posting this. The Allen County (IN) Public Library is starting our first Mock Coretta Scott King Book Award Discussion/Election Program this year. What are your thoughts on including all books that feature the African American experience and through the discussion on the blog, we determine if the person is eligible for the award? Of course, that isn't how the actual selection committee works because books are submitted to them for consideration. I would appreciate your input. Thanks!