Sunday, April 19, 2009
The Dallas Book and Literary Festival
Yesterday morning at the Dallas Children's Book and Literary Festival, authors, illustrators, city leaders, organizers and supporters shared breakfast with approximately 2000 kids, who had been invited especially because of their high grades, good behavior and overall performance in school. Authors and illustrators were encouraged to spread out and mix with the kids while eating.
I sat with a group of young men and women from A.W. Brown Charter School. They were approximately 8 to 11 years old. I was there to inspire them. But they inspired me.
When young African American males make the news, it's usually because they did something bad. In movies and on TV, they are often portrayed as thugs. Heck, let's be honest, many African American males celebrate that thuggish image, perpetuated by rappers and the hip-hop culture.
But the young men and women I shared breakfast with were none of that! Like the 1972 Nina Simone song, they were Young, Gifted and Black. These young men made me proud. They were articulate, smart, mannerly, courteous, funny. They engaged me in conversation. Asked intelligent questions. They talked about their career aspirations, which included computer programming and engineering. And in addition to rap and hip-hop, musical interest included old-school R&B, jazz, techno, heavy metal and country. "Everything except opera," one kid said, making me laugh.
These kids were not forced to be at this festival. They enthusiastically celebrated literature, discussed their favorite books, danced, sang, answered questions—wow! They were great.
The students came to the festival dressed in their finest clothes — suits and ties, dresses and bows, polished shoes. I wore jeans. Next time, I'm dressing up for them.
This isn't to forget the wonderful festival I attended on Friday in Corpus Christi. There I presented to about 1200 kids, in 10-minute sessions. By the time the day was over, I'd made about 25 back-to-back presentations, and then followed it up with a school visit. I absolutely love the people of the Corpus Christi library system.