When Women Speak: Kelly Starling Lyons

Additional essays in this series:
Zetta Elliott: Nice Is Not Enough
Traci Sorrell: Why Do You Speak Out?
Justina Ireland: There is A Minefield and You Will Become a Demolitions Expert
Ambelin Kwaymullina: On Being Loud and Hopeful
Cheryl Willis Hudson: Women Lead the Independent Publishing Movement
Laura Jiménez: Static Bodies in Motion: Representations of Girls in Graphic Novels
Sonia Rodriguez: Don’t Call Me Strong
Maya Gonzalez: What Do I Speak Out? True Power Rises
Sujei Lugo: When Women Speak
Neesha Meminger: I Want to Talk About Power

How do women use art as resistance?

“Black women writers refuse to accept the negative image society creates of our kids.”

Refusal to accept or comply. An opposing force. Fighting against harmful influences. When I read those definitions of resistance, I think about the brilliance, courage and strength of black women who create books for kids. In a world that tries to silence and thumbnail_KSL-headshoterase black children, these sister scribes give birth to amazing stories that center our young people. Their work affirms, inspires and challenges children, gives them roots and wings.

From Jessie Redmon Fauset, literary editor for the first black children’s magazine, to today’s authors, I’m grateful for the long tradition of African-American women who use art to celebrate the beauty of black kids, salute our history and crush stereotypes and myths.

In their hands and hearts, our children are not nameless brown faces on a page. Whether featuring them in contemporary, historical or fantasy tales, their black child characters are fully and powerfully rendered. Brave, gentle, smart, creative, curious, vulnerable, purpose-driven, funny, full of life and longing, warrior women writers dare to show our kids as they are. They give them heroes too – black mamas and daddys, Pop Pops and Ma’Dears. They sing of trailblazing men and women whose names kids rarely hear in school: Mary McCleod Bethune, Matthew Henson, Fannie Lou Hamer, Arturo Schomburg, Ida B. Wells. And they go deeper still, revealing to kids the hero inside themselves.

Black women writers refuse to accept the negative image society creates of our kids. They oppose the marginalization of black history and culture. They fight against racism and invisibility.

There’s no stronger resistance to hate than love.

Kelly Starling Lyons is a children’s book author and founding member of The Brown Bookshelf (www.thebrownbookshelf.com), a team of authors and illustrators dedicated to raising awareness of black children’s book creators. Her books include NEATE: Eddie’s Ordeal; CCBC Choices-honored picture book, One Million Men and MeEllen’s Broom, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book, Junior Library Guild and Bank Street Best selection, Tea Cakes for Tosh and Hope’s Gift, Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People and One More Dino on the Floor, a Scholastic Reading Club pick. Her chapter book series debuted in September with two titles: Jada Jones: Rock Star andJada Jones: Class Act. Learn more about Kelly at www.kellystarlinglyons.com.

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