Black children's book authors will be the focus at new Gantt Center festival this weekend
Local and nationally-known African American children's book authors and illustrators will be the focus of a free festival on Saturday at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture.
The festival is a first for the Gantt Center. It will include authors such as the Lincoln Center’s poet-in-residence Mahogany L. Browne and Alicia D. Williams, who won the Newberry Award and Coretta Scott King Award for her book "Genesis Begins Again." Charlotte author Tameka Fryer Browne will also be on hand to sign and read from her books. Her latest, "That Flag," tells the story of two young girls, one Black and one white, who have different opinions about the Confederate flag.
Carla Jarrett, the Gantt’s visitor experience and museum store manager, says the festival will give Black youths a chance to discover books that focus on issues important to children of color, such as Williams’ "The Talk," which details conversations many African American parents have with their children about how to respond when approached by a police officer. Jarrett says Black youths will also find books on famous and fictional characters who look like them, something many Black youths do not find in their school libraries.
And Jarrett says the festival is important now because of an increase in school book bans about sensitive topics like race.
"A lot of our books highlight some of these civil rights icons and authors are taking into account what’s happening socially and politically and bringing it to a level for children’s books," Jarrett said. "Some of these topics and situations are being glossed over and cut out of schools, so we want everyone to be aware of these topics and subjects."
And Jarrett says although the festival focuses on African American authors and illustrators, it is designed for youths and families of all races.
"Even though the authors and illustrators and the books are all done by Black authors and illustrators, (that) doesn’t mean it’s only for black children. We wanted to create this to be a festival and create visibility for these authors," said Jarrett. "All races will buy these books."
The free book festival at the Gantt Center will be held Saturday from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. It will include book signings, a drum circle, storytelling, games with prizes, food, vendors and other activities.