Like MLK, “We’re picking up our checks”, joy and healing | black joy

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This weekend we will celebrate the birthday of one of America’s greatest legacies: the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

From now on, this newsletter will not add to the annual flood of MLK quotes in your feeds. Here, we don’t just preach King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. We also preach: “We come to collect our checks.

So in his honor, I wanted to center those who carry the torch of all his heritage. We are still walking, but we are walking in joy. 😁

Do you know anyone else who wants to join us for this walk? Please consider passing on this newsletter so we can all revel in the black and radical joy.

‘dr. King is a friend of mine’

Alice Faye Duncan is an author of Black joy in my book.

She doesn’t just educate children about the hidden gems of black history through her writing. Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1967, Alice was raised on black history. His father, an educator, joined his school after becoming one of the first black teachers. Across the street from Alice’s house was her neighbor, Ed Redditt, a detective who guarded King – well, until he was removed from King’s security duty shortly before the rights leader was assassinated civics.

Alice’s pastor, Reverend Henry Logan Starks, helped galvanize black sanitation workers in the city after two employees were crushed by faulty equipment. Known as the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike in 1968, 1,300 black men marched to the picket line with signs reading “I am a man.” as they demanded a union, better safety protocols and a living wage.

These are just a few of the legacies that surrounded Alice as a child. His parents gave him a space to interact with Memphis’ civil rights movement.

“My mom and dad had conversations with me like I was the third adult person in the room,” Alice said. “I was allowed to listen to these conversations. I was allowed to participate in these conversations and ask questions.

Now a national board-certified librarian in Memphis, Alice knows the curriculum — and the black stories it leaves out. For the past 29 years, she’s made it her mission to fill those gaps with brightly colored illustrations and poetry. Alice said most kids in Memphis can name the hotel where King died, but don’t know how he thrived in their hometown. So she wrote “Memphis, Martin, and the Mountain Top: The 1968 Sanitation Strike,” which earned her the 2019 Coretta Scott King Medal of Honor. This week, Alice dropped two more gems: “Opal Lee and what it means to be free”, which tells the story of Juneteenth from a child’s perspective. ” Forced out ! The fight for the right to vote » helps middle school students explore the Tent City movement of the 1950s in Fayette County, Tennessee.

Growing up, Alice was so enamored with King’s legacy that she told her second-grade teacher, “Dr. King is a friend of mine.

Her teacher tapped Alice’s hand with a ruler, reminded her that King had been murdered a year after she was born, and told her to shut up.

But that moment taught Alice the power of dark storytelling – how they can bring the story closer to children.

“I hope I make the story so vivid and emotionally relatable, that young readers will be inspired to carry on the legacy of these activists,” Alice said. “The reader doesn’t necessarily have to be a civil rights activist. But I want them to find their own personal passion – their own personal joy – and pursue it.

Storytelling naturally became Alice’s means of liberation. Her father erected a bookshelf in each room of their three-story house. As an only child, Alice spent her free time browsing the works of Maya Angelou and Langston Hughes. She literally woke up every morning to black literature as her mother recited Kentucky-born poet Paul Laurence Dunbar:

‘Lias! ‘Lias! Bless Lawd!

Don’t you know that the day is wide?

If you don’t give a damn, you rascal

They will have problems in this camp.

Alice will eventually write poetry with the dream of becoming a professional poet. She found herself mimicking Dunbar’s vernacular and calling Gwendolyn Brooks her “literary mother”. She wanted to follow in the footsteps of North Carolina-born writer Eloise Greenfield, who pioneered a new field of children’s literature for black children.

“I am committed to doing what (Greenfield) has done, which is to write books about black history, black joy, black love, black families, black music and black art – things that affirm life and give life,” Alice said.

While parts of black history can be traumatic, Alice makes sure to amp up the joy in each of her stories. For example, the Memphis sanitation strike happened shortly before King was assassinated, but the concise and lyrical nature of Alice’s poetry keeps things light. Her research included interviews with people who were children during the strike so she could write about the protest through a childlike lens.

“What I found out was that the Memphis sanitation strike was a family affair,” Alice said. “My book is about the enduring love and joy of a black family that is resilient, and that despite all the odds, they are rooted in love.”

Although she later became a librarian, Alice never put down her pen. Since publishing her first book at age 24, Alice has written 14 titles and counting. “Yellow Dog Blues,” which follows protagonist Bo Willie as he ventures down the famous Blues Trail in the Mississippi Delta to find his missing hunting dog, will be released this summer. She is currently researching a book on Coretta Scott King which should be published next year. Aspiring Authors Can Commemorate MLK Day taking advantage of Alice’s free writing workshop, where she will share her nearly 30 years of wisdom in the picture book industry.

“I found my voice through these poetry books. It’s what chose me and now I share it with others,” she said.

Radical Healing Day

Looking for something different to do for MLK Day?

A black women-led seminar wants to help you change your wellness game in honor of National Racial Healing Day, which takes place after MLK Day.

During the free 90-minute virtual seminar, “What Black Women Want You to Know,” Alabama literary healer Salaam Green and Kenyan mental health reformer Lucy Wairimu Mukuria will help you shed the emotional baggage caused by racial and gender trauma – a mission both women have done well over the years. Hello empowered trauma survivors through its “Write to Heal” workshops since 2016. Whether through journaling or poetry, Salaam believes writing is a therapeutic way to find your own voice.

“The literary arts promote healing by strengthening a person’s ability to express themselves. Expressive writing enables the brain to process traumatic events and develop coping strategies through writing techniques,” Salaam said. “Put down my feelings on a daily basis helps me recognize my feelings and regulate myself emotionally. Keeping a journal over time is also a great way to measure personal progress and reflect on self-healing.

When the ‘Rona caused pandemonium two years ago, Salaam partnered with Mukuria, a humanitarian who provides mental health services to war-traumatized Kenyan veterans and their families through her True North organization. . Salaam, Mukuria and another friend have created a virtual healing space where they can check on each other once a week and share their stories and wisdom. This then evolved into an initiative where Salaam asked Murkuria to host a racial healing circle “so that the world can feel the energetic presence of global healing while experiencing the storytelling of racial justice from the perspective of a black woman and an African woman,” Salaam said.

Registration is open throughout the day of the event, but Salaam asks that you register as early as possible to receive special messages from the hosts before the event.

Go ahead and spread the Black Joy this weekend! See you next week.

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