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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Self Acceptance Despite the Stereotypes

Self-Acceptance Despite the Stereotypes

As I fall further in love with my role as a librarian, I love the “Aha Moments” that happen when on duty!

Yesterday, while checking books out to students, I had to use my “Mama skills” when interacting with one young. Not the save the “save my toddler’s world from impending doom” strategies, but rather the “I know you better than yourself” skill-set that parents master before their child makes their first complete sentence!

I’d just finished reading Grandma’s Purse to the class, when we played a righteous game of “What’s in the Library Lady’s purse?” A true-or-false game based on bluffing: Do I have a dirty sock in my purse? Show me the letter “T” with two fingers if you think I’m being truthful or “F” with three fingers (like an old-school “OK” hand gesture!) if you believe I’m fibbing!

If the students guessed correctly, they could have the item from my purse (Option A)--there were fun items in my purse like earbuds, snacks and a rose-shaped compact mirror--or (Option B), which was either a butterfly coin purse (similar to a purse mentioned in the book) or a more male-friendly drawstring “satchel” with an African print, both items were stuffed with a blinky-light ring and a yo-yo. Two girls received a coin purse and one disappointed young man received a satchel. We concluded the day’s activities with the students selecting the books they wanted to borrow from the library.

As they began their book shopping, their teacher interrupted and condescendingly said, “Wait a minute...most of y’all ain’t on the reading level of these books. Y’all need to stop and head over to the Rookie Reader book case! I’m going to touch the shoulder of those that can get these (cue the frivolous hand motion of disgust) new books!”

Yes, I bit the inside of my cheek and mumbled under my breath! How dare she do that? But there was a bigger battle on the horizon!

She touched the shoulder of the same disappointed young man from storytime on the carpet. Per her words, he was “an advanced reader and could handle something more than Ready-to-Read books.” She allowed him to choose whichever book his heart desired.

He’s #4 in line the check-out line and as a habit, I usually interact with the students to see if they’ve chosen a book they can read and enjoy. My 20 seconds Q & A is more along the mindset of, “What do you think this books is going to be about?” or, “What caught your eye about this book?” rather than “Open the book to any page and let’s test out the “five-finger rules.”

Nevertheless, I see anxiety creeping across his face as he’s inching closer to the conversation line. Therefore, I look down at the book in his hands and notice a familiar “frequent flyer” of books: The Baby-Sitter’s Club by Raina Telgemeier. A graphic novel that my girl patrons barely let come back to the library. It is in this moment that I flexed my “Mama skills” and read between the lines. “You checked-out one of the most popular books in the library!” I said with a sweet smile and nothing more. He returned a sheepish grin of relief and quickly sat down at the door to await dismissal.

In those brief seconds of reflection, and before he was face-to-face with me, I ran through a few thoughts mentally: Is he checking-out this book out for a friend? Did he choose this book as a means to identify himself? Now’s the time to put your LGBT, round-table money where your mouth is and accept this young man exactly where he is. K.I.S.S. (Insulting slang for Keep It Simple, Stupid)

Once I concluded check-out, I noticed that he was already reading intensely on page 15. He breezed along through the pages, smiling at himself. His contentment put me at ease. Yet, as he walked out the door, I had a nagging thought: Should I share the book, Sparkle Boy, with him?

To offer a 30 seconds summary, Sparkle Boy is about a young brother who idolizes his older sister. He wears sparkly bracelets, skirts and painted fingers just like his sibling queen. Big sister doesn’t like it one bit. When he’s bullied at the library for his appearance, they must decide whether to affirm each other or succumb to societal norms. My bilingual blerd lunch group did a podcast to discuss self-acceptance, a major theme in this book.

As librarian of a “majority brown” (95% Latino and African-American students) magnet arts campus, my students come from all walks of life. They have peculiar, tragic and stable stories hidden within their chest. Hopefully, I have provided a thoughtful and diverse collection of resources to assist in mindset of “representation matters.” My door is decorated with an “Everyone is welcome here. Everyone one belongs,” poster, gone around campus to put “rainbow” stickers on the outside of classroom doors, right next to the name of teachers who are “safe places for all,” and I’ve signed up to sponsor a LGBT group on campus for middle school students...not elementary because it’s not allowed.

In regards to the student, this young man has wit, good-looks and charm to accompany his love for reading. His grandmother raised him along with his aunt because his mother was incarcerated. However, it’s visually obvious that he’s more effeminate than his male-classmates. Plus, the way his eyes dropped, when I gave him a satchel instead of a coin purse, still haunts me.

Did I fall victim to clichΓ© stereotypes by selecting certain purses for boys vs. girls and basically set myself up for failure? Could it be that he checked out the book to learn how women think and communicate to better represent his own feelings? Or should I drop it and stop-overthinking it?

To paraphrase a Star-Wars quote, “Help me bloggers. You’re my only hope.” Leave your thoughts/comments below, please!
P.S. You can also find this post on #KidLitWomen Private Facebook Group and on my Medium writing space.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Black Panther & #WakandaLibrarian

Today is a BIG day in my realm of living. It's the release of the much anticipated #BlackPantherMovie! I love the comic series written by Christopher Priest. I love the actors. I love the reflection of faces like mine. It's a cultural game changer for every black kid/kid-at-heart. Period.

Therefore, I could not let today pass without acknowledging it's significance. The whole concept of Black Panther is based on AFROFUTURISM.

According to Jaime Broadnax, "Afrofuturism is the reimagining of a future filled with arts, science and technology seen through a black lens. The term was conceived a quarter-century ago by white author Mark Dery in his essay “Black to the Future,” which looks at speculative fiction within the African diaspora. The essay rests on a series of interviews with black content creators. There's an in-depth analysis here. Or you can see this wonderful interview with the Costume Designer from Black Panther, Ruth E. Carter.

Taking that definition to heart and in honor of #WakandaDay, cheers to my newfound-identity: WAKANDA LIBRARIAN!!

Here's why Black Panther matters:

1. Black Heritage on display in the heart of the Motherland.
We get to see Africa in a wondrous way, separate from apartheid, famine and 3rd world suffering. Here's a much needed reflection from Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira, actresses from #BlackPanther, and featured Queens of Gal-Dem's article on "Black Panther AND RE-IMAGINING AFRICA: AN INTERVIEW WITH LUPITA AND DANAI".
Here's an excerpt:

One of the most powerful aspects of Black Panther is how it’s reshaping the representation of African countries. We talked about the importance of Wakanda and as Danai put it, “the idea that we never got to see the uncolonised Africa, we don’t know what we could’ve been without the intrusion and the assault of colonisation.” The notion of a land like Wakanda is so impactful because it illustrates a parallel universe, showing an African nation that was never colonised, and allowed to flourish into something wonderful and powerful without intrusion. She went on to explain, “what if we took command of our resources instead of letting the west and the east leech them out?” 

2. Superheroes/heroines are black too. 

For the longest time and as a child, Black Panther was one of few black superheroes to me. There wasn't a female black superheroine for me to look up to so I idolize Black Panther, Black Lightning and Luke Cage. But seeing, Dora Milaje on screen...gave my heart a glee that's never been felt before! Finally, the world can see US-WOMEN as heroic and unstoppable too!

Here's Chadwick Boseman sharing these feelings in the heart of every black kid in love with comic book superheroes:

3. Representation Matters.

I've said it on my blog before about diversity and why representation matters. Lee & Low, one of the biggest publishing houses on respresentation wrote an extensive article about it. Here's what the director of Black Panther, Ryan Coogler has to say:

Representation and identity are a core component of Afrofuturism. Fittingly, director Ryan Coogler and his co-writer Joe Robert Cole make that the root of Black Panther. The film centers on T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman), the newly crowned king of Wakanda, who takes up the superhero mantle. To the rest of the globe, it looks like a third-world nation. But secretly, Wakanda is incredibly advanced, thanks to its reserves of vibranium, the superstrong metal that Captain America's iconic shield is made out of. When last we saw T'Challa, in Captain America: Civil War, he was a son seeking revenge for the death of his father. (It's a long story.) But in this film, he's trying to determine what kind of king he wants to be. Excerpt from Engadget.

4. Unheard of technology created by blacks. 

The vision of Wakanda as a vibrant metropolis -- one that's more advanced than anything we've seen on Earth in the Marvel films -- is enough to inspire hope in audiences. It's almost too much to take in at first: there are high-speed monorails, flying ships and gorgeous skyscrapers amid bold colors, fabrics and patterns that make the city distinctly African. And almost instantly upon seeing Wakanda, comes the realization that it's unlike anything we've ever had in a big-budget Hollywood film. How often are African societies shown to be advanced? Let alone more so than the rest of the world. (Who needs Tony Stark when you have Shuri, the Wakandan princess who's also responsible for most of the country's high-tech innovations.) Excerpt from Engadget.

5. Hope that equality will prevail.

This movie speaks to the humanity in all of us. In my opinion, it's leveled the playing field. There's no more tokenizing of our significance to the economy, culture and equality across the globe.

This is a movement, a long awaited validation and a beacon across the world from the descendents of Africans.

This movie has changed people and the concept of what it means to be black in the most positive of mindsets.

To all of the blerds, nerds and watchers of progress, this is our time! Listen to this interview with Letitia Wright, who plays T'Challa's sister, Shuri and genius nerd:

If you doubt this movie is in fact a movement, here are some of the comments from the social media campaign, #WhatBlackPantherMeansToMe.

If you want to see my response, then by all means, here you go.

And...just in case I haven't supplied enough resources for you, here's a website dedicated to the instructional resources for teaching Black Panther via Black Panther Challenge. Also, check out this video, survey and extra awesomeness for Black Panther and Black superheroes in general!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Hieroglyphs, The Lion King Jr. & Trivia

At GLEC-PVA and every spring, we do a magnet arts enrichment program. This spring, we've chosen The Lion King, Jr. to celebrate the wonderful continent of Africa!

So to use one of my favorite books again, Mummy Cat-(it's the perfect combination of animals, Africa and curriculum)-we're going to explore the importance of storytelling using pictures. The artistry in The Mummy Cat background tells the story just as well, if not better, than the words!

However this time, in addition to the wondrous beauty of Queen Hatshupset and her cat, we're going to double whammy the picturesque component of storytelling and discover HIEROGLYPHS hidden within the pages! Click on the slideshow to grow what you may not know about hieroglyphs! There's a bonus bit of knowledge at the end regarding how we STILL use hieroglyphs in 2018!

In case you missed the slide, EMOJIS are the modern-day Hieroglyph! Discover more here. But students, don't think that emojis are going to substitute well in your classwork/essays!!! Lol!

Picture courtesy of Icon8.


To pull it all together seamlessly, I created stations with heiroglyph writings. The students had to discover the hidden meaning. Here's the cross-curricular connection: all of the 6 stations had a Lion King character as the solution.
So not only did it tie to a great movie, our spring performance and the beautiful continent of Africa, but I supported the FINE arts team in the library. It's a WIN-WIN-WIN! Take a look at our library set-up (tables included an African country, hieroglyph alphabet, non-fiction book & supplies):

What's even better? Here's a TLK bonus for you TRUE fans, courtesy of Mental Floss!

Bonus Question: James Earl Jones (the voice of "Mufasa" in The Lion King) and Madge Sinclair (the voice of "Sarabi" in The Lion King) played an African King and Queen in what movie? *Leave your answers in the comments!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Blerd Holiday Inspiration

Here's my last post of the year...I think! Lol!

It's been a rough year, but the good news is that I've inspiration for a wondrous 2018! With that being said, I bet it would surprise most of you to know that I wanted to be a park ranger when I was younger. It's was a "wildling wish" that I abandoned after thinking I was too chunky for a ballerina and had altitude sickness to prevent me from piloting a plane!

I wanted to learn about the plants and surviving with the earth. I knew it would inspire my writing and creativity. Plus, I could connect with nature without the cages of the zoo. But then the thought of crossing paths with a cougar reminded me of the need for cages and pushed me away from that aspiration too! Fear is such the motivator!

Where am I going with this? Though this city girl talked herself out of one of her dreams, doesn't mean you should. When you're looking for direction, don't let fear guide your compass. Self-doubt eats away any inspiration fate whispers to you. Though I chose the path of a writer and educator, I limited myself. This morning, when I came across this video of the illustrious Park Ranger, Betty Reid Soskin, whose mother was a slave and who became the oldest and still radiantly working Park Ranger, I caught a lump in my throat. This video hugged the inner child in me. This theme has shadowed my entire year. It gave me a hope that I haven't felt in what feels like ages. So I decided to use my mini-platform and share it with the world. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy."Dale Carnegie

Here's a little holiday gift! My favorite track is "Give Love on Chirstmas Day."

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan

GLEC-PVA Library has chosen Ashley Bryan, 2004 CSK Illustrator Award winner and brilliant artist, film-maker and storyteller for our "Author of the Month!"

Without giving away, much of the plot, this wonderful read discusses the theme of being true to yourself, loving the unique features of you and how to handle the inevitable jealousy/envy that pops up in life. Though it's an adaptation of a Zambian folktale, this book has a universal theme of "wonderfully me." Additionally, this book would work well for those kiddos that don't feel like they fit in with the popular crowd: “Color on the outside is not what’s on the inside.” Beautiful Blackbird encompasses timeless themes for those young and old!

What touched my heart were the reflections of my "lunch-bunch" Blerd Book Club. We made a little podcast of our debriefing discussion. Please enjoy my very first PODCAST!

For my younger kids (grades 2nd-4th), we kept the lesson simple with 4 easy steps and, of course, fun!

DO NOW: Choose your favorite color and defend it with this sentence stem: My favorite color is ______ because of _______.
"I love purple and gold because my mother wears a lot of gold ring and I love to wear my favorite purple dress. In India, gold is a treasure. My mommy says I'm her treasure." Khanak T.

DO TOGETHER: Read the story, Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan.

DO NEXT: Create your own community bird pond, decorating your birds like those in the story.

DO REFLECT: Turn to your shoulder partner and discuss what each of you love about yourselves for 2 minutes. Be prepared to stand up and discuss what your partner loves about themselves and vice-versa.

We had a whole nestful of fun celebrating all the beautiful colors in the world! We hope you enjoyed our cut-paper artwork and our thoughtful discussion!

P.S. To continue our theme of love, self-acceptance and black being beautiful, here's a love-letter to the Blerd Community!

Monday, November 13, 2017

National Picture Book Month

In the library, we're celebrating National Picture Book month by giving away 24 FREE PICTURE BOOKS to our staff members.

There rules are quite simple:
1. Choose a book.
2. Choose a teacher.
3. Write a note of gratitude to your teacher.
4. Take the book (with librarian's permission of course).
5. Give book/note to the teacher.
6. Watch their joy and feel great!

Once a student has selected the book and submitted their gift the teacher, I plan to leave the name of that teacher on a little placard.

This is a wonderful opportunity to pay it forward, promote #growthmindset and get a jumpstart on Thanksgiving and the feeling of gratitude.

Here are the links to the cute paper templates BOY and GIRL.
Here's a bonus treat from my #blerdbookclub! We're reading former President Barack Obama's Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters with illustrations by Loren Long.

Barack Obama's Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters from AwakenLibrarian on Vimeo.

BONUS MATERIAL: We have our first awarded educator! Congratulations to these educators!!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Blerds Book Club

4 young beauties came in this morning to check out library books.πŸ’“

I began to show them all the newly acquired library books...and they squealed with glee! πŸ’—

Then, they did the unthinkable...the asked for a book club! πŸ’œ

What's even more AMAZING, they returned at their lunch w/a prepared greeting, to begin the book club. They persisted like the uncut diamonds they are! πŸ’–

 Here's to the 1st Blerd Book Club Meeting...ENJOY it as much as I did!

Blerd Book Club
from AwakenLibrarian on Vimeo.

P.S.: May I just say that these group of girls are the "best friends" I needed when I was their age? Full circle moment, I tell you...this heals my inner child most definitely! I ❤ being their librarian!