When I was a little girl, every MLK Day, my parents would take my four siblings and I to the MLK Day March in Eugene, Oregon. As parents who grew up under segregation and fought for our civil rights during the 1960's Civil Right's Movement they wanted to instill in our hearts a passion and desire to make the world a better a place for our children, and their children' children.
As a child I watched my parents navigate many obstacles within my hometown. They moved from Chicago, IL in the late 70's and wanted to get away from the discrimination and hardships they faced in the inner-city. However, even in Oregon they faced many injustices but as a child I wasn't privy to everything they faced.
For example, when I was about five or six years old, I remember that my father was a fireman. My mother would take us down to the fire station to bring my dad food and I remember saying prayers to God to keep him safe and bring him back home. One time I remember going to visit him at the station, but during the visit the firemen got a call and I watched him jump on the firetruck and ride off in the distance.
Art by Estefania Razo
I never liked my dad being away from home and sleeping at the fire station so I never thought about why he stopped going. It wasn't until I was older that my father revealed the racism and discrimination he experienced at the fire department.
As an author, I wanted to capture his story because I believe it will be an important tool for parent's and teacher's to teach empathy, compassion, and equity. As I interviewed my dad for this story I was challenged with how to make the subject of racism palatable for young children.
I wanted to leave them with a hopeful outlook and so I took Dr. King's quote, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” as a source of inspiration for the story.
Dr. King was arrested over 30 times. He was beaten, threatened, and ultimately killed for his willingness to fight for the rights of Black people. His powerful words spoke to me as I wrote the story about my father. As I was writing, I kept hearing the words, "Keep Moving Forward, Keep Moving Forward." Not original to King, as many generations of African Americans have had to repeat this phrase to themselves after being locked, blocked, and kicked out of parts of American society.
My book, "Keep Moving Forward, Henry" is a story that I hope will teach children what they should do if they ever get knocked down. I am proud to say that it is slated to be released next month for Black History Month.
Ya'll I am so so so so excited! Did I mention I was excited?! I have been writing for six years now, developing a nice size body of work of various themed children's books.
I am happy to announce that I have my first black history themed book coming out in February 2021!!
This story is particularly special to me because it is based off my father's real life experience of being one of the first African-Americans to serve as a fireman in my hometown--Eugene, Oregon. The story takes a difficult issue like racial discrimination and addresses it in an age-appropriate manner. It will be a great tool for parents and teachers alike to use for teaching empathy, respect, and self-determination.
I will be sharing more as the months get closer to the release date but here is a sneak peak at a couple of preliminary sketches.
With this project I am working with an illustrator who lives overseas and it has been such an amazing experience. The artist is so talented and I can't wait until the coloring process begins--that's when things really come alive!
Anyway--stay tuned and follow me on my Facebook Author's Page for more updates.
I love reading the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was such a master and powerful wordsmith. He had the ability to paint pictures with his words and evoke deep emotions. Martin is one of my heroes in so many ways, not only because of the leadership he gave to the Civil Rights Movement, but especially in regards to writing and communicating. Whenever I listen to his speeches I get charged up and ready to fight against injustice. His writing invokes the same response--just read his words below and see what I mean.
“Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, ‘Wait.’ But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policeman curse, kick, and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society…when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’—then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait.”--MLK
“This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”--MLK
“The deep rumbling of discontent that we hear today is the thunder of disinherited masses, rising from dungeons of oppression to the bright hills of freedom, in one majestic chorus the rising masses singing, in the words of our freedom song, ‘Aint gonna let nobody turn us around.’ All over the world, like a fever, the freedom movement is spreading in the widest liberation in history. The great masses of people are determined to end the exploitation of their races and land. They are awake and moving toward their goal like a tidal wave. You can hear them rumbling in every village, street, on the docks, in the houses, among the students in the churches and at political meetings.
I just want to shout "Amen' and "Hallelujah!" Kings use of word pictures were brilliant and so powerful they moved millions of people into action.
As a writer he is my mentor and I can only hope and pray that as I study his art form I will also inspire and educate others with my writing.
Ayanna is an author that enjoys writing fiction, historical fiction, non-fiction, and poetry for children. She has written over 15 stories and hopes to publish them in the near future.