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.
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.