Ideal for kids between 3 and 6 years of age, the screening will take place at the theatre on Saturday 3rd December at 14:00. Tickets cost €7. Make sure to book your ticket so you don’t miss out and find out more information via the theatre’s website!
by Rae Parnell
What happens when four children are put to the task of saving the world? Nnedi Okorafor explores this story and more in her book Akata Witch. The author breathes new life into this well known plot by placing the story in Nigeria, and introducing the readers to a society of West Africans with magical abilities called “Leopards.” Okorafor brings forward complex understandings of identity and personhood as we watch 12 year-old Sunny Nwazue learn about her Leopard abilities and the world around her.
Set within the backdrop of child murders by a mysterious character named Black Hat Otokoto, Sunny, along with friends Orlu, Sasha, and Chichi, learn about their abilities and friendship through a strict and humorous mentor, Anatov. We watch them build trust among each other through a range of silly and deadly magical lessons. One enjoyable aspect of the book is simply the children’s group dynamic as bickering 12 to 14 year olds placed in quite adult situations. As one character in the book observes, “they fight plenty…[and] they make up just as much.” The audience is fondly reminded of their own childhood, and I often found myself deep in nostalgia for my adolescent friendships.
Perhaps one of the strongest elements of Okorafor’s book is her exploration of dualism, best captured by the main character Sunny. Throughout the book, we watch as she is taunted by her classmates for being a Nigerian with albinism. We learn that she has spent her first nine years born and raised in the United States, returning to Nigeria three years before the book begins. This causes her African identity to be called into question, pointing to the title of the book: akata (usually referring to Black Americans or foreign born Blacks). And later, when Sunny learns about the Leopard society that she belongs to, we watch her balance two lives: one with her non magical family, and the other, with her new friends and mentors as “Leopards.”
This is not the only space that dualism is explored. Okorafor weaves in this theme equally powerfully through the central friendship group of the book. The first friend that Sunny makes, and the one that is most like her, is Orlu. Orlu is reserved, level-headed, and seems to be mature well beyond his years. Meanwhile, where Orlu can be found carefully planning his next steps, Sunny’s friend Chichi instead impulsively dives into whatever she does. Egotistical, silly, and mysteriously ageless, her energy is matched by the last individual in the friend group: Sasha. Sasha is a Black American from Chicago sent to Nigeria by his parents who understand him to be too questioning of authority to be safe in the US. We watch the four friends learn to trust each other’s strengths, as these strong differences are actually what balances the group.
Sunny’s friendship with the three other children continues to grow as she learns more about the society of Leopards that she now belongs to. In the beginning of the book, we see her constantly confronted with the belief that she is an outcast; in her family, in her school, and within the many facets of her Black community. However, we are able watch her slowly become enveloped into a support group of friends, mentors, and community members who celebrate her in more ways than she could have ever imagined.
These are just a few of the incredible ideas and stories that Okorafor places in her book. Akata Witch invites the reader into a story of adventure, trust, wonder, and growth. Although this book is meant for children (and how I wish I was able to read this as a child), individuals of all ages can find themselves reflected in this grappling story of multiple and sometimes contradictory identities. As so, many people of color in Europe are both a part of and alienated from the countries they reside in, much comfort can be found in the story of Sunny and the adventures she embarks upon. When we watch her navigate a complicated world of identity, we can’t help but cheer her (and perhaps ourselves) on as she embraces the type of self love that can only be revealed through the experience of finally finding a community and a home.
EVCL – the makers of hit kids series Bino and Fino – have a back to school gift for Dutch-speaking children!
Last week they released a Dutch translation of one of the most popular episodes – the The Mighty Wall of Benin! You can see the episode below..
Following a couple of global tours to promote the show, EVCL hope to have more non-English translations of Bino and Fino available soon, in Portuguese, French, German and perhaps even Japanese – so that children all over the world can enjoy Bino and Fino’s antics and learn all about the incredible diversity and histories of the many nations of Africa!
Calling all fledging children’s literature authors!!!
InclusiveWorks is conducting yet another children’s book competition encouraging authors to create a story-line that is truly diverse and inclusive. Former winners include Marlise Achterbergh, who attended ERIF’s first Returning the Gaze conference in 2014, to discuss the production and editorial process behind her book Prinses Nina.
The theme for this year’s competition is: “Colourful Equality: Dignity and Equality for people of all races.”
The stories can be submitted in English, Dutch and Spanish, although the English and Spanish submissions should also be accompanied by a Dutch version. The age categories are 1 – 3 and 4 – 6. The deadline to submit is the 31st August 2016.
Find out everything you need to know and share with your friends and colleagues, by downloading the official InclusiveWorks invitation letter here. You can also read and share the Dutch call to action by downloading here.
Discussing racism and inequality can be a distressing moment between parents, care-givers or teachers and the children they love. Thankfully, there are a number of helpful materials and resources that can help you to explain discrimination at the same time as giving kids a sense of self-worth and confidence to stand up to themselves. Below are a few suggestions of books for children as well as advice materials for adults!
Picture books for young children:
Picture Books (2+)
• I love my hair – Natasha Anastasia
• Dancing in the wings – Debbie Allen
Picture Books (3+)
• Chocolate Me – Taye Diggs
• The Colors of Us – Karen Katz
• All the colors we are: The story of how we got our skin color – Katie Kissinger
• The skin you live in – Michael Tyler
Picture Books (4+)
• Amazing Grace – Mary Hoffman
• Skin Again – bell hooks
• The Other side – Jacqueline Woodson
Picture Books (5+)
• Hope – Isabell Monk
• Muskrat will be swimming – Cheryl Savageau
Picture Books (6+)
• The Soccer Fence: A Story of Friendship, Hope and Apartheid in South Africa – Phil Bidner
• Grandpa, is everything black bad? – Sandy Lynne Holman
• Let’s talk about race – Julius Lester
• Goin’ someplace special – Patricia C. McKissack
• Busing Brewster – Richard Michelson
• Mr. Lincoln’s Way – Patricia Polacco
• Desmond and the very mean word – Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams
More Picture Books!
• Shades of Black: A celebration of our children – Sandra L. Pinkney
• The Sneetches and other stories – Dr. Seuss
• Yoko – Rosemary Wells
• White Water – Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein
• Buddha at Bedtime – Dharmachari Nagaraja
• If a bus could talk – Faith Ringgold
• The people could fly: American Black Folktales – Virginia Hamilton
• Sunne’s Gift: How she overcame bullying to reclaim God’s gift – Ama Karikari Yawson
• Roll of thunder hear my cry – Mildred Taylor
• Let the circle be unbroken – Mildred Taylor
• Maggie Sinclair will you please fix your hair?! – Hilary Grant Dixon
• We Got Issues! A Young Woman’s Guide to a Bold, Courageous and Empowered Life – Edited by Rha Goddess and JLove Calderon
• The fat black woman’s poems – Grace Nichols
• The People Shall Continue – Simon Ortiz
• Muskrat Will Be Swimming – Cheryl Savageau
• First Americans – series of books by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve
• Indian Shoes – Cynthia Leitich Smith
Resources for adults:
– 50 Best culturally diverse children’s books (web article)
– Book list by Creative with Kids (website)
– Book list by Friends School of Portland (digital document)
– Combating Racial Discrimination by Ena Appelt and Monika Jarosch (book)
– Dutch Racism by Philomena Essed and Isabel Hoving (book)
– Emancipatie en diversiteit in kinderboeken by Spinzi (website)
– Institute of Race Relations News (website)
– Learning Resource Centre by ERIF (website)
– Media Diversified (website)
– Resources for teachers by Indian Country Today Media Network (website)
– Stereotypen in kinderboeken by Buku Books (website)
– We are all the same inside (website)
– We Need Diverse Books (website)
InterNational Anti-Racism Group (INARG) have launched a new campaign, this time again the toy making giant Mattel, in a bid to put pressure on them to dis-continue their Junkyard Dog action figure model. The toy depicts a black man wearing a chain around his neck.
The group states that:
“JYD’ was a, racist, wrestling persona, invented by a promoter, Bill Watts (a white man), which Mr. Slyvester Ritter (a former, USA professional football player) portrayed. JYD promoter, and Mr. Ritter, used popular racist stereotypes (i.e. African Americans/Blacks as ‘animal-like’, lives ‘of low value’, and neck shackling referencing; commanded by another/enslavement/imprisonment), to appease, the predominately white audiences, in those times. An exploitation used, to also present JYD as, ‘unthreatening’, and ’controllable’, while facing, predominately, white competitors. This persona, dehumanized JYD.”
INARG explain more about the toy, its racist implications and their campaign via the Change.org petition page here. Please support the campaign by signing and sharing the petition to get this toy either out of stores and away from children or completely revised as soon as possible.
Hoping to find some books to keep your teen occupied this summer? Or are you a teacher looking for something new for your curriculum that offers a non-white perspective? See our list below, as previously featured in our Parent Teacher Resource Pack!
- Vuurwerk in m’n Hoofd – Roland Colastica (Dutch)
- Anita and Me – Meera Syal
- The Long Song – Andrea Levy
- Tropical fish – Doreen Baingana
- The Other Side of Truth – Beverley Naidoo
- Purple Hibiscus – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Weep Not Child – Ngûgî Wa Thiong’o
- Song of Solomon – Toni Morrison
- Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Wide Sargaso Sea – Jean Rys
- Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
- The Color Purple – Alice Walker
- Annie John – Jamaica Kincaid
- Possessing the Secret of Joy – Alice Walker
- Aya de Yopougon – Marguerite Abouet and drawn by Clément Oubrerie
- As a Black Woman – Maud Sulter
- The Kane Chronicles – Rick Riordan
- On Beauty – Zadie Smith
- Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe
- Small Island – Andrea Levy
ALSO: Are your kids and/or students into comic books? If so, check out this awesome article from OkayAfrica on new Egyptian mythological comic series The Pack. The author of the series, Paul Louise-Julie, will also released graphic novel Yohance this year. Another great author of comics for teens with diverse characters is Dani Dixon at Tumble Creek. You can check out her work here.
Check out this mini crash course in media literacy from friend of ERIF, Kahya Engler. As part of the TedX talks series, Kahya discusses her crusade to find diverse imagery and literature for her son as well as campaigning against racist portrayals of people of colour in children’s media. Core to her message is ultimate the importance for all children to be able to see and read positive, honest representations of themselves.
You can see her full talk below:
Our friends over at EVCL – creators of the instantly lovable Bino & Fino – had a very busy year in 2015 touring across Europe to showcase the pioneering cartoon, which features the dynamic duo as they learn about various African histories and cultures. Alongside collaborating with ERIF for our Parent Teacher symposium last November, the creators of Bino & Fino also launched a line of fantastic soft toys to compliment the popular cartoon series, which is fast becoming a worldwide phenomenon! And now they plan to share the siblings with South America.
Read about EVCL’s quest below:
“Unfortunately, Brazil’s major media networks have long had a struggle with showing the diversity of the country’s population. Arguably those that suffer the most from the media’s neglect in representation are Brazil’s children. Most children in Brazil know little about their African heritage, African culture, history and the positive impact it has had in Brazil and the world. They are not taught about this in schools, in the books they read or the TV shows they watch. To help counteract this problem we want to produce a Brazilian Portuguese version of our popular educational African cartoon show Bino and Fino and make it available to view in Brazil and around the world for children to watch.”
You can check out more details on the campaign and make a donation to get Bino & Fino to Brazil here.
Check out these fantastic picture books targeted at mostly non-white children and families, for kids 2-3 years old, for you to enjoy with your little ones this Sunday! ❤
- Brown Like Me – Noelle Lamperti
- More, more, more said the baby: 3 love stories – Vera B. Williams
- I lost my tooth in Africa – Penda Diakité
- Mama Panya’s Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya – Mary and Rich Chamberlin
- Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions – Margaret Musgrove
- Sundiata: Lion King of Mali – David Wisniewski
- The Ghanaian Goldilocks – Dr. Tamara Pizzoli
- Black is brown is tan – Arnold Adoff
- Two Mrs. Gibsons – Toyomi Igus