LionHeart and I had the distinct honor of receiving awards during the annual Africana Book Awards. My award was for helping to spread the word in the homeschool community about the Read Africa challenge, and LionHeart's for his participation. Brenda Randolph founded Africa Access in 1989 to give parents, schools and public libraries access to more literature written by and about African people. The Africa Access Review, the Read Africa Book Club and Children’s Africana Book Awards (CABA) are all a part of this effort.
It gave me great pleasure to introduce LionHeart to A.G. Ford, the illustrator for the book Desmond and the Very Mean Word, inspired by the life and work of Desmond Tutu. This book was one of the four honored.
After crafts, refreshments and face-painting, we made our way to the amazing bookstore in the African Art Museum to make our purchases to support these authors.
It was also inspiring that two of those honored were men. LionHeart wanted to meet Desmond Tutu, but meeting Agbotadua Togbi Kumassah was just as much of an honor. He is the co-author of Once Upon A Time In Ghana. We'll be reading these traditional stories from Ghana during our evening story hour.
I have been reading books by and about African people to my children for more than 13 years. From the ages of 0-5, I only read books that featured Africans or animal characters to KingMan because I knew that he would be inundated with images that did not look like him outside of our home. Eventually, our reading included other people of color. I continued in that tradition with LionHeart. We read everything now, but being selective in the beginning, I believe is important to the development of healthy self-image and self-esteem.
Bundle of Secrets: Savita Returns Home written by Mubina Kirmani will also be a part of our collection. The story of Savita and Njeri and the East Indian-Kenyan history is new to me.
Africa Access, in collaboration with the Outreach Council of the African Studies Association, has three major objectives: (1) to encourage the publication of children’s and young adult books that contribute to a better understanding of African societies and issues, (2) to recognize literary excellence, and (3) to acknowledge the research achievements of outstanding authors and illustrators. The first CABA was presented in 1992. Today over seventy-four titles have been recognized and more than 100 authors and illustrators are members of the Winners Circle.
I hope to see more families support Africa Access in the future. Our stories must be preserved and they must be told!