This month, speaking at an event entitled, ‘Free at Last’ at the Southbank Centre, the journalist Gary Younge invited the audience to consider the nature of history. Since moving to the States from Stevenage, Younge has extensively researched and written about the African-American civil rights movement, and in conversation with fellow journalist, Hannah Pool, he shed light on some of its forgotten heroes.
The title of Younge’s talk refers to the final line of Martin Luther King’s seminal ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, which concluded, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”. In the year that marks the 50th anniversary of the speech, it’s right that much consideration has been given to the importance of King, and Younge talked extensively about interviewing King’s friends and advisors who gave their first-hand accounts of how the speech came to be. But Younge also used his talk to highlight people like Claudette Colvin who was the first person to resist racial segregation on the buses in Montgomery, Alabama, a whole nine months before Rosa Parks, but who then became pregnant out of wedlock, and Bayard Rustin, a leading activist for civil rights who was openly gay. Both are examples of people who had pivotal roles in the civil rights movement but who have been all but written out of the history books because their personal lives didn’t conform to the traditional Christian values which were central to the movement.
As Black History Month draws to a close, it seems an appropriate moment to contemplate the nature of history and history makers. Using E. H. Carr’s quote, ‘History means interpretation’, Younge underlined that the ‘facts’ of history are made by ordinary people with their various biases and agendas. The fact that history is not independent of the people who decide what does and what does not enter the historical record means that often, the things left out are as interesting and important as the things left in.
We have been quieter than normal on the blog and on Twitter. Truth is, we’ve been super busy back here at Tamarind Towers! We are building a list of honourable Patrons, buying exceptional books and working hard on a new look for our list including a revised mission statement and logo.
Last Saturday brought with it blue skies, an early start and Tamarind’s final event of the season: the National Union of Teachers Black Teachers’ Conference. The NUT did their best to make the conference wonderful, holding it in the beautiful Stoke Rochford Hall, Lincolnshire, the shire Benjamin Zephaniah calls home.
We broke a land speed record, selling over 200 Tamarind books in two half-hour breaks. We introduced teachers to Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses saga and to her new title Boys Don’t Cry, perfect for secondary students and adults looking for their next read. Most teachers also signed up to the Tamarind e-newsletter. Not a newsletter reader yet? Sign up here.
Our most prolific author this year, Malaika Rose Stanley, launched her latest book, Miss Bubble’s Troubles, yesterday at Brecknock Primary School. Around 100 students from Years 1 – 4 attended the very special occasion. Malaika read an extract from Miss Bubble’s Troubles and then asked students to help her perform the “Brecknock Rap”: an original rap about Brecknock school and students, which Malaika composed herself. At the end of the launch, students helped Malaika officially ‘launch’ the book by counting down from ten to blast off! The launch was also attend by journalists from the Camden Gazette, Ham & High and Islington Gazette.
In advance of publication of her new book Boys Don’t Cry, Malorie Blackman stopped by our office. She reminded us why she writes best-selling titles starring black protagonists.
Click to find out more about Boys Don’t Cry.
Last month, Class 3O at Brecknock Primary School studied the work of Tamarind author Verna Wilkins. They each wrote her a letter asking questions about her life. On Thursday, Verna visited Class 3O in person! Their teacher Siobhan reports…
Class 3O have been studying many books by the author Verna Wilkins, including biographies of Stephen Lawrence and Benjamin Zephaniah, as part of the Literacy Unit Authors and Letters. When they wrote to her to ask her to come and visit, imagine their surprise when she did! Especially as they were to first to hear her read her new book, Abdi’s Day which is not due out until September 2010. Here are some of the class’ comments about her visit:
Danae: “It was delightful that what I wanted to happen happened on Thursday because Verna Wilkins came when we wrote letters to her.”
Josh: “It was extremely good that our dream to meet Verna Wilkins came true. She is an extremely nice woman and she told us about how she wrote her books.”
Merrill: “It was amazing to see Verna Wilkins and her telling us her new story, Abdi’s Day. I asked her if she would ever write her autobiography and she said she would get to work on it when she gets home!”
Amal: “It was so outstanding to meet Verna Wilkins because I really want to be an author when I grow up and she told me everything about how to be a writer.”
Do you remember how old you were when you first saw a black person in a book? Join Patsy, Commissioning Editor at Tamarind Books, for a fun creative writing workshop on writing multicultural stories for children and teens. Patsy will give aspiring children’s writers practical tips for success and discuss the importance of representing black children in literature. Bring your notebook and pen!
Click to read Tamarind’s manuscript submission guidelines.
It’s a mouthful, but December is BBBAGIWP month. It’s an event inspired by black author Carleen Brice, to welcome people from a non-black background into the sometimes segregated shelves of books by black authors.
Click for fiction suggestions from Carleen.
“Fiction at its best isn’t just enjoyable. It measurably enhances our abilities to empathize with other people and connect with something larger than ourselves.” – Keith Oatley, novelist and psychologist