4 Effective Alternatives To Spanking

Whether you do or do not believe in the effectiveness of spanking, you may be looking for alternatives. Here are four ideas that may help you “spare the rod” and not spoil the child.

I’ll start off by being perfectly honest, I was spanked. Not in the, “Don’t touch the iron, it’s hot” kind of way but in the “Go get my belt” kind of way. Depending on my audience, you are either horrified by that or not at all surprised. The fact is, for many of us, spankings are cultural.  Our parents were spanked, their parents were spanked, and their parents before them.  In most instances, it didn’t stem from a lack of love. In fact, quite the opposite. As parents of color, we are fiercely protective of our children. Often that protectiveness manifests itself in the fear of the life and death consequences of poor behavior. Disrespecting a police officer may get you killed. We want to be sure our children learn disrespect and poor behavior will not be tolerated.

As parents in a new generation, we have learned more about the long term consequences of spanking. A 2010 study in Pediatrics suggested that frequently spanked children (more than twice a month) are much more likely to act out aggressively.  The idea is that children learn that aggression is the best way to solve a problem.  In addition, the study found corporal punishment, i.e., spanking, is more likely to instill fear instead of understanding. Further, the study found spanking is less effective with repeated use which makes it less effective as your children grow older and, arguably, the consequences of their actions become more dire.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I was spanked infrequently and I usually felt like I understood why I was being spanked.  However, intellectually, I can understand how spanking can send a confusing message to a child about the appropriateness of aggression as a problem solver. The fact remains, however, between 70% and 90% of Americans admit to using physical force when discipling their children. Further, corporal punishment is generally legal as long as it is reasonable.   While the definition of reasonable varies from state to state it usually does not include throwing, kicking, burning, cutting and/or other actions that result in physical injury.   A mother in Ohio was recently arrested for taping her toddler to a wall with his mouth taped shut.  Her son was removed from her custody and she was charged with felony abduction.

Whether you do or do not believe in the effectiveness of spanking, you may be looking for alternatives.  Here are four ideas that may help you “spare the rod” and not spoil the child:

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1. Quiet Time

I almost called this one “time-out” but I was afraid you would stop reading.  Recently, I was touring a daycare and asked about their discipline policies.  The director said, “We don’t do time-outs or anything. We just give the children time to reflect.” For close to seven years, through high school and some of college, I worked as an Assistant Teacher/Counselor in a daycare center where we also refused to say time-out. We called it”time under the tree.”  There was a pillar in the classroom decorated like a tree with a chair beneath it. A child could sit there quietly or read a book following poor behavior.  Insert “eye-roll” emoji here. It was all the same thing.

To me, unless your locking your kids in an attic or engaging in similar questionable practices, time-out is not a dirty word. In fact, I think they should be used liberally for parents and children alike.  In our house, we call it “quiet time in your room” and in my best friend’s house, they call it “alone time.” Whatever you call it, sometimes when emotions run high, we need time to take a breath.  I find them most useful during times of conflict between older siblings or in younger children following/during a tantrum or meltdown. Conflicts, tantrums or meltdowns are usually periods of high emotion and it benefits all parties to have time to retreat.  For kids, it allows them time to gather themselves emotionally.  It also removes them from situations where they are acting inappropriately, i.e., hitting on the playground or screaming in a restaurant.  This provides direct consequences for their actions. For example, if you don’t stop hitting other children, you will no longer be allowed to play with other children or if you don’t control your tantrum, no one will want to be around you. For adults, it gives us time to cool down and plan. It prevents those moments where you say and do things you may regret because you acted in anger or frustration.

2. Talk it Out

I found poor behavior can sometimes stem from a lack of communication. Whether it is reactive behavior like hitting or dishonest behavior like lying, children act out when they don’t feel heard or understood. Now, you may be thinking “they don’t need to be heard, they need to listen.” I hear you. However, children are just adults in training.  They may not run things but they deserve your respect.  Giving them respect builds their self worth.

One of my sons is extremely emotional.  He has huge reactions to circumstances where he feels like he has been wronged. After the requisite cool down time (see above), I sit down with him to discuss his behavior. I start by asking him his version of events, e.g., what happened? I then ask him to explain his response to the situation, e.g., why did you do what you did? Thereafter, I ask him to tell me how he could have reacted differently to change the outcome.  During good conversations, he comes to his own conclusions about his behavior and how he will do differently in the future. When he doesn’t, I guide him.

When he was a preschooler and unable to think as critically, I made it simpler. We would rate the issue to have him assess the appropriateness of his response. For example, if his brother knocked down his block tower and he had a meltdown and hit his brother, I would say,  “That is a size 3 problem and you had a size 8 reaction. What would be a size 3 reaction?”  In all cases, no matter the age, it is important to lay clear your expectations for your child’s behavior in your home and in the world.

3. Take Things Away

My son bit his brother last summer. They were fighting and he bit him… hard.  So hard, in fact, his brother had to take a preventative course of antibiotics.  Yeah. My husband and I were livid.  We tried every consequence in the book… and I mean everythang.  However, it wasn’t until we took away his Nintendo 3DX for the summer that he really “felt it.”

Revoking privileges seems like a no-brainer but many parents have trouble with this one. I think this stems from a lack of consistency. After all, let’s be honest, sometimes taking away an electronic device, television privileges or outside play hurts us more than it hurts them. After all, now we have to find other ways to engage them.  However, it is incredibly impactful.  Be clear and consistent with your consequences. If you are going to take away the X-Box for seven days, don’t make it five or six, stick to seven days.  Not only does it provide real consequences for your child’s actions, it can also provide a lesson in gratitude. After all, you work hard for the things they have. They should work hard to show they deserve them.

4. Set a Good Example

James Baldwin once said, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” If you are lying, stealing, cursing and cheating, it is very difficult to teach your children not to do the same. My friend’s father used to say, “Do as I say not as a I do.” Even as a kid, I took issue with this advice. First, he was showing his children he was unwilling to live up to the examples he set for them. Second, he was giving them unrealistic expectations of adulthood. Even in adulthood, there are expectations and consequences. While it is important not to place yourself on an unreachable pedestal, it is equally important to show your children you are trying.  By doing your best, you make their best possible.

What do you think, family? What has worked for you? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

20 Awesome Children’s Books That Will Empower and Inspire Your Child

Our children deserve to be celebrated! Here are 20 empowering children’s books every parent, grandparent and teacher should have in their collection.

Our children deserve to be celebrated! Here are 20 empowering children’s books every parent, grandparent and teacher should have in their collection.

1. Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Anastasia Tarply

From Amazon: In this companion book to the bestselling I Love My Hair, a young boy, Miles, makes his first trip to the barbershop with his father. Like most little boys, he is afraid of the sharp scissors, the buzzing razor, and the prospect of picking a new hairstyle. But with the support of his dad, the barber, and the other men in the barbershop, Miles bravely sits through his first haircut. Written in a reassuring tone with a jazzy beat and illustrated with graceful, realistic watercolors, this book captures an important rite of passage for boys and celebrates African-American identity.

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2. No Mirrors in My Nana’s House by Ysaye Barnell

From Amazon: A little girl discovers the beauty in herself–and the beauty of the world around her–not by looking in the mirror but by looking in her Nana’s eyes. Synthia Saint James’s gloriously bright illustrations in this paperback edition show young readers how to see the beauty, and the accompanying CD of Sweet Honey In The Rock singing the song lets them hear it.

3. In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall by Folami Abiade, et al.

From Amazon: In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall testifies to the powerful bond between father and child, recognizing family as our greatest gift, and identifying fathers as being among our most influential heroes.

4. I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarply

From Amazon: This whimsical, evocative story about a girl named Keyana encourages African-American children to feel good about their special hair and be proud of their heritage. A BlackBoard Children’s Book of the Year.

5. Did I Tell You I Love You Today? by Deloris Jordan

From Amazon: Apart or together, near or far, day or night, from childhood to adulthood — the never-ending reach and power of a mother’s love touches every moment of every day, even when you least expect it. All you need to do is make sure to notice.

6. Marvelous Me by Lisa Bullard

From Amazon: Alex is a marvelous little boy who is just like other people in some ways, such as getting angry sometimes, but also unique because of his special laugh, his grizzly hugs, and his own interesting thoughts. Includes activities.

 

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7. Daddy Calls Me Man by Angela Johnson

From Amazon: Inspired by his family experiences and his parents’ paintings, a young boy creates four poems.

8. Happy to be Nappy by bell hooks

From Amazon: Legendary author bell hooks and Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka present a lyrical celebration, brimming with enthusiasm for girls and their hair. Nominated for an NAACP Image Award, this stunning picturebook is now available again in board book form.

9. Salt in His Shoes by Deloris Jordan

From Amazon: Deloris Jordan, mother of the basketball phenomenon, teams up with his sister Roslyn to tell this heartwarming and inspirational story that only the members of the Jordan family could tell. It’s a tale about faith and hope and how any family working together can help a child make his or her dreams come true.

10. Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke

From Amazon: For the youngest member of an exuberant extended family, Sunday dinner
at Grannie’s can be full indeed – full of hugs and kisses, full of tasty dishes, full to the brim with happy faces, and full, full, full of love. With a special focus on the bond between little Jay Jay and his grannie, Trish Cooke introduces us to a gregarious family we are sure to want more, more, more of.

11. Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen

From Amazon: Sassy is a long-legged girl who always has something to say. She wants to be a ballerina more than anything, but she worries that her too-large feet, too-long legs, and even her big mouth will keep her from her dream. When a famous director comes to visit her class, Sassy does her best to get his attention with her high jumps and bright leotard. Her first attempts are definitely not appreciated, but with Sassy’s persistence, she just might be able to win him over. Dancing in the Wings is loosely based on actress/choreographer Debbie Allen’s own experiences as a young dancer.

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12. Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth

From Amazon: A little girl longs to see beyond the scary sights on the sidewalk and the angry scribbling in the halls of her building. When her teacher writes the word beautiful on the blackboard, the girl decides to look for something beautiful in her neighborhood. Her neighbors tell her about their own beautiful things. Miss Delphine serves her a “beautiful” fried fish sandwich at her diner. At Mr. Lee’s “beautiful” fruit store, he offers her an apple. Old Mr. Sims invites her to touch a smooth stone he always carries. Beautiful means “something that when you have it, your heart is happy,” the girl thinks. Her search for “something beautiful” leaves her feeling much happier. She has experienced the beauty of friendship and the power of hope.

13. I Love My Cotton Candy Hair by Nicole Updegraff

From Amazon: Charlie is a caring, funny and friendly little girl. Like all children she’s beginning to face the struggles that we all go through with finding ourselves and trying to fit in. Follow this series as she learns and grows, and realizes there is nothing better than loving yourself and being happy just the way you are! In the first book of the series, I LOVE My Cotton andy Hair! Charlie rhymes her way into your heart with her perspective on the many goods and bads associated with her naturally curly “cotton candy hair” and finishes by saying “I love my hair and everything that comes with it.” The book is uplifting and fun for all children, but particularly young African American girls who are under a constant barrage of images of what the media identifies as beautiful or “good hair.”

14. I Am Loved! Positive Affirmations For Our Children by Faye McCray

From Amazon: “I am” is one of the most powerful phrases in the English language. What follows has the power to send our children on the path to greatness and fulfillment. This book of positive affirmations is designed to be read aloud with your favorite child or young adult. It is a beautiful collection of all that we see and want to see in the children we love.

15. Big Hair, Don’t Care Crystal by Swain-Bates

From Amazon: Lola has really really REALLY big hair, much bigger than the other kids at her school. Despite her hair blocking the view of anyone that dares sit behind her and causing her to lose at hide and seek, she sings the praises of her big hair throughout this rhyming picture book. Designed to boost self-esteem and build confidence, this beautifully illustrated book is perfect for any girl or boy who has ever felt a bit self-conscious about their hair and may need a reminder from time to time that it’s okay to look different from the other kids at their school.

16. Max and The Tag Along Moon by Floyd Cooper

From Amazon: Max loves his grandpa. When they must say good-bye after a visit, Grandpa promises Max that the moon at Grandpa’s house is the same moon that will follow him all the way home. On that swervy-curvy car ride back to his house, Max watches as the moon tags along. But when the sky darkens and the moon disappears behind clouds, he worries that it didn’t follow him home after all. Where did the moon go—and what about Grandpa’s promise?

17. I am Truly by Kelly Greenawalt

From Amazon: If you believe it, you can achieve it! Princess Truly is smart, courageous, and can do anything she sets her mind to do. She can tame lions, race fast cars, fly to the moon, and dance on the stars.

18. When I’m Old With You by Angela Johnson

From Amazon: A small child imagines a future when he will be old with his Grandaddy. . . . The African-American child and grandfather are distinct individuals, yet also universal figures, recognizable to anyone who has ever shared the bond of family love across generations.

19. A Beach Tail by Karen Lynn Williams

From Amazon: How will Gregory find his way back to Dad?Swish-swoosh . . . Gregory draws a lion in the sand. “Don’t go in the water, and don’t leave Sandy,” warns Dad. But the sandy lion grows a tail that gets longer and longer—and soon Gregory is lost on the beach. This wonderful read-aloud book brings to life a summer experience that is all too familiar for young children.

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20. Whose Knees are These? by abari Asim

From Amazon: Takes a loving look at knees from the vantage point of a mother’s lap.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

Thank You, President and Mrs. Obama

A heartfelt Thank You to the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama and his family.

 

I will never forget election night in 2008. Our eldest and then-only son was just over a year old. He was fast asleep as my husband and I watched the results on CNN. We traded fleeting glances as each states results came in. It seemed more and more likely but we were afraid to call it, afraid to acknowledge it. After all, until that day, that moment and what he was about to accomplish seemed impossible.  We could still reach back and feel so much pain; this future was almost too beautiful to even imagine.  Yet.. it did.  He did. We did. The man who ran a campaign based on hope, equality and unity. The man with a stunning, strong and intelligent brown wife and beautiful brown babies. The man with an African name became President of my country. The country my ancestors gave their lives to build.  For which they gave their lives to survive. As a mom, it felt like I had been given the most precious gift. I could cup my beautiful baby’s face in my palms and tell him he could be anything and believe it.  I could believe it. Until that point, I’m not sure I did.

So…

Thank you, President Obama.

Thank you, Michelle.

Thank you, Malia and Sasha.

Thank you  for your hope, your honesty, your dignity and grace. Thank you for being a living and breathing example of all our babies can accomplish without limits or apologies. Thank you for making truth-tellers out of us optimistic mamas. The ones who paint with vivid colors and encourage our children to never stop reaching. Thank you for helping us look into our little ones’ eyes and say with certainty that the future can be bright and the future can be theirs.  Yes we can. Yes we did. Yes we can.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

Finding Inspiration for Our Children in Trump’s America

While distraction would be easy in trying times, I think it is crucial to teach our children to lean in. You may not be raising the next Maya Angelou but it’s still important to teach our children to think and learn outside of their perspectives and process the world in terms of solutions, not just problems. Here are a few tips to get your children thinking creatively.

Donald Trump was elected President of the United States the day after my third son was born. I have to admit, my husband and I were happy to be in our little bubble. In some ways, it seemed like the whole world disintegrated into mass hysteria and it would have been easy to join in except… we had this perfect little bundle in front of us with head full of hair and perfect peachy lips.  While to so many the future seemed bleak, for us, the future seemed blindly bright.

Unfortunately, reality caught up with us. When we got home, our sons had questions. They had trouble processing the outcome of the election. We live in a fairly liberal community. To them, Trump’s election meant the world was about to become a really scary place. We wanted to maintain their optimism for the world they are growing in while at the same time keeping them firmly rooted in reality.  The fact is, historically, this country has overcome greater division and our people have survived greater turmoil.  Not only have we survived, we have thrived.  For instance, the Harlem Renaissance was birthed in the early years of the Great Migration when millions of our people (including my grandparents ) were fleeing the Jim Crow south for a better way of life. The movement included Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes and Duke Ellington.  The Black Arts Movement grew in response to the Black Power Movement in the Civil Rights era following the assassinations of notable black leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and Fred Hampton. Without it, we would have never known the work of Amiri Baraka, James Baldwin, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, Nina Simone and Maya Angelou.  In response to the crack cocaine epidemic in the eighties and draconian drug laws that fueled mass incarceration, we birthed Hip Hop. While there is certainly a great deal to fear, the beauty in our resilience is something I am looking forward to.

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While distraction would be easy in trying times, I think it is crucial to teach our children to lean in. You may not be raising the next Maya Angelou but it’s still important to teach our children to think and learn outside of their perspectives and process the world in terms of solutions, not just problems.  Here are a few tips to get your children thinking creatively.

1. Travel

Traveling is life changing.  It shifts perspectives on life and introduces you to people and places that force you out of your comfort zone. While opportunities for international travel may not always be financially feasible, traveling can be accomplished just by leaving your home. Which, lets face it, as parents is sometimes an accomplishment all its own.  Visit local museums, cultural festivals and events. Take your children to see live music and plays. Take road trips around your state.  Give your children opportunities to diversify their perspective through experiences.

2. Walks and Hiking

I love a good walk or bike ride through the park. It wasn’t until a few complications from pregnancy grounded me that I realized how therapeutic it was. I missed the silence, the feeling of the wind on my face, and the rush of energy.  When possible, I loved sharing that experience with my kids. After my brother passed away unexpectedly in 2009, I was seeing a therapist who used to encourage me to take time to be silent. When I informed her that “silence” was an impossibility as a mom of then-two kids, she said, they need to learn to be silent too.  She was right. In an age of instant gratification and feedback, it’s hard to quiet the world around you to process your own thoughts and feelings. Kicking it old school and taking a long walk or hike gives you an opportunity to be comfortable in the silence of your own thoughts.  You learn to exercise your ability to think critically and empathetically and grow as a human being.

3. Writing and Art Prompts

My kids are very schedule oriented. They love to know what’s coming. If they don’t, mayhem ensues. On cold or rainy days when we can’t explore the great outdoors, we have a great deal of “art” time where we direct them to piles of paper and art supplies and encourage them to create. While during more frustrating moments, the directions are usually “Go write something,” when we have our stuff together, we create writing and art prompts to drive their creativity. Prompts can include anything from story starters to discussion topics.  Art prompts can include giving them an object to draw or directing them to depict a memorable experience in their life. While you can consult the Googles and find tons of ideas, you can also create your own. Writing and art create wonderful opportunities for discussion and meditation.

4. Reading

James Baldwin wrote, “[y]ou think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” Reading connects us. You may never meet a 10 year old homeschooled kid from New York City living with a facial deformity but then you read R.J. Palacio’s “Wonder” and you know him. Reading introduces your children to worlds beyond their own which is an important part of building empathy.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

8 Teachable Facts About Fences Playwright August Wilson

August Wilson was a prolific playwright known for chronicling the 20th Century African American experience. His work resonated with the American public during a time when people were unaccustomed to seeing reflections of African American life in art. On Christmas Day in 2016, his Pulitzer Prize winning play, Fences was released theatrically to rave reviews. Here are 8 amazing facts to teach your children about August Wilson and his contribution to our fabulous history.

August Wilson was a prolific playwright known for chronicling the 20th Century African American experience. His work resonated with the American public during a time when people were unaccustomed to seeing reflections of African American life in art.  On Christmas Day in 2016, his Pulitzer Prize winning play, Fences was released theatrically to rave reviews.  Here are 8 amazing facts to teach your children about August Wilson and his contribution to our fabulous history.

1. He was biracial.

August Wilson was born Frederick August Kittel in 1945 to Daisy Wilson, who was African American, and Frederick Kittel, a German immigrant. His parents divorced when he was a child and his father was reportedly absent from his childhood.  When he was 20 years old, his father died and he adopted the pen name “August Wilson” as a tribute to his mother.

2. He faced racism and adversity at a young age.

When Wilson’s parent’s divorced, Wilson moved out of the Hill District of Pittsburgh to the then-predominately white neighborhood of Hazelwood.  He was the only black student at a Roman Catholic high school.  In 2001, he told The New Yorker, “There was a note on my desk every single day [and] it said, ‘Go home, nigger.'” As a result, he left school at 15 years old and earned his high school diploma by studying on his own at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.  He bought his first typewriter with $20 he earned writing a term paper for one of his sisters.

“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.” – August Wilson

3. He was a poet.

In his twenties, Wilson submitted poems to magazines while working odd jobs.  Invigorated by the Black Power Movement, he and a group of fellow poets started a theater workshop and art gallery.  In 1978, Wilson took a job working at the Science Museum of Minnesota. His job was to adapt Native American folk tales into children’s plays. He wrote his first notable play, Jitney in 1979 and earned a fellowship to the Minneapolis Playwright Center.

4. Coined the “Century Cycle,” ten of his plays chronicle the 20th Century African American experience by decade.

With the exception of Ma Rainey, all of the “Century Cycle” plays take place in the Hill District of Pittsburgh where Wilson was born.  Wilson once said, “I wanted to place this culture onstage in all its richness and fullness and to demonstrate its ability to sustain us in all areas of human life and endeavor and through profound moments of our history in which the larger society has thought less of us than we have thought of ourselves.”

5. He won the Pulitzer Prize twice.

In 1987, Wilson’s popular play Fences premiered on Broadway starring James Earl Jones.  He won a Tony Award and his first Pulitzer Prize.  At the time, Fences set a record for a non-musical Broadway production by grossing $11 million in a single year! In 1990, Wilson took home another Pulitzer for The Piano Lesson following its premiere on Broadway.

“Have a belief in yourself that is bigger than anyone’s disbelief.” – August Wilson

6. Fences almost didn’t get made into a motion picture.

In 2016, a film adaptation of Wilson’s play Fences was released directed by Denzel Washington and starring Washington and Viola Davis.  However, it wasn’t the first time an attempt was made to make the film. In 1990, a major Hollywood studio optioned Fences but Wilson caused controversy by insisting on a black director.  Wilson is quoted as saying, “I am not carrying a banner for black directors. I think they should carry their own. I am not trying to get work for black directors. I am trying to get the film of my play made in the best possible way. I declined a white director not on the basis of race but on the basis of culture. White directors are not qualified for the job. The job requires someone who shares the specifics of the culture of black Americans.” He was a vocal opponent of “colorblind casting,” citing as an example that an all-black “Death of a Salesman” was “irrelevant because the play was ‘conceived for white actors as an investigation of the specifics of white culture.'” Some suggested that Wilson’s viewpoints were a form of self-segregation.

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7. He was influenced by a variety of arts and artists.

In an interview in The Paris Review, Wilson called his major influences the “four B’s”: the blues, Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges, writer Amiri Baraka and painter Romare Bearden. He is quoted as saying, “From Borges, those wonderful gaucho stories from which I learned that you can be specific as to a time and place and culture and still have the work resonate with the universal themes of love, honor, duty, betrayal, etc. From Amiri Baraka, I learned that all art is political, although I don’t write political plays. From Romare Bearden I learned that the fullness and richness of everyday life can be rendered without compromise or sentimentality.” He also listed playwright Ed Bullins and activist and author James Baldwin among his influences.

8. He worked until his death.

Wilson died of liver cancer in October 2005 in Seattle, Washington. His play, Radio Golf, the last of the Century Cycle opened in Los Angeles just a few months earlier.

Sources:

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

5 NEW Children’s Books Featuring Characters of Color

As a parent, it is very important to me that my children see themselves reflected in the stories we read and the shows we watch. I want them to believe there are no limits to where their lives will take them. The search isn’t always easy! Here is a list of 5 recently released books featuring main characters of color.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz once said, “…if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”  At the time, he was referring to the importance of diversity in art.  More specifically, stories featuring characters of color.  As a parent, it is very important to me that my children see themselves reflected in the stories we read and the shows we watch.  I want them to believe there are no limits to where their lives will take them.  The search isn’t always easy! Here is a list of 5 recently released books featuring main characters of color.

1. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

From School Library Journal: Ada Marie Twist is an inquisitive African American second grader and a born scientist. She possesses a keen yet peculiar need to question everything she encounters, whether it be a tick-tocking clock, a pointy-stemmed rose, or the hairs in her dad’s nose. Ada’s parents and her teacher, Miss Greer, have their hands full as the child’s science experiments wreak day-to-day havoc.

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2. Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering! by Ruth Spiro

From Amazon: Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this book explores the basics of flight – from birds, to planes and rockets – and ties it all to baby’s world.

3. Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie

From Amazon: Thunder Boy Jr. is named after his dad, but he wants a name that’s all his own. Just because people call his dad Big Thunder doesn’t mean he wants to be Little Thunder. He wants a name that celebrates something cool he’s done, like Touch the Clouds, Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Full of Wonder. But just when Thunder Boy Jr. thinks all hope is lost, he and his dad pick the perfect name…a name that is sure to light up the sky.

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4. Leo Can Swim by Anna McQuinn

From Amazon: Leo, Lola’s little brother from Leo Loves Baby Time, is back in a new adventure at the pool. Leo and Daddy go to swim class where they kick, bounce, and dive like little fish. Joining other babies and their caretakers in the pool is a guarantee for unforgettable fun.

5. Max Speed by Stephen Shasken

From Amazon: Max, a tiny speed racer, is off on the adventure of a lifetime in this adorable new picture book that proves all you need for a big adventure is a little imagination. As soon as Max has finished cleaning his room, he’s off racing his super-secret car at incredible speeds, soaring over rivers of lava, sky diving, and swimming with sharks. This picture book is perfect for every young speed racer, careening from one adventure to the next.

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.

The Complicated History of Martin Luther King Day

In 2000, Martin Luther King Day was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time. It was a long and arduous battle to gain national recognition for the life of the civil rights icon. If your kids are anything like mine, that is probably hard for them to believe. The life of Martin Luther King Jr. is practically central to the public school civil rights curriculum. It may seem as though the leader was always universally celebrated and respected. In actuality, it wasn’t easy to get national recognition for the slain leader. Here are seven facts to teach your kids about the history of this important day.

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In 2000, Martin Luther King Day was officially observed in all 50 states for the first time.  It was a long and arduous battle to gain national recognition for the life of the civil rights icon.  If your kids are anything like mine, that is probably hard for them to believe.  The life of Martin Luther King Jr. is practically central to the public school civil rights curriculum. It may seem as though the leader was always universally celebrated and respected.  In actuality, it wasn’t easy to get national recognition for the slain leader.  Here are seven facts to teach your kids about the history of this important day:

1. A bill to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a holiday was first introduced a few months after Dr. King’s death.

In 1968, a few months after Martin Luther King’s assassination, Congressman John Conyers (MI) and Senator Edward Brooke (MA) introduced a bill to make January 15, Dr. King’s birthday, a national holiday.  It didn’t go to the House of Representatives until 1979 and failed to pass by five votes.

2. The petition to support the holiday garnered close to six million signatures.

Shortly after Dr. King’s assassination, the King Memorial Center was founded in Atlanta.  The center launched a campaign to solicit support for a national holiday from the public and along with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, garnered millions of signatures in support.  As of 2006, it was considered the largest petition in favor of an issue in U.S. history.

3. Stevie Wonder wrote the song “Happy Birthday” to gain support for the holiday.

In 1980, Stevie Wonder’s released the song “Happy Birthday” to popularize the campaign to make Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday. Lyrics include: “I just never understood/ How a man who died for good/ Could not have a day that would/ Be set aside for his recognition/ Because it should never be/ Just because some cannot see/ The dream as clear as he/ That they should make it become an illusion/ And we all know everything/ That he stood for time will bring/ For in peace our hearts will sing/ Thanks to Martin Luther King…”

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor. It must be demanded by the oppressed.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.,  Letter From Birmingham City Jail

4. Senator Jesse Helms led a filibuster against the bill to create MLK Day.

In 1980, the bill passed in Congress but faced opposition in the Senate. Among those opposed to MLK Day were then-House Republican, now Senator John McCain (AZ) and Senators Jesse Helms and John Porter East, Republicans from North Carolina.  Helms and East criticized Martin Luther King for opposing the Vietnam War and accused him of being associated with communists.  In October 1983, when the bill once again came before the senate, Senator Helms led a filibuster against the bill.  He submitted a 300 page document alleging that King had associations with communists. New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously called the document a “packet of filth,” threw it on the Senate floor, and stomped on it.  Although President Ronald Reagan initially opposed the bill, he signed the bill into law in 1983. The first official holiday was observed in 1986 by 27 states and the District of Columbia.

5. The NFL moved Super Bowl XXVII from Arizona to California in protest of Arizona’s decision not to recognize the holiday.

Even after the bill passed, many states refused to recognize the holiday. Arizona was among them.  1n 1992, the NFL moved Super Bowl XXVII from Arizona to California to protest the state’s failure to recognize the holiday. In response to the NFL’s protest and growing opposition, Arizona passed legislation to recognize the holiday.

6. South Carolina was the last state to recognize the holiday.

In 2000, South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges signed a bill into law to make MLK Day an official state holiday. Prior to that, citizens could chose between celebrating MLK Day and other holidays celebrating members of the Confederacy.  Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, and Virginia continue to combine MLK Day with other observances.

7. MLK Day is celebrated around the world.

Japan, Canada, Israel and The Netherlands hold celebrations in honor of Dr. King.

Sources:

http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1872501,00.html

http://www.webcitation.org/5vnLjow8L

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About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at fayemccray.com.