Diversity in publishing is a hot topic in today’s market. Today, Johnny Ray Moore, guest blogger, poet, and author of children’s books, has agreed to weigh in on the discussion.
As a young adult, one of my brothers once said to me. “You know? I thought when we grew up, we would turn white.”
With a very puzzled look on my face, I asked, “Why?”
He said, “Because, we would turn white, so we could have something. White people are all I see on tv, and they have a lot of stuff.”
I have pondered and will continue to ponder what my brother said for the rest of my days. We did not see people like us on tv once my parents were able to afford a black and white tv. We did not see people like us in any books. The media only showed us doing bad things.
The lack of diversity in publishing is rooted in the past. For the most part, we don’t even care to get involved: we simply look the other way.
My childhood as an African American growing up in North Carolina near the Pamlico Sound was grim. My parents, my five brothers, my only sister, and I were poor. All we had was a belief in God and a strong desire to make life better for ourselves, no matter what.
During my years in grade school through high school, I never owned a children’s book. I found peace and joy in reading the Bible, Reader’s Digest Magazine, and parts of other magazines dealing with country living and such. I gave no thought at all to the possible existence of children’s books, or even books written by African Americans.
While in the third grade, my African-American teacher, Mrs. Roundtree, introduced me and the rest of her class to poetry. I loved and felt a sincere need for poetry. After writing a few bad poems, I decided to expand my literary horizon by learning to write different forms of poetry. I discovered in no time that the properties of poetry, greeting cards, and song lyrics were similar. So, I started to read and study and write in various genres. But, deep within, I somehow felt that I was a poet and children’s author.
Paging forward a number of years, I walked into a shabby library on a military post while stationed in West Germany with the Army. As I browsed through the few shelves of books within that shabby library, I saw a book on a bottom row that was a children’s book, supposedly. I grabbed that short book; read a bit of it; then, placed it back where I found it. The book was about a king. A badly written book of about 125 words. Leaving the library, I just knew I could write a better children’s book than what I had just read.
I continue to read and study to this very day. Now as a poet and children’s author, I have noticed the lack of books and children’s books, especially, that represent the faces and experiences of African Americans and other minorities. Then, SOMEBODY created the word diversity. A bunch of other people of different races and cultures took the word diversity and started TALKING, just talking about the lack of diversity in children’s books and in the publishing world, period. THAT TALK has continued to present day, just TALK.
African Americans talk about the lack of diversity in publishing, and we truly understand the impact the lack of diversity in publishing has and has had on our culture. I DO NOT WANT ANOTHER AFRICAN-AMERCAN BOY OR GIRL TO THINK THAT HIS OR HER FACE OR EXPERIENCES ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO BE WRITTEN IN A BOOK!!!
I attended my first lack of diversity in publishing session about four years ago. I attended another such talk about two years after the first such talk. While in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2017, I attended my final talk on the subject of the lack of diversity in publishing. All of the talks were good and insightful. BUT, IT WAS JUST TALK!!!
Johnny Ray Moore is a poet and children’s author. His other books include Meet Martin Luther King Jr. and But Still, We Dream (a novel in verse). Johnny is a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature and a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. He lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with his wife and three daughters.