Last month, an Alabama school district canceled three planned visits by Derrick Barnes after a parent complained that the children’s author had posted “controversial ideas” on social media.
Now, some residents of Hoover, Alabama, are doing all they can to make sure Barnes’ books get into the hands of young readers in the Birmingham suburb, CNN reports.
Ashley Dorough, the parent of a Hoover Schools student, decided to raise funds to pay Barnes the nearly $10,000 that he would have received for his appearances; she has so far collected $4,300. Other community members are stocking local Little Free Libraries with Barnes’ books.
Barnes is a critically acclaimed children’s author, and the only writer to win the Kirkus Prize twice, for his books Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut and I Am Every Good Thing. (Both titles were illustrated by Gordon C. James.) Last week, his book Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice, co-written with Olympic legend Tommie Smith and illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile, was named a Coretta Scott King (Author) Honor Book and Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Honor Book, and it won the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.
In an interview with CNN, Barnes said that “if you’re a Black artist in America, by default you’re an activist.”
“I write my books so when Black children pick them up, they don’t want to put [them] down because they see themselves,” he said. “It’s a mirror. They see it and think, ‘This is who I am. I’m someone with astronomical goals. I love myself. I love my skin. I love my hair. I love my family. I love my neighborhood.’”
Michael Schaub, a journalist and regular contributor to NPR, lives near Austin, Texas.