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The Black Wordsmith

I live and breathe #storytelling - and not just through our film school where we get to teach (and learn from) young filmmakers. On a daily basis, it is well-told stories that inspire me to make my own films, that help me become a better friend and person. When I was growing up, reading was my oasis, and diving into other people's worlds helped me understand mine.

So I am starting weekly posts where I will share content (videos, articles, books, even recipes) that families - adults and children - can engage with together for 10-20 minutes. I feel that a film or creative education in general does not stop with learning the craft behind the activity - it is an ongoing process of discovery.

Whether your children have taken our course or not doesn't matter, what's important is that we can spread the ClickPlay storytelling values outside the virtual classroom.

Our mission at ClickPlay is to make filmmaking, and creativity, accessible to all regardless of background or experience. So through these fun resources, hopefully young people can expand, even just a little bit, their creative thinking - and enjoy the experience together.

African-American Literature

With time to reflect back on the #BLM movement, I personally recall how many great poems & novels by black authors influenced me growing up. In this short poem by Langston Hughes, its simplicity speaks volumes. It stems from a personal perspective, but holds a universal message. As a people, it's vital to be heard and to get a seat at the metaphorical table. It also fills me with hope, because it teaches me that the lessons we can learn from adversity can be applied to a brighter tomorrow. When things are tough, there's always a lesson there to make you (or your community) stronger.

I invite your family to access any of these child-friendly books (and some for adults too!) on the African-American experience here:

Best-selling stories to help younger kids: 

  • "The Colors of Us" by Karen Katz

  • "Let’s Talk About Race" by Julius Lester

  • "The Skin I’m In: A First Look at Racism" by Pat Thomas

  • Sesame Street's "We're Different, We're the Same" by Bobbi Jane Kates

  • "Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice" by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard

  • "I Am Enough" by Grace Byers

  • "Happy in Our Skin" by Fran Manushkin and Lauren Tobia

  • "Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement" by Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes

  • "Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America" by Jennifer Harvey

  • "Daddy Why Am I Brown?: A healthy conversation about skin color and family" by Bedford F. Palmer

  • "A Terrible Thing Happened" by Margaret Holmes

  • “Antiracist Baby" by Ibram X. Kendi

For me, as a teenager I really responded to these books:

  • Black Boy by Richard Wright

  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

  • The Color of Water by James McBride

Most of these stories were from adolescence into adulthood, and these intimate accounts made me feel like I was living their experience. Like in most good novels, the reader is moved by the narrative thanks to empathy. Growing up, understanding other people's point of view of the world, and digging deeper into human nature, is what made me so passionate about telling stories today.

And real talk, I remember reading the first 7 pages of Black Boy on the subway, and abuprtly crying my eyes out. I just couldn't stop. Of course, as true New Yorkers, everyone ignored me and I just felt a bit alone & awkward... But the narrative was just so beautiful and to this day the story resonates with me.

Another resource I want to add is the literary tradition of négritude. I went to a French school in NYC, and we were exposed to French African and Caribbean writers who protested French colonial rule in Africa. This movement took place in the mid 1900's, in parallel with Langston Hughes' Harlem Renaissance. I found it fascinating that these group of writers were lead by poet Léopold Sédar Senghor - who was also the first ever elected president in Sénégal! It was a true time for change, both culturally and politically, and so the words that were penned at the time screamed of movement and urgency.

For the Francophones reading this, I recommend this book of poems by his contemporary Aimé Césaire:

Either way, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to get to know some amazing poetry or fiction by contemporary or past African-American writers!

Want your kids to improve their storytelling and filmmaking skills?

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#homefilmmaking #onlinefilmschool #youthfilmclub #storytelling #CineMavericks#summercamp #kidsactivities #kidscamp #onlinelearning #filmmaking

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