Brooklyn, NY – Medgar Evers College’s Office (MEC) of Diversity and the Office of Student Affairs recently celebrated its second annual celebration of diversity event at the College where author and activist Faith Ringgold, and author and first African American senior editor and vice president at Scholastic Books Andrea Pinkney received Lifetime Achievement awards at a reception following a panel discussion focused on how children’s book authors help to shape world views. The panel was moderated by children’s book author and MEC Diversity Officer Sylvia Gail Kinard, Esq., and included celebrated authors Rafael Landron, Sofia Quintero, Nina Crews, and MEC Assistant Professor Tonya Hegamin.
“The College’s celebration of diversity event is important to the legacy of Medgar Evers,” said President William L. Pollard. “And this year on June 12, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of his assassination, we are reminded that he fought for equality and inclusion for everyone. Our panelists, as well as our honorees Faith Ringgold and Andrea Pinkney, clearly recognize the importance of messages of acceptance and understanding as evidenced by their work and commitment to producing and delivering top-notch literature and art while keeping the issue of equality foremost in our minds.”
“It is important that we teach children to both celebrate their own uniqueness and the diversity of others,” said MEC Chief Diversity Officer and children’s book author Sylvia Gail Kinard. “Literature helps to shape a child’s world view and therefore children’s book authors play a vital role in helping us to become a more tolerant and inclusive society. On this 50th year of Medgar Evers’ death, we wanted to honor women who have opened doors for others. We are delighted to recognize the trailblazing work of both Faith Ringgold and Andrea Pinkney each with a Lifetime Achievement Award.”
Internationally-acclaimed artist, activist and author Faith Ringgold wrote Tar Beach which tells the story of 8-year old Harlem resident Cassie Louise Lightfoot, who dreams to be free to go wherever she wants to. A painter, writer, speaker, mixed media sculptor and performance artist, Ringgold is professor emeritus at the University of California, San Diego where she taught art from 1987 until 2002. She is the recipient of more than 75 awards including 22 Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts Degrees. Among her works are sixteen children’s books including the above-mentioned Tar Beach, Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in The Sky, My Dream of Martin Luther King, and Talking to Faith Ringgold, an autobiographical interactive art book for children of all ages.
“Aspiring writers and artists can’t sit around waiting for somebody else to say who you are,” said Ms. Ringgold. “You need to write it and paint it and do it. That’s where the art comes from. It’s a visual image of who you are. That’s the power of being an artist.”
Andrea Pinkney, is the first African American senior editor and vice president at Scholastic Books. She is a New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of many books for children and young adults, including picture books, novels, works of historical fiction and non-fiction. Her novels include With the Might of Angels, a book in the Dear America series, and Bird in a Box. She graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in journalism and embarked on a career as a magazine editor, later writing and editing books for children about famous individuals in African-American culture and history. At Scholastic, one of the many books she acquired and edited is March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World, written by Dr. Martin Luther King’s sister, Christine King Farris.
“Many writers keep a notebook with them at all times; I certainly do this,” said Ms. Pinkney. “The best advice I can give is to write in that notebook every single day, even when you don’t feel like it.”
Celebrated and distinguished panelists included: Author Rafael Landron whose first children’s book Beba and Little Sister Island, is written in both Spanish and English, and was inspired by the true story of the people of Puerto Rico who through coordinated efforts and non-violent actions, forced the Unites States Navy to leave the island of Vieques after 60 years of bombings, target practice, and military maneuvers. An emerging poet, performer, and writer, Landron’s works include The Bruised Mango, a collection of poems, and Rafi’s Antiwar Expressions, a Nuyorican response to the Iraq war.
Sofia Quintero is a writer, activist, educator, writer, speaker and comedienne. She is the author of Efrain’s Secret, the story of an ambitious high school senior who dreams of escaping the South Bronx for an Ivy League college like Harvard or Yale while trying to find ways to pay for college. He finds himself leading a double life—honor student by day, drug peddler at night—in order to pay for college. Quintero began her career as a policy analyst and advocate and worked for various nonprofit organizations and government agencies. She has worked on issues from police brutality to multicultural education, and after years of working on a range of policy concerns, she decided to pursue a career in entertainment. Quintero serves on several boards of directors of a number of social justice organizations.
Author and Medgar Evers College Assistant Professor Tonya Hegamin’s picture book, Most Loved in All the World, tells the account of a little girl whose mother is a secret agent on the Underground Railroad. Before sending her daughter north to freedom, the mother sews a quilt for her daughter, not only to guide her with its symbols of moss and the north star, but also to remind her always that the smiling girl in the center of the quilt is “most loved in all the world.” Professor Hegamin currently teaches Poetry Writing, Creative Writing and Introduction to English at the College. She received a degree in poetry from the University of Pittsburgh, a creative writing degree from the New School University and is the winner of the 2010 Ezra Jack Keats Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature.
Children’s book author and illustrator Nina Crews uses photographs and photo collages to create energetic stories about young children. Her work has included updated classic material in The Neighborhood Mother Goose as well as in her most recent books, The Neighborhood Sing-Along and Jack and the Beanstalk. She has written stories of children’s imaginary adventures in Below, Sky-High Guy, You Are Here and I’ll Catch the Moon, and has explored simple experiences of urban childhood in One Hot Summer Day and Snowball. Nina is a graduate of Yale University, where she received a BA in Art.
Medgar Evers College Diversity Officer and author Sylvia Gail Kinard who served as panel moderator is the author of The Adventures of Becktron and Sally Slappers, the story of a young black girl who dreams of traveling in outer space. She gets lost on a class trip and winds up on Planet Earth where she meets a flip-flop loving, red-haired, science-whiz, Sally Slappers, who becomes her best friend. Together they have amazing adventures and teach children the importance of friendship, acceptance and diversity.
About Medgar Evers College
Medgar Evers College, a senior college within The City University of New York, was established in 1970 with a mandate to meet the educational and social needs of the Central Brooklyn community. With a commitment to students who desire a sound academic foundation as well as an opportunity for personal development, the College seeks to provide high-quality, professional, career-oriented undergraduate degree programs in the context of a liberal arts education. This year on June 12, 2013, the College will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Medgar Evers who was killed as he returned home from his job as field secretary with the NAACP.
Dawn S. Walker (Communications) (718) 530-4539
Sylvia Gail Kinard, Esq. (Office of Diversity) (718) 270-5000