West Side book fair shines light on positive black images

Chicago Black Child Book Fair, held Feb. 8 at Jensen, featured dozens of authors

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By Igor Studenkov

Contributing Reporter

Three hours after the Chicago Black Child Book Fair started at East Garfield Park's   on Saturday, the authors still had plenty of visitors like Dasheka Whitaker, who traveled from the Roseland neighborhood on the South Side. 

"I thought it was very inspiring and exciting," she said, adding that she appreciated that many writers used their personal experiences to educate young people. 

Now in its second year, the book fair is designed to provide a platform for the authors of books that portray positive images of black children and to supplement the black history that the book fair's founder, Darryl Harvey, says students aren't getting in schools. 

The fair featured 26 vendors, most of whom were from Chicago. Others traveled from as far as Buffalo, New York. 

Founder Darryl Harvey created the fair because he feels that black children aren't learning enough black history in schools and don't encounter enough positive images in books. 

"There is a need for children to see themselves on the covers and on the pages of their books," said poet Yusuf Ali El, the author of Thank You & Please, a book about basic manners. 

P. E. Barnes, a real estate investor from the Beverly neighborhood, wrote a series of books focusing on real estate investing and banking after attending an entrepreneurship day event at a local school.

"The kids were really excited to hear me talk about entrepreneurship and that it could be a successful way to earn a living," she said. 

Historian Bernard Turner, of Uptown, has written five books for children and adults. Tate and His Historic Dream is "about 28 historic characters who happened to be black," because "a lot of the kids don't know who those people are. The idea is to help them learn about black history in a fun way." 

Many authors drew on personal experiences to inform their books. 

Evan Roberts, of south suburban Crete, based the protagonist of his Khahari Discovers series on his son. Roberts' The Meaning of Autism is about how his son played with his nephew, who was diagnosed with autism. 

"A lot of times, kids don't know how to treat someone who is different," he said. 

Chiquina Mayberry, of Chatham, was inspired to write The Adventures of Abigail based on her time experiencing homelessness. 

"I wanted to write a story, so that children living in poverty can understand that they can still be creative, even if they don't have money," she said. 

After Peter Johnson, of Buffalo, New York, went through a divorce, he wrote The Cow on Two Farms, to show kids that having to split time between two households isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Derrell Spicy, an Austin cartoonist and children's book author, wrote Michelle and a Dragon, a book "about a little girl fighting cancer, and the dragon is cancer."

Raelyn Purham, of Wrightwood neighborhood, said she went through "difficult life experiences" and wrote From One Girl to Another: Daughters of Destiny, to help girls dealing with self-esteem and relationship issues. 

"I think there's a gap between the older generation and the generation of young girls," Purham said. "I think there are so many girls that are suffering who need guidance, and this book does just that."

CONTACT: igorst3@hotmail.com 

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