collective memory, the lasting impact of slavery

taking a class with john matteson!!!

i am forever gathering articles and references like this and realized i could begin collecting them through my blog. this way i have not only a place where i can go for my own bits, but i can share them and reference them easily for others. here goes!

from THE ROOT:

“John Matteson, Distinguished Professor of English at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, believes that the violence exhibited today is contextually linked to slavery and has become part of the culture over time.”

“To Matteson, there is a distinct parallel between the passing of unjust laws and the way society expresses those laws through behavior over time. “In our current day … we understand intellectually that equality is important, that equality is also basically true, but … among some people, at least, their emotions and the things that they feel in their gut when they’re going on adrenaline and impulse are very different from the things that their reason and our laws would be telling them,” he said. “So we’re talking about … someone like the police officer in Ferguson who guns down an unarmed man in this sort of visceral recurrence of this idea of Justice Taney’s that a black person has no rights that a white man is bound to respect.” “

the journalist, breanna edwards  writes an excellent article (i didn’t want it to end) AND THEN i found that i could take a free class with john matteson. so i am.

i don’t often take classes. i generally study and research on my own, gathering a broad and inclusive perspective on the development of the power dynamics in our current culture through my own study of history and consciousness from a diverse pool of folks. but matteson says:

“[I want to] encourage people to think broadly about the connections between past and present, to realize that the things we experience today did not just start yesterday … they go back 150 years. And the things that were happening 150 years ago go back much, much farther than that. So I hope for students to come away with a sense of the continuity of history, with the complexity of history.”

he’s singing my song. so i am hoping that in one place i can benefit from someone (within the system) doing a great deal of research on law and literature that i may not have done. i am willing to learn from anyone and everyone. i’m also curious  if he makes any suggestion toward effective action from his perspective.

my own frame is children’s books. amazingly this class coincides with my HEART OF IT/CREATING CHILDREN’S BOOKS THAT MATTER course, which is focusing on African American children’s literature this time for our community spotlights and book reviews.

i look forward to steeping myself in some deep learning, some deep teaching and i know this is going to inform a number of stories i’m working on right now and my recent project kidlitequality with zetta elliott. #blackyouthmatter #kidlitequalityfrancisco-poem-michael-brown

life is the revolution


check out the full article: From Slavery to Ferguson: America’s History of Violence Toward Blacks

or join me in the class: Literature and Law of American Slavery



The First Rule: Everyone is an Artist

Claiming Face blog series with Maya Gonzalez - Part 4

Claiming Face with MayaI have many layers to speak about Claiming Face. There are multiple, deep, esoteric levels I can go to related to the expansion of consciousness and taking responsibility for reality, etc…but truly the most primary and fundamental is the practicality of taking it into the classroom. It’s ultimately all about the kids for me. That is why I continue to take all my thoughts, everything I’ve learned at the foot of my teacher, Creativity, and try to translate it into the most basic and accessible tools possible.

The three premises of Claiming Face are:

  1. The power of Creativity
  2. The importance of Reflection
  3. The effect of Presence

These are then translated further into The 3 Rules:

  1. Everyone is an artist.
  2. There is never a right or wrong way to make art.
  3. Art is always an act of courage.

My goal is always to support, empower and enhance the educator and by extension, the student. When we Continue reading“The First Rule: Everyone is an Artist”

From Manuscript to Thumbs to Final Art

The first ever Heart of It Collection children's book is beginning to manifest!

The Heart of It Collection Children's BookWhile my first Heart of It e-course officially ended back in May, that was by no means the end of the experience! Over twenty artistauthors decided to contribute to our first ever Heart of It collection children’s book. (The “official” title is yet to be decided.) Since the end of class I’ve been guiding them through the publishing process from manuscript all the way to final art, giving them a small taste of just what it takes to create a book. And right now we’re about to go into final art… exciting!!!

Throughout the process I’ve taken on the role of editor and art director, taking into consideration the overall book and how each submission served the bigger picture…while trying to be present with the heart of each piece. Sample TemplatesMatthew, my partner(-in-revolution), takes care of the logistical things such as laying thumbnails and drawings into the book file to make sure artists are leaving enough room for their text and other nitty gritty specifics like bleed, trim and safety. He also provides all the fancy templates and helpful samples to assist students in navigating the process. The book will be published by the independent press Matthew and I co-founded, Reflection Press.

My sincere intent throughout the entire process is Continue reading“From Manuscript to Thumbs to Final Art”

Community Conversations: Creating Inclusive Children’s Books

[webinar replay]

Community Conversations seriesThank you to all who attended our first Community Conversations webinar – Reflecting ALL Our Children: Creating Inclusive Children’s Books. It was fantastic to be in community talking about possibility! We just barely scratched the surface! Honestly I’m hoping this can be the first of a series of webinars dedicated to inspiring conversation, building community, and supporting each other to create the world we want for ourselves and our children. I’m already pondering the next topic for discussion! Sign up on the SFM mailing list to be notified of the next webinar as well as other goings-on of our school.

For those who missed it or even if you’d like to listen again, here’s a replay of the discussion:

Join me for a Webinar this Thursday, March 20th!

Reflecting ALL Our Children: Creating Inclusive Children's Books

Reflecting ALL Our Children: Creating Inclusive Children's Books
There’s always a lot of discussion about the lack of diversity in children’s books but what can we each do to begin changing these statistics?

Join me for an informal discussion this Thursday, March 20th and let’s talk about ways we each can contribute to creating a more reflective and inclusive children’s book publishing industry. Whether you’re a person of color, LGBTQI, white, a straight ally, aspiring or established author or illustrator, avid reader, teacher, parent, we all can take steps to create a better world for our children with books that reflect our beautifully diverse world.

Would you like more reading materials to get you thinking for the upcoming webinar, check out these links:
Polka Dots, Self-Portraits and First-Voice Multicultural Children’s Books
“You write beautifully but, there’s no market for this”
The Apartheid of Children’s Literature
Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?

And for those big-hearted aspiring children’s book authors or artists, there’s still time to join me for my new e-course, The Heart of It: Creating Children’s Books that Matter starting April 7th!

Register below for the FREE Webinar:

True to Your Self/Exploring Inner Knowing and Self-Trust

Claiming Face blog series with Maya Gonzalez - Part 3

Claiming Face with Maya
Over the years I’ve had a lot of opportunity to reflect on my work and its development, particularly when I’m being interviewed. A clear pattern often develops between the interviewer and me. I’m always grateful for a really good interviewer, one who gives me myself.

Over and over again I notice many interview questions are very physical plane and mentally focused. My answers however point in an entirely different direction. For example, regarding the first book that I wrote, My Colors, My World, I have been asked something along the lines of whether I prepared for writing the book by researching childhood development in relation to color or was thinking about how as an artist I communicate through color. Basically, what were the things that led me to write about color. Clearly very good questions, I especially liked thinking about “communicating with color.” But the truth is I did not prepare or have much thought about what to write. I just knew I was going to write a story.

When I have a large project, or really when I do nearly anything, but especially art things, I often feel pulled, directed from some larger, inner knowing to create. I’ve learned thatContinue reading“True to Your Self/Exploring Inner Knowing and Self-Trust”

Creativity: Our Greatest Resource

Claiming Face blog series with Maya Gonzalez - Part 2

Claiming Face with Maya


Last week, in Part 1 of the series, I opened with something as simple as a polka dot and how it carries the story of our unique experience. This is the beginning of art, the beginning of self expression. I also talked about how important it is for us to see ourselves in our world, especially for our children of color, and the glaring lack of books currently available for our communities that feel relevant and genuine.

This lack of reflection is a large part of why I base my curriculum around self-portraiture because it is imperative for all of us and especially our children to see ourselves in our world. This creates not only a sense of belonging but also serves to create the direct link between creativity and a sense of self.

In fact, a key aspect of my Claiming Face curriculum uses self portraiture as a tool of self-awareness and empowerment – one of the core competencies of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), or learning that develops students social and emotional skills. A growing body of research shows this type of learning is effective in more fully supporting students not only academically but in life.SEL Core Competencies

The 5 core competencies of Social and Emotional Learning:

  • self-awareness,
  • self-management,
  • social awareness,
  • relationship skills, and
  • responsible decision making

are all deeply embedded in the Claiming Face curriculum which uses art and the creative process as an engaging and seamless container for developing these life skills. 

Yet while Claiming Face has become a fully integrated philosophy and curriculum, the roots of itContinue reading“Creativity: Our Greatest Resource”

“You write beautifully but…

....there's no market for this"

Perhaps you’ve heard these words before when submitting a story? Or maybe, “this is a great story, but we already have a [insert community here] book.” What gets published, especially with larger publishing houses, is often driven by what the perceived market is for a story and less about the need and heart of it.

Bird by Zetta ElliottRecently a friend shared with me this video of Dr. Zetta Elliott, winner of Lee&Low’s New Voices Award for her book, Bird. In the video, which you can watch below, she talks about the lack of diversity in children’s books and the still shocking statistics that “only about 5% of the books published for kids annually are written by people of color.” She also discusses the inherent consequences of this for not just our children of color but also white children and the steps we each can take to begin changing these statistics. This video specifically talks about books by and about people of color, but the lack of diversity in children’s books also extends to LGBTQI communities. Unfortunately I have not been able to find any specific statistics related to LGBTQI children’s books only young adult books.

This lack of reflection is something I’ve talked about extensively. My post on the Reflection Press blog, Polka Dots, Self-Portraits and First Voice Multicultural Children’s Books, discusses how important it is for children to see themselves in books and how children of color are given very little opportunity with the current publishing industry statistics. These statistics are exactly why I am committed to The Heart of It Children’s Book collection.

As Dr. Elliott describes:

“when you’re a child and you don’t see a mirror when you turn on the tv, when you open a book, when you go to the movie theater, you start to feel invisible.”

“…if you don’t have a mirror it becomes difficult to see yourself in particular scenarios and on the flip side…it’s also damaging for the white children…if a child grows up seeing themselves over and over and over again, and they never see anyone else they almost begin to think of themselves as the center of the universe. We live in a VERY diverse society. If you want to learn how to communicate cross-culturally, if you want to be able to engage with people who are different from you, one of the first ways you might encounter a different person is in the pages of a book.

Watch the full interview below:

Polka Dots, Self-Portraits and First Voice Multicultural Children’s Books

Claiming Face blog series with Maya Gonzalez - Part 1
I’ve decided to resurrect and revamp my blog series that I originally posted on the Children’s Book Press blog, the seminal multicultural publisher, before they became an imprint of Lee&Low Books. I also shared Part 1 of the series as a guest post on Mira Reisberg’s Children’s Book Academy blogettes back in July of 2013.It seemed like the perfect time to bring back this series in light of my upcoming e-course, The Heart of It: Creating Children’s Books that Matter, because I feel this blog series speaks to why it’s so important to create genuine reflection in children’s books and how we can begin resourcing our children right now. I’ll share each week about my Claiming Face curriculum, often sharing sample projects and additional resources for educators. So without further ado, let’s begin at the beginning, acknowledging the current state of affairs….

Claiming Face with Maya

Everyone is an artist. This is the first “rule” of my Claiming Face curriculum that I teach when I go into schools to share about being a children’s book artist and author. We know that everyone is unique. It goes without saying. But did you know that this includes how we mark the page? I call it the Polka Dot Theory.

I have noticed over the years that even if someone is only making a polka dot, it is visibly theirs and no one else’s. How we hold a pencil is uniquely our own. No one can make a polka dot the same way. Somehow, some way our body, our stories, our thoughts, our selves make a basic mark that is uniquely our own, however subtle, however small, this mark shows something about us. To me, this is the beginning of art. This is the beginning of expressing something that is ours and ours alone.

Polka Dot definition from Claiming FaceThe power of the polka dot is amplified when we go beyond that initial mark and express ourselves more fully, through self-portraiture or words. I like beginning with acknowledging the polka dot, because it hints at the vast and multidimensional levels available to us when we engage in creation/expression. This includes not only our own exceedingly unique and individual experience, but also all of our cultural, social and historical influences as well.

My Colors, My World by Maya GonzalezMy hands, my polka dot, my art, my words convey my life as Maya, but also my life as a bi-cultural, Chicana, working class, queer person born with a girl body. The colors that speak to me, the way I layer and collage, the images that are familiar and make up a cohesive visual vocabulary for me are telling. Growing up with half of my family speaking Spanish while I did not, the inflection, song, tone, the way of putting words together, the white teachers who spoke at the front of my class, the children of color and the way we whispered in the back of class, all of this informed how I write and what I write. My father taught meContinue reading“Polka Dots, Self-Portraits and First Voice Multicultural Children’s Books”