A few weeks back, Kelly Starling Lyons sent me an email asking if I would like to participate in her virtual tour on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Million Man March (October 16) - which was the inspiration for her picture book, One Million Men and Me. I was thrilled, of course. Not only do I like Kelly and her writing, this also falls perfectly into my continuing commitment to bridge the world.
We had to overcome a few challenges : first, I needed to get the book, and as I'm told that postal services cannot be trusted, here, it meant asking a friend at UNICEF headquarters in New York to send it by the pouch, and hope it would get here on time... Which it did. But when I opened the envelope, the book inside was wet and quite damaged. I had to very slowly peel off the pages glued together and set them under the fan to dry (my hair dryer is in the container, with the rest of our personal effects). The bottom of many of Peter Ambush's expressive illustrations had suffered, but at least, the text was complete.
I had also hoped to involve the library at the American International School of Dhaka, but it proved impossible - this I found out only a few days before my post was due. In the end, I invited our daughters' new friends, and we read the book together in our empty, very echoing apartment.
The group was composed of girls aged 6 to 10, all from mixed backgrounds (France, Haiti, Indonesia and the US), and kids who've all already lived in at least two countries, spanning several continents. We talked about the beautiful illustration on the cover, and the Million Man March. After I read the book, we looked at pictures of the March on the Internet, and also discussed the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs, on August 28, 1963, the civil rights struggle, and Martin Luther King Junior's historical speech. It was the perfect end to an extremely gloomy, rainy day in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
When I asked the girls what they had preferred in the book, they all mentioned the illustration with the African princess. One of them also said : "the first page, when the cousin said that no girls can go, but her daddy took her anyway." And she nodded, as if to say : there.
One Million Men and Me takes us back to that magical day, allowing us to experience it through the eyes of young Nia. We feel her pride, and we feel her joy, as she shares this very special moment with her father. She will never forget it, and nor will all the girls who read the book, I bet.
Thank you, Kelly, for this opportunity to discover and share your (and Peter Ambush) very touching book about not only the day when "Black men made history," but also the beauty and importance of the special bond between father and daughter (two daddies attended the reading, by the way, and my husband took the pictures.)
Anyone who posts a comment, here, or on Kelly's Facebook page or her blog, will be entered in a drawing for one of three prizes - One Million Men and Me T-shirt, tote bag or signed poster. Kelly will announce the winners on the March anniversary, October 16.