Are You Safe With Me?
I post this latest version of the artwork I've been creating for the #Kids Lit Safety Pins Twitter group with a mixture of pride and trepidation. On the one hand, I very much want to give kids the message that some of their favorite storybook characters (Lance here is the main character in my third book, Lead With Your Heart) care and are here for them. On the other, I've been getting a lot of push back from followers who say, among other things, that it's white people like me who elected Trump, and I don't get to try to make myself feel better by wearing a pin. Another poster accused me of encouraging child abuse because predators will make kids feel safe by wearing my pins then take advantage of them. Yikes!
I agreed to integrate the idea of "safety" pins into my artwork for the #Kids Lit Safety Pin group after being contacted by a librarian at a school where I've read many many times. The students are primarily black and Hispanic with a sprinkling of white and Arab kids thrown in. I love the diversity of the school and the overall atmosphere of kindness and acceptance that's consciously fostered there. According to the librarian, the kids have been terrified since the election. Terrified for being deported, attacked, or as one little girl put it, "having to go back to being slaves." The librarian and her principal are working with other schools in the area, PTAs and community organizations to share this "You are safe with me," concept by making actual safety pins available, but also by inviting authors and artists the kids know and feel safe with to return for visits.
I will be visiting not only this school, but with as many other schools as I can (including those outside the USA), to read, discuss and give children a chance to express their concerns in creative ways. I have seen how empowering it can be for children to meet and learn from their peers in other parts of the world, many of whom are dealing with similar issues.
While I certainly do not want to make light of the concerns my critics have brought up, I also know that fear can only control us if we allow it to separate and pit us against one another. I want the kids I'll be visiting with to believe that the good, caring, kind and safe people far outweigh those who create division and mayhem. I want them to know that their voices are both important and heard, and that they can make a difference.
If you know a school that you think would enjoy a visit, or would like a copy of this or any of the other "You are Safe" pins I've been and will be creating with the characters from my books, just email me: JenaBall@CritterKin.com.