Indigo Arts Alliance launched the Beautiful Blackbird Children’s Book Festival across the State of Maine in Summer 2020 and shines a spotlight on the Black artists and writers who create children’s books featuring characters of the African Diaspora. Named in honor of Maine’s own Ashley Bryan, this inaugural event presented in partnership with I’m Your Neighbor Books, Diverse Book Finder, and the Maine Association of School Libraries honors roots, identity and resiliency of Black people across the world.
Unable to engage with readers in person this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Beautiful Blackbird Children’s Book Festival celebrates virtually from May 25 to August 31, 2020 and features arts & crafts workshops, guest speakers, book read-alouds, a lively dance-along, and amazing performances.
One of several Indigo programs that bring real, actionable change to the Maine’s arts and culture sector, the festival inspires children to read, write, or illustrate as well as raise the visibility of the extensive community and culture of Black and African American Authors and Illustrators. In a commitment to enable readers young and old to see themselves reflected in literature not just online, the festival created access to Black and African American characters in Maine by providing over 1,500 free books to children of all backgrounds in Portland.
Although the festival specifically highlights books created for readers up to the age of 12, the overall mission applies to the entire family. As Diverse Book Finder Director Dr. Krista Aronson explains, she and Indigo know it is important to create access to literature that cultivates creators who understand the necessity of self-identity. “Books leave their mark,” the professor of Psychology at Bates College states in an early festival video. “They shape who we are, how we come to see ourselves, and who we will become… Picture books provide vehicles for parents and children to connect and share when they depict stories to which parents can relate.”
With a festival kick-off in sync with the Maine’s Bi-Centennial events, the Beautiful Blackbird Children’s Book Festival is truly an all ages Black is beautiful celebration. This year’s featured picture books and creators include selected works by several nationally recognized Black authors and illustrators as well as several Maine contributors including Ashley Bryan, author Samara Coyle Doyon, the Young Adult Writers of The Telling Room, and Coretta Scott King Award Winning Illustrator Daniel Minter. Presenting nine books that represent the modern and historical African American experience, the Beautiful Blackbird Children’s Book Festival also highlights the experience of recent immigrants from Ethiopia, Somalia, and Haiti.
“We are proud to have retooled and redesigned this festival so we could bring it directly to families and children,” said Indigo Co-founder Marcia Minter. “It honors diversity, respects all cultures and builds a strong sense of community for all of us.”
Find Beautiful Blackbird Children’s Book Festival content year-round at www.beautifulblackbird.com