In my Civil Rights Then and Now series, we explore Jim Crow Laws. On this day, November 25, 1955, segregation on interstate buses and trains is banned by the Interstate Commerce Commission; six days prior to Rosa Parks arrest in Montgomery, Alabama. The Jim Crow laws enacted in 1890 gave “separate but equal” statuses for African Americans, and one of those places where you saw segregation was on the bus system. This meant that blacks and other people of color had to take seats apart from whites on buses.
I visited Dixie Greyhound Bus station in Greenwood, Mississippi. Originally built in 1939, this Greyhound bus station had a separate black waiting room and a separate white waiting room. As you watch this video, think about what life might be like today if we still had the Jim Crow Laws..
BookPeople, the Austin Independent School District, and Penguin Random House are joining forces to launch Words Across the World. This program encourages cross-cultural exploration through reading and writing. As we speak, thousands of students in Malawi and Austin are exchanging pen pal letters, as they read Laugh with the Moon.
These letters have traveled more than 9,000 miles–from Malawi to Kenya to London to New York to Ohio to Texas!
“Although known as the Warm Heart of Africa, Malawi has a UN Human Development Index (a composite index encompassing health, education, and income) that is 170th out of the world’s 187 countries, well below the average in Africa. The per capita GDP is $258 per year,” says Dr. Kevin Bergman of World Altering Medicine. “While very significant health improvements have been made over the past decade, Malawi’s health challenges are staggering.”
As part of Words Across the World, students in Austin are pooling their pennies to buy life-saving malaria medicine for children in Malawi. “We are grateful to the students and teachers who enable us to do our work,” Dr. Bergman says.
Additionally, customers at BookPeople will have a chance to support the program at the store. And Penguin Random House will donate copies of Laugh with the Moon to students in rural Malawi, so they can read a story set in their own world.
2013 marks important milestones of the Civil Rights Movement. In honor of the courageous people and events who participated in this chapter of history, I’ll feature video interviews, discussion questions and web links from the Reader Guide I wrote to accompany my first book, A Thousand Never Evers (Random House, 2008). Let’s get started…
On this day, November 13, 1956, The Supreme Court ruled that segregation on buses in Alabama was unconstitutional. Watch my interview called Bystanders and Upstanders as Mrs. Dennis describes how when she was growing up, black children walked to school, while white children rode a school bus. She also talks about the public buses, in which white people rode up front while blacks had to sit in the seats in the back or stand:
Posted on 11/13/2013 01:05 am | Comments Off
What is so cool about the Hardy Oak Elementary School book club is the hands-on way that kids are reading Laugh with the Moon. Librarian Jo Chasse and parent volunteer Casey Herridge sure know how to make books come to life!
Hanging from the library ceiling and lining the shelves, you will find all sorts of artifacts from the pages of the book: a mosquito net, the school uniform worn by Clare, a soccer ball made from recycled plastic bags.
Students in the book club have made Venn diagrams of the way their lives are similar and different from those of their peers at Mzanga Full Primary School in Malawi.
You will also run into students who are empowered by their reading to change the world. Led by students Avery and Melissa, kids at Hardy Oak are baking and babysitting to raise money that will support K.I.N.D.–a Unicef program for Malawian kids in need of desks. It was such an inspiration to visit this school!
I got to dine with some second-fifth graders at Canyon Ridge Elementary School yesterday. Thanks to the mom who prepared these super-cute, Twinkie cupcakes for the feast!
Posted on 10/22/2013 09:58 pm | Comments Off
Yesterday I had a wonderful surprise when I visited Nan Clayton Elementary School in Austin. One very special third grader had baked me a sweet treat–mbatata biscuits! This traditional Malawian recipe is in the back of Laugh with the Moon. It turns out James can cook. He substituted canned pumpkin for the yams and let me tell you, these biscuits are delicious!
Even more impressive, I learned that James and his sister sold these biscuits along with lemonade at a stand set up to benefit a very young child with cancer. They raised $108 to help this toddler get the treatment he needs! That is completely yaboo! In case you’re wondering, yaboo means awesome in Chichewa, one of the languages spoken in Malawi, Africa. Of course, the students at the Nan Clayton Elementary School already know that
I’ve had a great time visiting schools in the San Antonio area during the last two weeks. I am moved by the students’ desire to partner with their peers half-way
Students at Colonial Hills show off their home-made toys!
across the world in Malawi, Africa to see what they can learn from each other about the world. When students in San Antonio learned that a dose of life-saving malaria treatment costs $3 dollars, many told me the plan to pool their pennies and donate to World Altering Medicine, a nonprofit that delivers free medical care to underserved patients in Africa.
Thank you to all the wonderful librarians, teachers and students at: Stahl Elementary, Ridgeview Elementary, Vineyard Ranch Elementary, Olmos Elementary, Fox Run Elementary, Oak Grove Elementary, El Dorado Elementary, Colonial Hills Elementary, and Thousand Oaks Elementary. I look forward to visiting more schools in San Antonio later this month.
Posted on 10/02/2013 09:28 pm | Comments Off
Last week, five area churches that all do mission work in Malawi held a joint service to welcome Her Excellency Joyce Hilda Banda to the Lone Star State. During the service, the President of this small African nation gave a stirring talk that touched on the power of education to change the lives of women and girls.
To illustrate her point, Dr. Banda brought to the podium Chrissy, her closest childhood friend. Chrissy had been the number one student in their primary school and was accepted to secondary school, but she had to drop out when her parents couldn’t afford the tuition. (Today many Malawian students terminate their schooling because, like Chrissy, they can’t afford the $50 tuition for a year of secondary school.) The President said that though she couldn’t help Chrissy then, she swore to herself that one day she would. She makes good on her promise today, by funding the secondary school and college educations of Chrissy’s children.
A rare chance to meet Her Excellency Dr. Joyce Banda, President of Malawi
Later in the evening, I had the opportunity to meet Her Excellency (which is what I found out out you’re supposed to call her). It was a thrill to hand her a copy of Laugh with the Moon. In this photo, I’m with my friend Erin Mwalwanda. We’re telling the President about the pen pal program we’re setting up in conjunction with BookPeople and the Austin Independent School District. This program will allow Austin students who are reading my book to write back and forth with students in Malawi, so they can hear for themselves how life is similar and different for their peers who live half a world away.
Posted on 09/22/2013 11:45 pm | Comments Off
I’m having a Summer Giveaway starting today at noon and ending on June 11, 2013, in honor of the release of Laugh with the Moon in paperback. The grand prize: Signed copies of Laugh with the Moon and A Thousand Never Evers, as well as a Skype coffee/lemonade date with me, which you can pass onto a writer in your life.
It’s easy to enter! Simply click here and you will get virtual raffle tickets through Rafflecopter. Here are three ways to get in on the fun:
1. Donate to World Altering Medicine for 10 raffle tickets.
2. Tweet about the Giveaway for 3 tickets.
3. Follow me @ShanaBurgWrites on Twitter for 4 tickets.
Or you can do all of the above for 17 tickets. Hope we get to chat! Good luck.
Here is a little piece of the documentary called “Preserving Justice.” The film focuses on some of the lesser-known stories that happened in Birmingham, Alabama. It highlights the role the legal community played during the Civil Rights Movement. Oh, and by the way, that girl with the chubby cheeks is me. I’m in my dad’s arms.
Posted on 05/22/2013 02:39 am | Comments Off