Happy New Year’s Eve 2016! I hope everyone is having a happy holiday season! My last blog for 2016 celebrates the holidays by encouraging everyone to give back! I want to promote these three organizations as worthy causes for your donations – the Orlando Youth Alliance, the Southeast Symphony, and We Need Diverse Books. More information below on these wonderful groups…
In June 2016, I was devastated by the Pulse nightclub tragedy. I could not stop crying and had to do something. So I started a book donation to the Orlando Youth Alliance to help provide positive media images for their LGBQIA+ youth. I am so grateful to everyone, including children’s book author/activist e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and Never Counted Out, for their donations of LGBTQIA+ friendly and positive children’s books and YA novels and comic books for this organization. (Blog link here: http://paulayoo.com/love-is-love-my-lgbtq-kidlit-book-donation-drive-for-the-orlando-youth-alliance/)
The Orlando Youth Alliance has been providing support groups for LGBTQIA+ teenagers and young adults for over 25 years. They provide counseling for discussions on bullying, coming out to family and friends, increasing self-esteem and overcoming adversity. In their 25-year history, they have provided services to over 1,500 Central Florida youth. No OYA youth has committed suicide.
I made another monetary donation this month to the OYA because they also generate money to fund college scholarships, micro-grants to local school gay-straight alliances, homeless youth services, and general operations of the three weekly youth support groups. The OYA is currently seeking donations to start another weekly support group in Kissimmee, Florida (just south of Orlando) to reach the many Latinx youth in that area. More than half of the victims and survivors of the Pulse massacre were from Kissimmee.
I highly encourage you to make a monetary donation to the Orlando Youth Alliance so they can start up another support group in the Kissimmee area. For donations, go to this link: http://orlandoyouthalliance.org/index.cfm?n=7&c=green
For more information on the Orlando Youth Alliance, please visit them here: http://orlandoyouthalliance.org
I am a member of the wonderful SOUTHEAST SYMPHONY. Our orchestra is the country’s first all-African American symphony formed in 1948 when Black musicians were unfairly and wrongly precluded from joining many orchestras. Today it is an all-inclusive diverse symphony that celebrates amazing African American soloists and composers. Its motto is “Diversity, Artistry and Passion” – words to live by. It is an honor to be a part of this inspirational musical family. Our recent concerts included a May 2016 performance of CARMINA BURANA.
Below are Maestro Anthony Parnther’s thoughts about the Southeast Symphony and its goals:
“This orchestra was founded nearly 70 years ago to give black musicians an opportunity to play in a symphony orchestra at a time when they were clearly not permitted to do so. Today, the orchestra is arguably the most inclusive and diverse professional level orchestra in the United States. If there is an orchestra in the US that is as diverse as the Southeast Symphony, I would love to see evidence! Although I have not seen an example of such, the Chicago Sinfonietta might be the closest example.
“Here in Los Angeles, we have evolved into an orchestra that actively mirrors the vast cultural variety of the city in which we perform and reside. Not only is our unique orchestra diverse, but so is our audience. Our audience represents cross sections of people from so many cultural backgrounds, ages, and walks of life congregated together to celebrate music, diversity and passion.
“I firmly that an orchestra like ours, that focuses on building bridges from one community to the next, will be of paramount importance over the next few years, especially with so much emphasis on building walls to separate and divide people. I hope that with people generous contributions that we can expand on this mission.”
As a violinist, it is truly an honor and privilege to play with this orchestra. As someone who strongly believes BLACK LIVES MATTER, I encourage everyone to support this historic organization which provided talented African American musicians a home during an era when possibilities were unfairly and illegally limited. Today, the possibilities are endless – and as they say, music IS the universal language. I hope the music of Southeast Symphony speaks to EVERYONE.
For more information on how to subscribe to our concerts or to donate to the orchestra and its music outreach programs, please visit this link: https://www.southeastsymphony.com/donate
Finally, as a children’s book author, I strongly urge everyone to donate to WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS. We Need Diverse Books™ is a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.
Given the dismal statistics released this year about representation and inclusion in children’s books, I believe WNDB is a great organization to support to promote more diversity in children’s literature.
The above illustration by David Huyck (in consultation with Sarah Park Dahlen & Molly Beth Griffin) was based on the 2015 publishing statistics compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Link here: http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp
According to their findings, there are about as many books featuring stories about animals & trucks (12.5%) as diverse child/teen characters (Native American 0.9%, Latinx 2.4%, Asian American 3.3%, and African American 7.6%) and the rest – 73.3% – are white.
My last two books, published in 2015 by Lee & Low Books, are part of the 3.3% statistic. Let’s do the math here – the simple answer is that we need to do better. We have been seeing these same statistics over and over for too many years now. Time to change the formula.
To donate to WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS in order to increase more awareness and diversity in children’s literature, please go here: http://weneeddiversebooks.org
Thank you for reading my last blog of 2016 and for making donations to three organizations that are near and dear to my heart. We all thank you. Let’s make 2017 a year of healing, love, equality and happiness for everyone.