Letterbox Library: A crucial ally in helping to teach children Black History


Image of the Front cover of the book Women of the Harlem Resistance which is distributed by Letterbox Library

“‘What became of the Black people of Sumer?’ the traveler asked the old man, for ancient records show that the people of Sumer were Black. `What happened to them?’ 

`Ah,’ the old man sighed. `They lost their history, so they died.'”

This legend above demonstrates what happens when a people lose or forget their history. They die. As it has been written, our people perish because of a lack of knowledge.

image of the front cover of the book Five Famous Writers which is distributed by Letterbox Library

A people without knowledge of their history or past are dead! What happened to the people of Sumer illustrates the dangers a race faces if it fails to document it’s history and tell its own story not “his” story. Because what is passed off as history is not every man’s story.

This is why understanding our history is important. Bob Marley summed it up in the song Buffalo Soldier and said:

If you know your history
Then you would know where you coming from
Then you wouldn’t have to ask me
Who the heck do I think I am

We, Africans, have lost a significant amount of our history because it was not documented.

It is no surprise some people try their utmost best to convince us that our history only begun with the advent of the coloniser in Africa.

image of the front cover of the book Bessie Coleman distributed by Letterbox Library

Such a lie becomes impossible to maintain when one knows the history of Africa that begun while the coloniser was still living in the mountains of Europe, and Africans created the first civilisations of Meroe, Songhay, Mossi Kingdom, Benin Empire, Kingdom of Ghana, Axum and the likes.

Below is a front cover of African Empires: it is a book written for children that elaborates on the empires I referred to above and provides insight on them.

I only got to learn about some of these empires after reading Dr. Chancellor Williams ground-breaking book The Destruction of Black Civilisation. It is available on the link above as a PDF version.

Image of the front cover of the book African Empires which is distributed by Letterbox Library

How I wish I had known about this history while I was younger. However, it is never too late to learn. A book like the one above is not only good for children but it is also good for adults too who may be as ignorant as I was until I stumbled on the work of Williams.

It can provide them with an elementary education of Black History which can be topped off later by reading other books written by writers like Dr. Williams, Dr. John Henrik Clarke and Dr. Yosef Ben-Jochannan to mention a few.

In addition, it is a good way for parents to bond with their children while learning together and raising their level of consciousness.

Adults can learn something from the titles held on the Letterbox Library archives because there are going to be things that they are ignorant of.

This is not to insinuate that they are unenlightened; it is impossible to know everything. There is too much information to know everything that happened in the past but it is never too late to learn something new.

The front cover of the book The life of Mary Prince which is distributed by the Letterbox Library

Black history matters and it is our duty as parents within the community to spread this knowledge. Without a knowledge of our greatness, we will never be able to realise our potential or know how far we have fallen from those great architects of civilisation.

We, as individuals and as a race, are the total sum of our past and the present. Everything that we are is a mixture of the two. And what we will become in the future depends on these two things.

The past teaches us to avoid the same mistakes that our ancestors made in the past. Not only does it teach us our strengths and weaknesses, but it also teaches us our strengths. It provides us with answers and solutions to some of our problems and challenges in the present and future and how we can be strong again.

The quote below by Chinua Achebe, a legendary Nigerian writer, author, publisher and social activist, illustrates the destruction of of African history and how Africans stepped back into their past to draw strength and ideas to decolonise the continent from white minority rule.

picture of Chinua Achebe

I believe that one of our elders Dr. John Henrik Clarke summed up  the importance of our history  in this quote:

History is not everything, but it is a starting point. History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It tells them where they are, more importantly, what they must be.

I don’t think I could have summed it up much better myself. Sometimes, this is why we need  this kind of knowledge to draw ideas from those who came before us and have condensed knowledge that took a lifetime to figure out into a form we can make sense of within a short time.

I believe that an awakening of Black people begins with an understanding of their history because that is the beginning of their consciousness. We cannot rely on the past today but we can find answers that we seek about ourselves from it.

Those who destroyed our history or whitewashed it had an aim as Achebe illustrated above. It was necessary to colonise and enslave an entire race to subjugate and exploit them.

It was necessary to convince them that they were an inferior species who were not quite human; hence, they needed to be colonised and enslaved for their own good and their history destroyed for the purpose.

Image of the front cover of the book Five Brave Explorers which is distributed by Letterbox Library

However, the truth is that there is no humane form of colonisation or slavery. Both are inhumane. They are an affront to humanity. Nobody can ever prove otherwise.

Frantz Fanon wrote about the methods of the coloniser in The Wretched of the Earth. You can access the PDF of the book on the link above.

“Colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding a people in its grip and emptying the native’s brain of all form and content. By a kind of perverted logic, it turns to the past of the oppressed people, and distorts, disfigures, and destroys it. This work of devaluing pre-colonial history takes on a dialectical significance today.”

This is why it is important for us to know our history and pass it on so that we may never die like the people of Sumer. Which brings me to the point of this post.

The front cover of the book Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: The Music Man which is distributed by the Letterbox Library

About a month ago, I attended a children’s book festival at the Southbank Centre in London. I came across an educational supplier/ distribution company known as the Letterbox Library.

They are a not-for-profit social enterprise and cooperative that acts as an education supplier based in London. The books they distribute promote multiculturalism and inclusivity in children’s books.

Therefore, children can find fiction books with characters that reflect their reality, look like them or find positive images of black people.

The system via the various mediums such as print, digital media, TV, advertising, etc. subliminally feed people a diet of negative stereotypes.

Consequently, people tend to believe the worst about themselves because everything they know is what is stored in their subconscious as images which have been stored from what the system feeds them in the form of images and portrayal of their people in the media.

The only way to address such an anomaly is to replace the negative stereotypes with these new ideas and images and gradually eradicate the negative stereotypes embedded in the minds of Black people.

It is not possible for us to put new knowledge into old minds: the minds will expand and explode and the knowledge will be lost. But we must put the new knowledge into new minds to preserve them both and this is why it is essential to reteach the children and those adults who are willing to learn for their must be untaught the whitewashed history before they are reborn mentally to receive this new knowledge.

This is where the Letterbox Library and other such distributors and publishers come in.

You can also find non fictional historical titles like the front covers littering this post above and below which show some of the titles Letterbox Library have in their catalogue.

Front cover of the Harriet Tubman book that is distributed by Letterbox Library

Their books are sourced from a wide range of overseas and UK publishers. Their focus is on children who are at the stage of primary and early learning years.

This is the time that children pick up a lot and their minds are formed. This is the time that they are at their most receptive.

Therefore, it makes sense to introduce them to their history at this early age so that no one can ever miseducate them about their history. It will help them to think critically when presented with propaganda or a version of whitewashed history.

Front cover of the book Resistance and Abolition distributed by Letterbox Library

Learning our history should not be limited to Black History Month. We should learn our history every day of the year. That means parents shouldn’t rely on teachers to do for them what they should be doing for themselves; i.e., teach their children about their history.

Malcolm X once said something to the effect that only a fool lets his enemy educate his children. He had a point.

For too long, too many parents have relegated the teaching of their children to a system that continually fails them and then have the audacity to complain about it but take no action to address the rot.

It is time we as parents and elders take responsibility for our own actions and stop blaming the system.

Image of the front cover of the book Nelson Mandela which narrates his story from a young man growing up in the fields of Qunu to the time he became the first president of South Africa. The book is distributed by Letterbox Library.

It is time that we stopped being disinterested in our children’s education and started supplementing their formal education with home schooling.

We should take advantages of educational suppliers like Letterbox Library and help develop the literacy skills of our children.

I remember how as a child I loved discovering new things. I read widely but unfortunately at the time my reading resources were limited. There weren’t  educational suppliers like Letterbox Library around at the time.

Just looking at the titles stocked by the Letterbox Library, I know I would have enriched my general knowledge.

For example, I was unaware of Bessie Coleman, the daring female stunt pilot, until I came across Letterbox Library.

Up until a few years ago, I was ignorant of Nat Turner and the slave rebellion he led. This illustrates the significance of The Letterbox Library.

Front cover of the book Nat Turner Slave Rebellion which is distributed by Letterbox Library

It is an ally in the fight against our greatest enemy – ignorance. It is true that you don’t know what you don’t know.

However, it is a disservice to ourselves to remain ignorant when there are resources to enlighten us and help us in the fight against ignorance using words, ideas and knowledge.

Their books cover numerous black personalities who have excelled in their calling such as the likes of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: the Music Man, famous writers and explorers.

Front cover of the book Lewis Hamilton which is distributed by the Letterbox Library

There are also books on current stars alive today such as Mo Farah, Lewis Hamilton, Benjamin Zephaniah, rulers and leaders, black freedom fighters and others. They cover a significant portion of the  black experience. It is worth checking out.

Image of the front  cover of  the book Olaudah Equiano which is distributed by Letterbox Library.

Letterbox Library not only concentrates on books about Black History. They are more diversified than what I have presented here. They deal with books about migrants, refugees, etc.

They help children to be understanding of people who are different to them or people they don’t understand. It encourages them to respect them. That is the power of books. They are great teachers.

Their fiction titles also include mainstream children’s fiction books as well as the popular Anansi stories which are a staple of the Caribbean Islands.

Front cover of the book Anansi the Banana Thief distributed by the Letterbox Library

 The Anansi stories are a vehicle that carries a people’s culture, mores, values and the likes. They maintain a continuity between different generations. I believe that parents and children can read these books together and bond.

Bonding with children is beneficial for children because if they create significant bonds with their parents, they are less likely to become delinquents or psychopaths.

I am delving into sociology and psychology now but this is a topic for another day.

It is essential that we support works and individuals and organisations promoting Black or African History, whether that is writing it, distributing or publishing it.

Chancellor Williams clarified it best why it is important for us to document our own history:

“Black inertia is the main problem, there is still too much dependence on white scholars to do our work for us. I have written elsewhere that as long as we rely on white historians to write black history for us, we should keep silent about what they produce. They write from the Caucasian viewpoint, and we are naive, indeed, if we expect them to do otherwise, all the ballyhoo about their “scientific objectivity” to the contrary, notwithstanding.”

I recommend you check out the Letterbox Library. It might be one of the best investments you make into your children’s education. Who knows, they are the generation that will continue with the brilliant work started by the great teachers like Dr. Williams, Dr Clarke and Dr. Jochannan who have now departed this earth.

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4 Comments

April 16, 2015 · 5:43 pm

4 responses to “Letterbox Library: A crucial ally in helping to teach children Black History

  1. This is very interesting. I’ll be sure to check out some of the links.

    Thanks!

    Like

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