|The NAIBA Carla Cohen Free Speech Award|
The Case For Loving by Selina Alko (author) and Sean Qualls (illustrator)
"I support the freedom to marry for all. That's what Loving, and loving, are all about." - Mildred Loving, June 12, 2007
For most children these days it would come as a great shock to know that before 1967, they could not marry a person of a race different from their own. That was the year that the Supreme Court issued its decision in Loving v. Virginia.
This is the story of one brave family: Mildred Loving, Richard Perry Loving, and their three children. It is the story of how Mildred and Richard fell in love, and got married in Washington, D.C. But when they moved back to their hometown in Virginia, they were arrested (in dramatic fashion) for violating that state's laws against interracial marriage. The Lovings refused to allow their children to get the message that their parents' love was wrong and so they fought the unfair law, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court - and won!
Wife and husband team Selina Alko and Sean Qualls collaborated on this book. Alko is the author and illustrator of several acclaimed books for children, including Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama and B Is for Brooklyn. Qualls has illustrated many celebrated books for children, including Giant Steps to Change the World by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee, Little Cloud and Lady Wind by Toni Morrison and her son Slade, Dizzy by Jonah Winter, and Before John Was a Jazz Giant by Carole Boston Weatherford, for which Qualls received a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. The pair live in Brooklyn, New York, with their two children.
Previous Winners of the NAIBA Carla Cohen Free Speech Award:
2013: Judy Blume for her body of work
2012: Americas by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill (Macmillan)
2011: Odetta by Stephen Alcorn (Scholastic)
2010: The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan and illustrated by Peter Sís (Scholastic)
The idea for this award came from a desire to not only honor an amazing bookseller and past president of NAIBA, but to honor Carla as would be most fitting.
The NCCFSA will be awarded to a children's book, as awareness of constitutional rights needs to begin at the beginning of true consciousness. Educating children about their rights by putting the books into their hands that will allow them to question, imagine, and dream is essential to the survival of independent bookstores and dare we say, humanity.
Independent bookstores are the places where freedom of speech and anti-censorship are integrated into everything we do. We are spaces where difference-of ideas, sexuality, spirit, politics, and philosophy-is embraced and not feared. Politics and Prose has been exactly this kind of place for the past 27 years. Independent bookstores are essential to their communities and hence to a truly democratic nation. The survival of our bookstores relies on children becoming informed and engaged in our midsts. Only through the nurturing of this future community will we ensure having a customer base on which to rely.
From NAIBA President Lucy Kogler's letter on Oct. 11, 2010:
Loss is certainly a part of life's cycle, but our region has taken another mighty hit. Carla Cohen, co-owner of Politics and Prose, a past president of NAIBA, this year's NAIBA legacy winner, and a woman of great wisdom and distinction, has passed.
When I think of Carla I think of a lioness. Not in the protective sense of shielding, but in the noble sense of dutifully doing the work of teaching her bookselling progeny, feeding them and the bookselling community with the ideas and examples of a leader passionately committed to her job and chosen role within her profession, within the pride.
Carla was a woman who never compromised her intelligence, wit, or forthright nature. When I first became a NAIBA board member, I sat in awe of her prodigious sense of self as woman and bookseller. I marveled at her absolute certainty that what she was telling us needed to be articulated. Not that what she said was law, but that what was said needed to be a component of a thoughtful decision. She wanted us to not be afraid to think and dream in an expansive and unpredictable way.
Her legacy to us is legion: mentor, role model, friend, and advisor. A woman with impeccable and varied tastes in literature, she kept independent bookselling in front of the nation in the capital of our nation.
It was an honor to know her, to serve on the NAIBA board with her, to witness her commitment to her booksellers, and it was a great pleasure to hear her voice and laugh. Hers is an absence that will resonate with all her grandeur.