CSK Illustrator Award Acceptance

i too am america CSK Illustrator Award AcceptanceThank you to everyone who has come to be a part of this wonderful celebration of African American stories and imagery created by today’s best writers and illustrators. I give special thanks to God 
and family and to my publisher Simon & Schuster and all its great designers like Laurent Linn as well as other editors and staff members. Also, thank you to the CSK committee for all your hard work and dedication to ensure that books like I, Too, Am America never get overlooked, but instead are reserved, preserved, and looked upon.

Today I am honored to be mentioned in the same breath as the genius writer and poet Langston Hughes. For me, he had a way of expressing joy, sorrow, and circumstance with such honesty and clarity. I once worked on another Langston Hughes project, Visiting Langston, and in it the author, Willie Perdomo, wrote that Langston:

Wrote poems
Like jazz
Sang like love
Cried like blues

That spoke volumes to me, so I was thrilled to illustrate the poem “I, Too, Am America.”

Upon reading as well as dream-walking through the text, I created the images of the Pullman porter and the train, placed in the context of the history of slavery in America and beyond, that serve as a backdrop as well as a vehicle that moves this spare text from yesterday (1900) to current day.

Hughes’s “I, Too, Am America” is a song about hope and promise, about people, land, and country. Illustrated in watercolor and collage, the book is pieced together like a quilt, telling a brief story of men of color rendered invisible, moving from slavery’s cotton fields to working as servants for wealthy white passengers who traveled on these luxury trains that crisscrossed the country. The porters were exposed to a new world of privilege and culture. And by collecting the newspapers, magazines, albums, and other forms of information left behind by these passengers, the porters acted as conduits of culture by distributing the latest news and current events to poor, isolated, and underserved communities, much like their own.

In the book you will see the porter throwing this precious information from the back of the train — notice how the items lyrically soar in the sky through time and space — all the way to Langston’s Harlem, where a little boy sits with his mother on the subway. He turns and metaphorically parts the stripes of the American flag and says, “I, too, am America.”

From the July/August 2013 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Read an appreciative profile of Bryan Collier by his art designer Laurent Linn.

share save 171 16 CSK Illustrator Award Acceptance
Bryan Collier About Bryan Collier

Bryan Collier is the winner of the 2014 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me, written by Daniel Beaty, published by Little, Brown and Company.

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*