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Voice of Freedom: Illustrator Ekua Holmes’s 2016 BGHB NF Honor Speech

weatherford_voice of freedomI am extremely honored to be here. Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine work that I’ve done being honored in this way. It’s my maiden voyage. I’m so fortunate that I worked with an amazing publisher, Candlewick; I worked with an amazing and prolific author, Carole Boston Weatherford; and I worked on an amazing story about a woman, Fannie Lou Hamer, who inspired people to keep on fighting when they were ready to give up and go home. I want to thank Fannie Lou for using her strength to create a better world for all of us. And I want to thank the awards committee for seeing what we poured into this book: devotion, clarity, truth. Those were the things we were striving for.

You know the feeling when you realize that something is for you? When Candlewick called about this manuscript and said it was about Fannie Lou Hamer, I thought, Ooooh. Then I got the manuscript, and on the first page it says she’s from Sunflower County. Well, the sunflower is my icon. I think it really speaks to the rugged strength and beauty of the African American experience.

But as I read the manuscript over and over again, other things popped up. One of the things that broke my heart was when I realized that Fannie Lou Hamer, when she picked her first bag of cotton, was the same age as my granddaughter when I signed the contract with Candlewick. I thought about my granddaughter’s little beautiful, long, piano-playing fingers, and her beautiful smile, and her lovely fluffy hair being in a cotton field every day, beat down by the sun. And I thought, we’re in a different world now, and I’m thankful for that, but I also know we have to keep fighting to maintain the progress we’ve made.

From the January/February 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Read Voice of Freedom author Carole Boston Weatherford’s speech here. For more on the 2016 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB16.

Ekua Holmes About Ekua Holmes

Ekua Holmes is the winner of the 2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, written by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth and published by Candlewick Press. Her acceptance speech was delivered at the annual conference of the American Library Association in New Orleans on June 24, 2018. She is also the winner of a 2016 Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Illustrator Honor Award for Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement (Candlewick).

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