Jerry Craft. (Photo courtesy Harper Collins)
The Katy Independent School District is at it again – banning a Black book because of its ‘racial’ content. Award-winning children’s author Jerry Craft was scheduled to visit students virtually on Oct. 4 to discuss his books. But 500 Katy ISD parents protested and demanded the visit be canceled, claiming the subject matter promotes critical race theory, so the district quietly canceled the visit and removed the book from all of their libraries.
Craft is the writer and illustrator of “New Kid” and its sequel “Class Act,” about a young Black boy struggling to fit in as one of the few kids of color in a prestigious private school. Both books are #1 New York Times Bestsellers. Craft is the winner of the 2020 Newberry Medal, the Coretta Scott King Author Award, and the Kirkus Prize. His books focus largely on the culture and lives of modern-day Black preteens and are based on the actual experiences of Craft’s two sons.
Universal Pictures has acquired film rights to New Kid, with LeBron James’ The Spring Hill Company on board to develop and produce.
A flyer sent out at the start of the school year touted Craft’s Oct. 4 virtual visit with 3rd through 5th graders at Roosevelt Alexander Elementary school. Last week, parents and guardians received another notice that they could opt their students out of the visit.
More than 30 parents opted out. One of them, Bonnie Anderson, started a petition calling on the district to cancel the virtual visit and ban the books.
“It is inappropriate instructional material,” said Anderson, a former candidate for Katy ISD school board and a party in a lawsuit against the district’s mask mandate.
Anderson says the petition garnered 444 signatures before she says it was taken down for violating the Change.org community guidelines.
“They are pointed at white children displaying microaggressions to children of color. The books don’t come out and say, ‘we want white children to feel like oppressors’, but that is absolutely what they will do,” Anderson said.
Katy ISD says any parent who wants to challenge a library selection, is free to do so.
“Katy ISD library books are routinely reviewed through this process. Pending the outcome of a review committee, school day activities associated with the selection under review are temporarily placed on hold. School activities pertaining to selections under review and hosted outside of the instructional day, however, may continue as a formal review process takes place,” said Laura A. Davis, Media Relations Director at Katy ISD.
Davis says students can still read the book, just not as part of the curriculum. Last year, Katy ISD banned “The Hate You Give” by popular author Angie Thomas because it dealt with racism and police brutality.
Parent Jada Massey says those protesting parents want to whitewash history.
“They want their kids to be taught this rosy picture of both the past and present. They want their kids to grow up oblivious to anything that doesn’t fit nicely into their narratives. And now, they’re using ‘critical race theory’ as a cover. It’s really sad,” Massey said.
The Defender reached out to Craft, who has written more than 10 books and is well-known for his graphic books and illustrations. He can’t comment at the time, but readers say Katy’s efforts will only lead them to further rally around the book.
“I’d never heard of Jerry Craft until a friend shared this yesterday. My kids are past this age now. But I bought the books strictly because of this. I hope lil Miss Bonnie makes him a lot of money over this stunt,” said parent Joi Bailey Green.
Added Deborah Lewis, “I’m definitely going to order books and encourage my friends to purchase too. I hope this backwards move make his sales explode.”
Help us Continue to tell OUR Story and join the AFRO family as a member – subscribers are now members! Join here!