3 Points To Cover When Talking To Children About The Importance Of Voting

As we enter the months leading up to the Presidential election in November, with caucuses, primaries, and debates in between, it is important to sit down with the children in our lives and let them know why it is important to cast votes for the candidates of our choice.

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The hope of every parent is that their children will have a better life than they had. Exposing them to the realities of history might instill in them a desire to change conditions through the political process. We must let them know that there was a time in this country when black people did not have the same rights as white people. Only by being frank with our children can the world change.

Life is meant to move forward. If children have no sense of history, mistakes of the past will be repeated.

This brings me to the three points:

  1. Talk about history – Until the late 1960’s the constitutions of seven Southern states had ‘educational’ requirements which were specifically designed to prevent black citizens from exercising the right to vote. Registrars had complete freedom to reject any answer as incorrect. Several Southern states also enacted poll taxes, which had to be paid before voting. These taxes kept many black people and poor white people from voting.

2.  Discuss tactics currently used to keep African-Americans and Hispanics from voting.

Some of these tactics are:

  •  Changing Polling Locations
  •  Eliminating Early Voting Days
  •  Reducing the Number of Polling Places
  •  Voter ID Laws
  •  Attacks on Groups that Register Voters

3.  Read and discuss a book for children that deal with voting, such as Granddaddy’s Gift. This is a story that teaches children that just one person with a little courage can change their world.

Granddaddy’s Gift takes place in the South during the 1960’s. It is the story of a man who is respected in his town and has a very good life. He owns his own farm, grows food for the family, and takes good care of his family. He raises livestock and harvests crops. But even though Granddaddy has a good life he realizes that there is something else to strive for, like having the rights that all citizens are entitled to, such as the right to vote.

One evening Granddaddy attends a meeting where people are asked to volunteer to register to vote. No one volunteers at first. Then Granddaddy raises his hand. He volunteers to be the first black person in town to try to register to vote, even though great harm can come to him.

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Although Granddaddy is not permitted to register to vote when he goes to the courthouse, bad things begin to happen. His name is printed in the newspaper as a warning to other black people who might try to register to vote. The local co-op will not sell him feed for his livestock anymore. In addition, his family is ostracized by other black people.

But Granddaddy does not give up. He studies for the test on the U.S. Constitution for several weeks. When he goes to the courthouse again, he passes the test and becomes a registered voter.

A big celebration is scheduled that night at a church to celebrate his accomplishment. As Granddaddy and his family arrive at the celebration they see big flames shooting into the night sky. Someone has set the church on fire. But instead of driving people apart, the fire brings the community together. And more people volunteer to register to vote.

The story ends with:

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“On my eighteenth birthday, when I went to register to vote, Granddaddy came with me. I didn’t have to take a test on the constitution. I just had to fill out a card with my name, address, and date of birth. Now I could vote and make my own voice heard.

Granddaddy had taught me to stand up for things, even if I was scared, and always to be proud. His gift never left me.

At the top of the courthouse steps, Granddaddy took my hand. We had come a long way. We still had a long way to go.”

Granddaddy’s Gift is loosely based on my grandfather and the importance he placed on voting. When I reached voting age, my grandfather took me to the courthouse to register to vote.

Open a dialogue with your children and share your experiences with voting. Discuss the voting process with them. Answer their questions. It will be a learning experience for them and a reminder to you about the importance of voting.

For further information: Granddaddy’s Gift



Expanding Beyond My Comfort Zone

I jumped off the cliff!

Last year I did something I had always wanted to do. I published my first novel for adult readers, Woman In The Pulpit.

This decision was accompanied by much anxiety, fear, trepidation, and all other emotions that are present when we step outside our comfort zone.

Since my lane, so to speak, is books for children, I expanded slowly. First I wrote a novel for teens, which was published. As a result of taking this step into something new I was invited to appear on panels at book festivals. I enjoyed the experiences and open doors that my YA novel enabled me to enter.

I loved interacting with teens and getting their feedback. They completely identified with the characters in the book and the situations they encountered. They especially identified with the mask people show to the world that everything is okay. As the students in the book, real life students could name situations in their lives when they carried on as usual even though a crisis was occurring that turned their lives upside down.

After swinging my feet off the cliff with my teen novel, The People In The Park, I didn’t want to stop there.

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I had projects I’d been working on but kept tinkering and revising.

My novel, Woman In The Pulpit, was sitting on the shelf daring me to step out into the unknown. I picked it up and put it down many times.  My inner warring voices fought it out. “Put it out there,” said one voice. “No, don’t,” said the other. “Send it to agents and publishers,” said a voice. “No, not yet,” the other voice said.  Back and forth they went. The conversation usually ended with me putting it back on the shelf.

After looking at the manuscript way too many times, I finally decided I didn’t want to answer the  ‘What if?’ question years from now.

So I steeled my nerves and went to the edge of the cliff. I closed my eyes. And jumped! Into the unknown!

Oh my! It was scary!

When Woman In The Pulpit was published I had three weeks of travel scheduled with my other books.  My trips kept me busy and kept my mind from focusing on what was happening with my newly published book.

Imagine my surprise when I returned home and received a notice that Woman In The Pulpit was on the Hot New Releases list!

I exhaled. And opened my eyes. This was going to work.

During the months since the publication of Woman In The Pulpit many new doors have opened: Speaking to women’s groups, church groups, and book clubs.

I am especially delighted when women in ministry tell me that the book is spot on and illustrates their experiences.

I love all the reviews the book has received. I especially like this one:

“Woman In The Pulpit has it all – humor, drama, love, romance, suspense, tragedy, betrayal, redemption, and some incredible spiritual insights.”

Jumping of the cliff into the unknown reminded me that we shouldn’t be afraid to go after our dreams. In jumping off the cliff I sprouted wings to fly.

I still have other goals and dreams. I’m climbing a mountain this year! Another one of those ‘What if?’ questions. I’m not broadcasting what it is. But this time next year I’ll let you know what happened.

Until then… Don’t be afraid to jump off your cliff.


To Purchase:  Woman In The Pulpit

Actors From Uncle Jed’s Barbershop Musical Win 2015 True West Awards

I’m so excited! Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter are 2015 True West Award Winners for their performances in Uncle Jed’s Barbershop, A New Musical. Below are excerpts from the article on denvercenter.org announcing their win.

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2015 True West Awards: Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter

by John Moore | Dec 20, 2015

2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS ​Today’s recipient: Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter Uncle Jed’s Barbershop Today’s award presenter: DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore

Let’s get this first part out of the way: Yes, Mary Louise Lee happens to be married to the mayor of Denver. But this First Lady is second to no one when it comes to that voice. Lee’s professional stage cred dates back to being hired to perform in Beehive The Musical at the now Garner-Galleria Theatre when she was still a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School.

When they invite Lee to sing the national anthem before 78,000 Broncos fans, or to sing on America’s Got Talent, or to join the cast of the national touring production of The Million Dollar Quartet onstage at the Buell Theatre, it’s certainly not because her high-school sweetheart won an election.

It’s because she’s Mary Louise Lee.

Lee’s lengthy theater resume includes work at the DCPA, Arvada Center, Country Dinner Playhouse and theaters around the country. The Mary Louise Lee Band has been knocking out blues covers like “Chain of Fools” from military bases worldwide to the 2004 Democratic National Convention. She is choir Director at the New Hope Baptist Church, and founder of “Bringin’ Back the Arts,” a foundation that encourages arts education in the public schools.

When the creators of Uncle Jed’s Barbershop decided it was time to finally, fully stage their unapologetically sentimental new family musical at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre, they weren’t messing around. Their cast featured Broadway veterans Ken Prymus (Cats, Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Wiz), Nora Cole (Jelly’s Last Jam, On The Town) and Terry Burrell (seven Broadway credits including the original DreamGirls), along with a host of local stalwarts including Lee, Harvy Blanks, Leonard Barrett Jr. and Anna High.

And they weren’t messing around when they unearthed a then 12-year-old named Yasmine Hunter to share with Lee the leading role of Sarah Jean.

Uncle Jed’s Barbershop follows Sarah Jean’s life dating to her childhood in rural Arkansas, where Uncle Jed was the only black barber in a segregated county. The sharecropper’s dream was to open his own barbershop, but instead he freely gave up his savings to pay for emergency medical care that saved Sarah’s life at age 5. Sarah Jean then struggles to reconcile her past in the decades that follow.

Lee is not easily intimidated – and young Hunter was clearly not daunted to share the role of Sarah Jean with her. Lee brought the backbone and Hunter brought down the house on a solo called “I Will Go Where You Go.”  Lee said working with Hunter, a four-year member of the Rocky Mountain Children’s Choir, was a complete joy. “She’s funny and congenial, and extremely talented,” she said. “This girl has such a bright future.”

Margaree King Mitchell, author of the award-winning source book, has seen every iteration of this developing music, but this newest incarnation made her feel as if she were seeing it for the first time because of the caliber and exuberance of the company. “The high-spirited music and soul-stirring singing took me back in time,” she said. “The incomparable Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter brought Sarah Jean to life as she dreamed right along with Uncle Jed.”

Uncle Jed’s Barbershop, which has high ambitions for a continued life, is written by Kenneth Grimes, David Wohl and Susan Einhorn, who is also the director. For more information, click here.

John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.  

ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS The True West Awards began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. This year, DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from around the state over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore’s daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org



Purchase When Grandmama Sings And Share A Little Jazz This Christmas

When Grandmama Coles gets a big chance, Belle gets one, too. Belle’s going to spend the summer touring the South with Grandmama and a swing jazz band! Belle’s never been outside Pecan Flats, Mississippi and she can’t wait to go on the road with Grandmama, helping her read signs and menus and helping her sing. There are so many new things to see on their travels through the Deep South. But some things aren’t new. Everything is segregated, just like at home. But Grandmama stands up for what’s right. And when she sings, Belle knows that Grandmama’s song can bring everyone together.

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Readers are saying:

“This is a beautiful story that teaches young readers about the time of segregation and the importance of music, mainly how it can bring people together.” – L. Calebrese

“When Grandmama Sings is a great book and should be read by everyone.” – Anna

“This book takes readers back to the segregated Deep South where obstacles abound, but courage and the desire to chase a dream are much greater.” – Coach A

When Grandmama Sings is the winner of the Living The Dream Award.  It was also named a Best Book of the Year by Bank Street.

For Further Information:

When Grandmama Sings


This Christmas Give The Book That Inspired An Award-Winning Musical

Sarah Jean’s Uncle Jed was the only black barber in the county. He had a kind heart and a warm smile. And he had a dream. Living in the segregated South of the 1920’s, where most people were sharecroppers, Uncle Jed had to travel all over the county to cut his customers’ hair. He lived for the day when he could open his very own barbershop. But it was a long time, and many setbacks, from five-year-old Sarah Jean’s emergency operation to the bank failures of the Great Depression, before the joyful day when Uncle Jed opened his shiny new shop – and twirled a now grown-up Sarah Jean around in the barber chair.

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Uncle Jed’s Barbershop has received numerous awards, including a Coretta Scott King Honor Book Award, the Living The Dream Book Award, the Charlie May Simon Honor Book Award, and is a featured Reading Rainbow book.

Readers are saying:

“Now I know how to explain to my dad that I will never give up on my dreams.” -Z. Chowhury, 4th grade

“As a mother and teacher I have never read a book for children that was so rich in content and emotion.” -M. Berkowitz, New jersey

“When I read that book I started back believing in my dream.” -T. Allen, 3rd grade

“When I first read this book back in elementary school I loved it and still do. I am a college sophomore now. Ms. Mitchell had come to our school. She wrote ‘Never Give Up On Your Dreams’ in my book. I’m following that dream by going to college.” -A. Jones

A musical has been adapted from Uncle Jed’s Barbershop. It has won the following awards:

  • ASCAP/Disney Workshop Winner
  • O’Neill Musical Theatre Conference Finalist
  • Richard Rodgers Award Finalist
  • National Music Theater Network’s Director’s Choice Award Winner
  • Featured Show in the New York Musical Theater Festival

Uncle Jed’s Barbershop opened to rave reviews in Denver at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theatre – September, 2015.

For more information:

Uncle Jed’s Barbershop book

Uncle Jed’s Barbershop musical

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Vote Today!

It’s Voting Day! A time to vote and make your voice heard!

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There are many issues facing you and your community. Don’t just sit back and let others decide. This is a perfect day to take your child or grandchild with you when you vote so you can explain the importance of making your voices heard at the ballot box.

Walk them through the voting process.  Explain why you are voting a particular way on an issue. Explain why you are voting for a certain candidate.

It is never too early to instill in children the importance of the power of the vote! They will always remember how important voting is to you. And when they are able to vote they will.

As ‘Little Joe’ says in Granddaddy’s Gift when she reaches the age of 18:

“Now I could vote and make my own voice heard.

Granddaddy had taught me to stand up for things, even if I was scared, and always to be proud. His gift never left me.

At the top of the courthouse steps, Granddaddy took my hand. We had come a long way. We still had a long way to go.”

For further information: Granddaddy’s Gift

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Uncle Jed’s Barbershop Musical – Opening Night

Oh, what a night!

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Opening night of the new musical Uncle Jed’s Barbershop was a night to remember! Even though I have seen every rendition of the show, I felt like I was seeing it for the very first time due to the freshness of its present incarnation and the exuberance of its actors and dancers.  High-spirited music and soul-stirring singing took me back in time.

From Bring Our Brother Home to It Felt So Real the strong, powerful voices of the actors as they sang transported me to rural Arkansas where I dreamed along with Uncle Jed about his barbershop. The incomparable Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter brought Sarah Jean to life as she dreamed right along with Uncle Jed.


Ken Prymus  as Uncle Jed looks as if he stepped right out of the pages of the book. The voices of Nora Cole as Twyla and Terry Burrell as Rachel soar through pain and hope.

After the show there were copies of the book Uncle Jed’s Barbershop available for me to sign.   Enthusiastic theater goers eagerly purchased them all!

11229908_408960849292855_8588616459925605751_o I met people who had travelled from New York , Washington, D. C., and other locations to see the show. Special thanks to my Colorado friends Larry and Carol Weaver, and Leslie Henderson who flew in from Houston, TX.

Opening night was magical! It was a joy to sit in the theater and experience the talented cast – actors, singers, dancers, and musicians – who brought Uncle Jed’s Barbershop to life!

A special shout-out to David Wohl, Kenneth Grimes, and Susan Einhorn for their creative vision.  You have nurtured the show from just a thought in your mind to a world-class production!

Uncle Jed’s Barbershop is in Denver at the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Theater through October 18, 2015.


Uncle Jed’s Barbershop