3 Gifts To Share From When Grandmama Sings

When Grandmama Sings has several topics that are worthy of discussion with the child in your life. When Grandmama Sings takes place in the South in the 1940’s. In the Spirit of Christmas, here are three gifts to instill in your child as you read and discuss the book.

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  1. Love of Extended Family – An extended family extends beyond the traditional nuclear family and includes grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other relatives, who live nearby or in one household. When Grandmama Coles decides to go on a tour of the South with a jazz band, Belle wants to go with her. But her Dad is apprehensive. However, Belle’s mother steps in and says, “Belle won’t be alone. She’ll be with family and she can help out her grandmother.” Grandmama says, “I want Belle to go. She will be a big help to me.”    advantages-of-extended-families_89d576d2a52ef6a2Take this time to identify extended families in your own family unit or in friends’ families. This is also the time to discuss why extended families exist. Possible reasons are cultural, economics, health, and divorce. Also, explore the benefits of extended families.
  2. Share Your Talent – A talent is a natural ability to do something well. Grandmama Coles talent is singing. She took the opportunity to go on her first tour so she could share her talent with people beyond her hometown.           hidden_talent                           Ask your child to identify her/his talent. Talk about ways to share that talent with others. Whatever their talent, it can help someone.
  3. Take Advantage of Opportunities – Sometimes a set of circumstances occurs that makes it possible to do something. This can be something that has been anticipated or not anticipated. You can take advantage of the opportunity or let the opportunity go by. Grandmama Coles took advantage of the opportunity to go on a tour of the South. This led to singing in a huge auditorium, which led to a record contract. Discuss what would have happened if Grandmama Coles did not take advantage of this opportunity. Talk about examples of opportunity taken and opportunity missed.

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Instill in your children these 3 qualities and they will be gifts that they will cherish forever!

Learn more about When Grandmama Sings

Negro League Baseball History For Christmas

If you have a history buff on your Christmas list, they will love Last Train To Cooperstown, profiles of the last Negro League inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Kevin L. Mitchell, author of Last Train To Cooperstown, stopped by to talk about his book and all things relating to baseball.

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Why did you write Last Train to Cooperstown?

I wrote the book in response to the current decline of popularity for baseball by African-Americans.  Due to social, economic, and other issues the attention of African American youth has been diverted from the game. Basketball and football are now the main sports they participate.  The number of African-Americans playing Major League baseball is less than during the late 1950s through 1970s.  With no Lebron James, Steph Curry, or Cam Newton high-profile type player in baseball, African American attendance at Major League baseball games has decreased.

The book’s purpose is to indicate that because of Negro League baseball’s rich history and its everlasting impact on the game, African-Americans have deep, grounded roots in baseball that cannot be severed by the current trends.  The stories of the 2006 Hall of Fame Inductees from Negro League baseball in the book are reminders of those deep, everlasting roots.  Readers will get a deeper understanding of Negro League baseball as not just a part of baseball history or African America history, but as being imbedded into the fabric of 20th Century American history.

How did you get interested in baseball?

I think my interest in the sport began to develop in 1957 when I was six years old.  Baseball reigned during that time as the nation’s favorite sport.  Henry Aaron and the Milwaukee Braves’ defeat of the New York Yankees in 1957 was my first TV World Series recollection.  I played a form of stickball with my brother, Lephus Jr., in our backyard.  My friend, Big Mike, and I would take turns using the handle of a cut off broom to hit a rubber ball my brother pitched to us.  We turned the small yard into a make shift asymmetrical ball field.  A red barrel used for burning trash served as first base.  Air pollution had not yet become a concern in 1957 so open trash burning in the city was not illegal yet.  When  I hit a double, I would run to touch the red barrel and then head to second base; the southeast back corner of our garage where my father very seldom kept his car.  When scoring from second on Big Mike’s single I would have to remember to touch third base, a post of our neighbors Mr. and Mrs. Shern’s wire fence.

With both of my older brothers and my father being baseball fans, I  would watch baseball games on TV with them.  There were no 24 hour Cable TV sports stations televising games.  The Kansas City CBS affiliate TV station could not televise the weekend national Game of the Week due to the television blackout policy in the 1950s for cities with Major League teams.  So we watched selected road games the Kansas City Athletics televised.  Harry “Suitcase” Simpson, Hector Lopez, and Bob Cerv are the A’s players with which I first became familiar.  I also would listen to my brothers and their friends talk about other Major League players, especially African American ones (Aaron, Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, etc).   Jackie Robinson had retired the previous year (1956), but my awareness of race relations at six years old was enough to allow me to know of him as the first “Negro” to play in the Major Leagues.  However, I was too young to have a deeper understanding of his significance.

Why do you think African American kids have lost interest in baseball?

This could be the topic of someone’s dissertation because there are so many issues as to why African American kids have lost interest in the game.  There are social, economic, racial, political, and other factors; and they are all intertwined.  A change in the times and differences in the world surrounding different generations also must be considered.

In my opinion, baseball failed to keep up with the increasingly intense competition from football and basketball that developed in the 1980s for capturing the attention of African American kids. The competition was a subset of a changing world, one obviously now much different than when I was a kid interested in the sport.

Being of “baby boomer” age, I grew up doing the time when baseball reigned as America’s pastime with no other sport seriously vying for my attention.  My love for the game began and was nurtured during the time called “baseball’s golden era”, the 1950s and 1960s when young white and black boys were passionate about the sport.  My friends and I collected baseball cards and knew the names of the players on all the Major League teams. We had Willie Mays, Henry Aaron, Ernie Banks, and an increasing number of other African American players to emulate.  We saw them play on TV, but mostly read about them in the newspaper and magazines.  The All-Star Game and the World Series were baseball special events we looked forward to each year with excitement.

Pro football and basketball were growing sports we played, but they failed to capture our allegiance from baseball.  They had not yet turned into the billion-dollar advertising and marketing giants targeting African American kids as they are today.  The TV networks had not discovered the money bonanza in sports programming.  There was no Sunday Night, Monday Night, or Thursday Night Football to get our attention.  No 24-hour NFL Cable TV network.  No ESPN to broadcast pro and college basketball games throughout the week.  There was no Super Bowl, no “March Madness”, and no marathon broadcast of the NBA Playoffs which, not like today, ended in the spring and not mid-summer.  It was a different time.

Being before Nike and the other athletic shoe companies, there were no basketball shoe advertising campaigns in front of us.  It was a time before pro athletes, especially African American ones, were not endorsing products on TV.  There were no “I want to be like Mike” commercials about Gatorade getting our attention. Gatorade did not come around until the late 1960s.

The competition from other sports for the attention of African American kids increased immensely in generations after mine.  The world changed, no longer the 1960s.  The popularity of football and basketball continued to grow, threatening baseball’s long standing number one sport status by the year 2000.  The TV ratings for the Super Bowl and “March Madness” frequently surpassed that of the World Series.

When pro football and basketball began to intensely target the younger generation of African American kids in the 1980s, baseball’s marketing mentality remained in 1960 with a nine-year-old me. It was slow out of the starting blocks in marketing official apparel and gear.  Unlike football and basketball, baseball did not use their African American star players to promote the sport.  It may not have had a Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, or Jerry Rice; but it could have better utilized Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds (before the steroid issues), Derek Jeter, or Frank Thomas. By the time baseball understood what was happening, the other sports had the ears and eyes of African American kids.

What is your present involvement in youth baseball?

For the last four years I have been on the board of the Kansas City, Kansas Baseball Association (KCKBA), an organization that provides opportunities for kids in the inner city to play competitive baseball. We organize youth baseball teams to play in leagues such as the Kansas City, Missouri RBI, Wyandotte County Unified Government, and other leagues, in addition to having our own T-Ball league.  Last season I helped coach two Machine Pitch league teams for kids aged 10 years old and younger.

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How are the lives of the Negro League players in Last Train to Cooperstown an inspiration?

They were examples of pursuing excellence in what they did in spite of facing obstacles due to uncontrollable and imperfect circumstances.  Racial discrimination robbed them of the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues; that was out of their control.  Due to the economic restrictions that characterized Negro League baseball, they had to travel and play often in imperfect conditions.  However, they did not use either as an excuse or rationalization to not do their best.  As a result, even though the color of their skin kept them out of Major League baseball, the excellence they exhibited on the diamond earned them an undeniable place in the National Baseball Hall of Fame

Do you have plans for another book?

Yes!  With the Civil Rights Movement’s initial beginnings as its backdrop, the book will tell of the demise of Negro League teams as the integration of Major League baseball by African American and dark-skinned Latino players gained unstoppable momentum in the 1950s.

You have a popular baseball blog – The Baseball Scroll and a website where you write about baseball history.  Explain why you started them.

I started The Baseball Scroll (www.thebaseballscroll.blogspot.com)and the blog on my website (www.klmitchell.com) to constantly promote the unshakable historical connection of African-Americans to the sport of baseball.  The content for both includes my personal reflections, as an African American, on baseball events of my youth, the history of Negro League baseball, and information about baseball’s “golden era” (1950s through early 1960s) pertaining to African American ball players.  Hopefully, heralding the deep historical connection will revive the interest of African Americans in the game.  My blogs also help me connect to other bloggers and baseball historians, both African American and white, who have the same objective.

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How can someone get in touch with you for speaking engagements?

My website address is www.klmitchell.com and my direct email address is kevlephmitch@gmail.com

Purchase Last Train To Cooperstown

 

 

 

3 Reasons to Give Uncle Jed’s Barbershop This Christmas

Uncle Jed was the only black barber in the county. And he had a dream. Living in the segregated South of the 1920’s, 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 Uncle Jed encountered setback after setback that delayed his dream. However, not even the Great Depression could force him to give up on his dream.  Uncle Jed finally opened his barbershop after saving for years and years. The community celebrated with him and so did his niece, Sarah Jean.

Uncle Jed’s Barbershop is a stirring story of dreams long deferred and finally realized.

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Here are three reasons to give Uncle Jed’s Barbershop to the child on your  Christmas list.

  1. Uncle Jed’s Barbershop inspires children to dream great dreams for their lives and realize that those dreams can come true. I will always remember the girl in Little Rock, Arkansas who said to me, “I want to be a doctor when I grow up, but my Grandmama says I will never be one. Now I know I can be a doctor.”
  2. An award-winning musical has been adapted from Uncle Jed’s Barbershop. The most recent honor is a Henry Award nomination for Outstanding New Musical. Theatre critics say: “Get ready for some toe-tapping fun!”“Uncle Jed’s Barbershop leaps from the bookshelf to the stage!”ujb24    ujb50  angels hair9
  3. James Ransome’s wonderful richly colored paintings bring the story to life.

Learn about Uncle Jed’s Barbershop

Learn about Uncle Jed’s Barbershop Musical

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

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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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