This is an opinion column.
A parent. One.
A poor and misleading parent.
A parent curled up.
A superintendent. One.
A poor and misguided superintendent.
A superintendent with weak knees.
Together, they scuttled appearances by award-winning children’s book author Derrick Barnes at three primary schools in Hoover, just a few miles south of central Birmingham. I sunk them because, well, we really don’t know.
Yet we do.
Barnes, who is Black, planned to get Black History Month off to an exciting and inspiring start, reflecting the messages that anchor his work. Messages of good. Confidential messages. Messages of hope. Messages he has been sharing with children in schools, daycare centers and churches for over a decade.
Yet not at Hoover.
Not at Hoover because one parent, one, complained. He complained about his so-called “controversial ideas”. Views allegedly expressed in Barnes’ social media posts. Ideas never articulated in post.
Parental complaints and concerns should always be respected and addressed. I completely made sure mine were when my kids were little. In a case like this, or any time a parent doesn’t want their child exposed to a guest speaker, class, anything the school offers to educate and uplift students, the parent typically has the option to keep their own child out while others took part in the experience.
This parent had that option. Instead, Hoover City Schools Superintendent Dee Fowler caved, capitulated to concern, then disguised it all — or tried to — with calamity for a contract.
“This guy is quite controversial and therefore a contract would be absolutely necessary,” Fowler told my colleague Trish Crain.
Hoover produced documents showing they asked Barnes’ rep three times for a contract. Barnes’ rep told AL.com that they don’t contract for appearances that pay less than $5,000. Barnes, who lives in Kansas City, sent three bills of $3,300 each, covering the fee and travel, for the school appearance, as well as school and library appearances at Hoover and Alabaster.
In short, after a bunch of not-so-disguised detours, Hoover canceled Barnes.
Hoover, a school district where nearly one in four students (23.5%) is black.
Hoover, where one in four principals (25%) is black.
Hoover, where nearly half (41.4%) of assistant principals are black.
Hoover, where nearly half (44.4%) of district administrators are black.
All of which makes Barnes’ cancellation all the more absurd and egregious.
On Monday, Barnes threw up his hands…I’m done with youhe must have finally sighed and canceled his other scheduled appearances.
I am encouraged to hear that several Alabama schools and libraries have contacted Barnes’ representative and tried to accommodate him. Nothing has been scheduled so far. For now it is closed with you. Comprehensibly.
In a Facebook post on Monday, Barnes called the cancellations “narrow thinking of a few,” including “a phantom parent who was concerned about my work who supposedly fell into the boogeyman category of critical race theory.”
RELATED: Author Derrick Barnes: “Nothing will stop me from creating books.”
A parent may have been able to erase an author of black children’s books, but “you can’t erase black history.”
Not this month. Not just any month. At all.
No matter how hard you try. It doesn’t matter how scared you are.
Ron DeSantis can’t erase Black history.
No matter how hard you try. It doesn’t matter how scared I am. No matter how much you demonize and devalue segments of our journey that you disagree with.
RELATED: AP class of African-American history rejected in Florida, but catches on
Alabama lawmakers cannot erase black history.
No matter how much they hide it in the “division”. If you’re from these parts, you’ve no doubt heard of HB7, a bill pre-filed before the next legislative session—and similar to a bill that didn’t survive the 2022 legislative session—that would make it illegal to teach “concepts divisive” on race, gender, or religion in K-12 schools or higher education. (Pre-deposited, by the way, by Congressman Ed Oliver, R-Dadeville, he of the so-called “less government” party.) Concepts the bill does not articulate. Because those lawmakers can’t. Or it won’t.
If it somehow passes through our hard-right legislature and is signed by our Republican governor, it still won’t erase black history.
No matter how much they fear their sons and daughters might actually learn a whole truth that hasn’t been taught before.
No matter how much they wrap their grievances about critical race theory — and yet, dare one of their own to explain what CRT actually is — in the new toilet paper. It’s still toilet paper.
They can’t erase it because it’s their story too. It’s the story of America. It is the truth.
One person’s “controversial” is certainly another’s.
One person’s “division” is another’s “dialogue,” yet another’s respectful “debate.”
Barnes is the only two-time winner of the prestigious (and hefty $50,000) Kirkus Prize. He has also won the Caldecott and Newbery Literary Prizes.
“This has to stop,” she shared on Instagram.
It does. Even if not, a parent, a superintendent, a governor, a legislator – neither ignorance nor fear – will erase Black History.
Not this month. Not any month. At all.
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Roy S. Johnson is a Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Commentary and Edward R. Murrow Award Winner for Podcasting: “Unjustifiable,” co-hosted with John Archibald. His column appears in The Birmingham News and TO THE. com, as well as Huntsville Times and Mobile Press-Register. Reach it at [email protected]follow him to twitter.com/roysjor on Instagram @roysj.