Thank You, Ms. Renee Watson


This public thank you letter is long overdo. Since this picture in 2019, I have seen Ms. Waston on many occasions and said thank you personally but putting it in writing has helped me shape the deepness behind my ‘thanks’.

Dear Ms. Watson,

This letter is about your involvement with the Langston Hughes’ house even though it was for a short period of time in which you (along with friends) made it into a community reading space.

It was in that short time, my interest in Langston Hughes sparked.

At the events, I met many writers such as the children’s book authors, Mr. and Mrs. Lesa Cline- Ransome, who wrote the book, Finding Langston and Mrs. Rita Williams-Garcia, the author behind the creation of the Gaither girls.

Meeting these authors and talking about their work in real time, was very pertinent to me as a teacher and writer. I did not know it then, but my school would soon be forced to relocate and my students would need as much of Langston Hughes and the Gaither girls as they could possibly have.

Last spring when the flowers were beginning to bud in front of the school building, the entire community was hit with terrible news- the school will be relocating. This shocked everyone. We were at our location for over 15 years. This news put everybody in another mode of survival (we were still coping with COVID-19). From the school’s administration to the children, plans had to be made and arrangements had to be set for the future.

As a teacher, one main thought of mine was, if the school remains open, whom can I teach next year that will open up discussions about displacement, gentrification, and Black migration in the U.S?

Because I had been involved in conversations about those very topics at the Langston Hughes House, it was easy for me to think of Hughes’ childhood and migration. I could think of no better person than this writer and renaissance man to teach and open up these tough discussions.

When putting together a syllabus for the school year, Langston Hughes’ children literature was sought after. Finding Langston by Lesa Celine-Ransom which deals with many relevant themes such as death, migration, poverty, Blackness, country living vs. city living and survival, wasn’t hard and it was the first book on their list. Gone Crazy in Alabama, was the last.

The children started Finding Langston at the same time the moving men started to pack the classrooms.

They read about Langston moving from Alabama and imagined they were in Langston’s shoes….The moving men were outside the classroom doors toting things away and they were in the classroom sitting on the floor with their legs crossed imaging they were on grass under the hot Alabama sun. Langston became us and we became him.

Learning about Langston Hughes and remembering the past conversations gave me a solace.

The students begin to bottle up their emotions and tried to process what was really going on. Their school building along with their friends and the comfort of common community was all being taken away.

Knowing the tough time they were experiencing, I drew from facts of Langston Hughes life and Black Life in general. For the rest of the year, we looked at Jim Crow laws, Brown Vs. Board of Education, Thurgood Marshall’s Life, Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series, and at the end of the year ended with the Black Panther Party and the 10 point system.

Langston Hughes was a child of the Great Migration. Our parents (my parents at least) were apart of the same migration.

But my students and even myself are apart of another type of migration, gentrification. It seems to be the same story, and the same folks.

Thank You Ms. Watson for providing me the tools to have these conversations.

Ms. Hurley

A Coretta Scott Celebreation


I, Too Arts Collective, in partnership with the Coretta Scott King (CSK) Book Awards Committee of the Ethnic & Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table, presented a celebration of 50 years of the Coretta Scott King Book Awards featuring  CSK Award-winning authors: Tiffany Jackson, Lesa Cline-Ransome, Rita Williams-Garcia, and Renée Watson. The discussion was moderated by Jennifer Baker.


Bookish Details around Philly

The main reason we went to Philadelphia is because of books….And when you travel because of books you are rarely let down. Stacy and I ended up in  Uncle Bobbie’s Shop, a book store in Germantown after visiting the Lest We Forget Slavery Museum.

Some of the books I came across that I made a note to purchase.

Below, Stacy and I smiling with Mrs. Ragsdale, the director of the Lest We Forget Slavery Museum. She gave us a very informative tour. The tour changed the way I see the world and how I see myself. Learning about the slave trade and the atrocities of it, did something to my joyous spirit for the rest of the weekend. Stacy kept asking me, What happened?

I realize when one begin to dig into history, one have to be ready for the good, the bad and the ugly. That was the first time I visited a museum and actually cried.


As mentioned before in a previous blog, we also visited the African American History Museum which was rich with history but a totally different experience.

Philadelphia prides itself in being the forerunner in Black Press. In 1884, Christopher Perry published the  Philadelphia Tribune making it the oldest black paper in the United States.  IMG_2324

The street newsstand…IMG_2315

Right before we ate, we caught the last few hours of the children’s book fair. Where we met authors and Illustrators, Nikki Grimes, Renee Watson, Carole Boston Weatherford, Eric Velasquez, Tami Charles and Floyd Cooper.


Javaka Steptoe

While volunteering at the New York Public Library, I became interested in children’s literature. Almost every week I was reading a new book to a new child. Every child I worked with, was able to pick out a book of their interest for me to read to them.

It didn’t take long for my journal to be filled with children author’s, illustrators, and photographers. When the year was up and I started to work, I missed working with children and reading children books. To fill this void, I contacted all the artist that I could, offering my services for almost nothing but experience in return.

Javaka Steptoe, an African-American children’s book artist, replied to my email almost immediately. We begin working together.

A little after I began to work for him, his recent book, Jimi: Sounds like a Rainbow, (written by Gary Golio and Illustrated by Javaka Steptoe) was listed on The New York Times Best seller list.

Working with Steptoe gave me a better view of the “children book world” and has allowed me to meet legendary artist like himself. Some of them assumed that I was also an illustrator or at least an author. Well, not yet.

One of the most exciting  book events I’ve been to so far happen at the beginning of this month.

I was blessed to attend the 19th Annual African-American Children’s book fair held in the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the Community College of Philadelphia gymnasium.

As a little girl, I always enjoyed going to book fairs.  However, I never been to one as grand as this one.

For starters, there were a good amount of authors and illustrators there to meet the children: Javaka Steptoe, Sean Qualls, Bryan Collier, and Renee Watson just to name a few.

Imagine being in third grade and meeting the person who wrote your favorite book? I didn’t even imagine that when I was a third grader. There was also gifts for the children which I think the kids enjoyed the most.

I enjoy working with Steptoe and look forward to more projects in the future.

Pictured here is Me, the Orange, and Steptoe
(Steptoe left an apple, a banana, a pear, a orange and a bottle of water on the table during the fair….these hungry kids came by and asked for everything…I kept the water and Steptoe kept his orange.)