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Young Kings County authors celebrated at book launch

by Ashley Thompson, Municipality of the County of Kings
in Arts and Culture, Communication, Education
May, 2024

Grade 2 student Drucilla Medicraft rests the bright green permanent marker she picked for signing autographs between her index and middle fingers. She looks to the fellow published authors seated beside her at the crowded book signing table, sits up straight, and makes her availability known.

“Anyone? Anyone else? Any more books?” she calls out.

Within seconds, a new book flipped open to the page featuring her vibrant artwork is in front of her and she leaves her mark once more.

Fifteen Kings County authors of African descent were celebrated at the Windows & Mirrors Book Launch hosted in council chambers at the Municipality of the County of Kings on April 11. The event was a red-carpet affair featuring poetry readings, remarks, photo opportunities, and the popular book signing.

Grade 6 student Alexi-Jade Smith captivated the crowd with a spoken word performance of her poem, “My Beautiful Skin.”

“My skin is black and beautiful,” she began. “It’s the skin I walk in, talk in, and rock in. It’s the skin that makes me confident, unique, and the skin that makes me special.”

Your Art Matters

Brittany Traynor, Manager of Community Development for the Municipality of the County of Kings, commended the young authors for rising to the challenge of coming together to create a book of stories, art, and poetry made by and for racialized people.

“We asked you to share your hopes and dreams, your love and heartache, your struggles and your joys, your courage and your fears, your prose and your poetry,” said Traynor, providing remarks as a board member of the Valley African Nova Scotian Development Association (VANSDA). “We asked you to pour your hearts and minds into your work.”

The Windows & Mirrors project was funded by the Association of Black Social Workers Youth Development Initiative Grant and supported by community partners Eaglespeaker Publishing, VANSDA, and the Municipality of the County of Kings.

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“For all the times each of you faced unnecessary hardship, I am sorry. It shouldn’t be that way for you. Racism and discrimination, social exclusion, and marginalization have no place here – or anywhere,” said Traynor, addressing the young authors at the book launch. “I want to affirm to you that you are loved by not only your families but by a community of people who see you and value you and who are working hard to make things better for you. Representation does matter. Your thoughts matter. Your words matter. Your stories and your art matters.”

Published Authors

Authors from Grades 2-10 contributed to the Windows & Mirrors book. Project mentors Kathy-Ann Johnson, Lawrence Parker, Damini Awoyiga, and Hissa Simpson-Barrows provided guidance as needed throughout the creation process and during a series of workshops hosted at VANSDA.

“Going to VANSDA was really fun because I could write some of my ideas down,” said Grade 6 student Amani Mutuku.

Amani credited the mentors with helping her take her ideas further. She appreciated the warm reception the published authors received when they walked the red carpet at the book launch. “I felt really proud,” she said.

Grade 6 student Santeano Barrows hosted the book launch ceremony, shared some of his published work at the podium, and participated in interviews.

“The whole red-carpet thing was pretty cool,” Santeano shared during a break from autographing books. “One of the things I really liked about the project was the fact that we could become a published author, but also the fact that most of the time we were basically allowed to do whatever we wanted to express ourselves.”

Santeano plans to continue writing in the future and doesn’t skip a beat when asked where a published author in Grade 6 goes from here. “Well, there’s only one way,” he says, proudly pointing his index finger to the sky. “Up.”

Empowering Youth

Diversity Kings County Committee chairperson Coun. Lexie Burgess commended the diversity specialists at the Municipality of the County of Kings for thinking outside the box to engage local youth.

“We frequently think of change as something that takes place in spaces with adults making decisions,” Burgess said. “This is true to some extent but, to create change, we also need to include those whose lived experiences are different than ours. Windows & Mirrors made that happen. It brought the next generation into the spotlight.”

The Windows & Mirrors project aimed to engage and empower youth of African descent while building connections and awareness through storytelling.

“Involving youth, especially youth from diverse backgrounds, is essential in changing the narrative and helping them see themselves in spaces where change takes place and where stories can be shared alongside laughter and celebration,” said Burgess, noting the importance of lifelong learning and allyship. “It’s important for me to use the privilege I hold as a cisgender white woman to hold the door and be an ally for those who still feel there’s not space for them. I cannot speak on issues authentically unless I open my mind and my time to learning about those person-first stories.”

Nurturing Talent

Municipality of the County of Kings Mayor Peter Muttart views the Windows & Mirrors project as an example of a program that creates opportunities for participants to explore their potential and unlock natural abilities.

“We are all born with the potential to excel in some area (indeed many areas). However, we are like seeds in the ground,” Muttart said. “We can be stunted in our growth in arid, less fertile soil when we are ignored and not encouraged during our early years. You reap what you sow. However, with the proper care and nurturing, we can blossom and perhaps even stand out from the crowd.”

Muttart commended the mentors involved in the literary project for providing a safe and supportive space for the young authors to try something new – and excel.

“It is truly the good fortune of the young people who participated in Windows & Mirrors project that they have talented, dedicated teachers who have nurtured and encouraged their dormant yet natural potential as young writers and poets,” Muttart said. “Behind every great talent there is a great teacher.”

Muttart said he is proud of the municipality for creating a forum through which the young authors could work with trusted mentors. And through that cooperation, he added, to discover their voice and share their truths through storytelling, poetry, and art.

“I will cherish my copy of Windows & Mirrors,” Muttart said.

Copies of Windows and Mirrors are available for purchase at the Municipality of the County of Kings (181 Coldbrook Village Park Dr.) for $19.99 plus tax. For more information, email Graysen Parker at gparker@countyofkings.ca or call 1-888-337-2999.  MW

✯ Municipal World Executive and Essentials Plus Members: You might also be interested in the Tyjondah Kerr’s article: Inclusion, equity, and diversity is for all of us.


Ashley Thompson is Communications Specialist at the Municipality of the County of Kings.

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