By Marissa Wells
For more than a decade, the Leimert Park Village Book Fair has promoted education and literacy in South Los Angeles. Each year brings a new theme and a new fair ambassador.
“Celebrating Our Southern Roots” is the theme of this year’s fair.
Wave Newspapers had the chance to speak with educator and Mrs. California 2017, Kristi Eddy, who will serve as the fair’s ambassador.
Can you tell our readers about you or your family’s southern or midwestern roots?
My grandmother, lovingly known as “Ms. Van,” her children (my aunts) and my cousins were all born, raised and lived in Atlanta, Georgia. My southern relatives carry the shared story of many African-American families from the 20th century that include being held out of school for years due to angry southerners fighting desegregation, to seeing lynchings on the way to church, to marching with [the Rev. Martin Luther] King.
What can we learn and/or appreciate about the southern heritage of African Americans who participated in the great migration?
Of the African Americans that essentially created a second diaspora by migrating to America’s largest cities, we notice key traits and values despite their city of arrival or departure. Although many left the South due to the terror and disenfranchisement of the times, the South never left our ancestors, many of whom passed on their knowledge and beliefs to us, their western-, northern-, and eastern-born family members. It is their stories that continue the legacy of the strength of our southern roots.
How does your life’s work align with the mission of the book fair?
My mission as an educator is to ensure that the doors that have been historically closed to my students are opened; that the barriers that are purposely created for my students are not barriers to their success; and that the situations into which they are born are simply that and not determinants of their entire life. Education is the pathway to their future success and the foundation of education is literacy.
Why is literacy important to you?
Literacy is the skill that led me from very challenging beginnings, to being an advocate for children who grew up with similar challenges. After working through my speech disorder, I excelled in school simply because I was highly literate and continued reading. I have had the opportunity to work with children who grew up similar to myself and I dream of even greater success for them and work constantly to encourage them to love reading and learning because literacy is the foundation for the future.
As a principal, what is your advice to parents to encourage a love of reading in their children?
I believe parents should start reading to their children as soon as their children recognize them. I encourage parents to show joy and excitement when their child finishes a book, asks a question about a word or asks for a new book. They will aim to please and build their literacy at the same time.
What do you hope to bring to the 12th annual Leimert Park Village Book Fair?
I want to unite readers of all ages around their love of African-American culture and the importance of literature that represents us as well as our brothers and sisters of color. As African Americans, our image has historically been compromised and attacked and I want to ensure that all guests of the Leimert Park Village Book Fair see themselves, their families and their culture as perfect, as enough, as beautiful.
The book fair is Aug. 25 at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.leimertparkvillagebookfair.com.