Nancy-Ellen sculpted characters from her book “Nana’s Wicker Back.” The title references the scarring pattern on her own grandmother’s back from whippings as a slave. “These women are bought and sold [many were bore] into slavery who were regarded as mules or just property. Yet I wanted to depict that they had spirits, they had souls, they fell in love, they cried and some were very overt in personality some were very quiet and timid. And I never know what I’m going to make. As I start pushing clay, they start telling me who they are.” Nancy-Ellen. Watch video interview here
Kelly Starling Lyons, an author of African American theme pictured books, shared her stories with students at the J.S Jenks Middle School in Philadelphia in celebration of Black History month in February.
One Million Men and Me is based on Lyons attending the Million Man March in Washington, DC in 1995 and seeing a little girl there with her father. In Lyons’ eyes the little girl looked like a princess surrounded by a sea of princes and kings. Lyons has met several men who were moved by their participation at the event to become leaders in the community. Watch Million Men interview here.
Tea Cakes for Tosh, coming out this fall, was inspired by her grandmother who recounted baking cookies called teacakes growing up and grandmother’s stories of her own grandmother’s family who would pop the cookies in their mouths while working out in the field. In Lyons’ re-working, the ancestor is a plantation cook who baked the cookies and, despite being forbidden from keeping any of them, snuck some for the children to eat so they could have a taste of freedom. Watch Tea Cakes video
Ellen’s Broom is about the legalization, during Reconstruction, of the marriages of former slaves. Marriages were not recognized and slave husbands and wives could be sold apart. To show their commitment to one another a slave couple would jump over a broom. In Lyons story, Ellen questions why her parents want to keep the custom. Jumping the broom is a link to the past, and, like other contemporary couples, part of Lyons and her husband made it part of their own wedding. Watch Broom video here.