Jason Reynolds, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Presents New GRAB THE MIC Newsletter

This newsletter is the first in a series of guest blogs from Jason Reynolds, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. 

I’ve been quiet, trying to find the words to offer myself, my family and, of course, you. But the truth is, my words and my thoughts aren’t any more important than yours or anyone else’s—we’ve all got them—and many of us have shared them on our various platforms. This sharing sometimes brings on more anxiety, and other times washes us with hope. And both of these feelings birthed by all these shared thoughts are honest. So, some honesty: The tricky part about my title as ambassador is that it doesn’t come with answers. It doesn’t come with medical education, and there’s nothing inscribed on the back of the ambassador medal that tells me anything that leads us closer to the end of this strange time. But what I’d like to believe is that there are things we all have that can help us cope, help us hold each other up and press on in the face of a peculiar uncertainty.

Things like, I don’t know … cake.

Or better yet, ice cream. But not just any ice cream: ice cream that could change flavors right in the middle of eating it, because sometimes chocolate is good for a spoonful, but not a whole scoop. I know this seems like a silly thing to say right now, but the only thing that’s helping me through all this is my silliness. Not just the clunky jokes rattling around my brain, but the silliness that allows me to stretch out—to think beyond the walls of my home, or the length of my block. The silliness that’s actually not silliness at all, just imagination cloaked in jokes. Yes, imagination—the only thing I’ve ever been able to count on, even though my imagination can’t always count on me. Because these are the moments in which I, unfortunately, convince myself to push imagination away. To force it back behind the wall of fear. And though fear and concern are both very real, they are no more real than imagination, right? I mean, why should they get to have all the fun?

Imagination is what has given us food and shelter. Imagination has given us clothes and education. Imagination has given us social media and video games. It’s given us music. And definitely literature. It’s even given us hand sanitizer, which is basically the same as … well, literature. It’s sometimes a little strange, and a little stinky, but becomes an amazing habit because you know rubbing it in (there’s no washing it off!) kills germs—the invisible germs that have attached themselves to us as we move through life. Literature kills germs! Maybe there is some kind of medical education that comes with this whole ambassadorship thing after all.

(Note: Literature doesn’t kill actual germs. But see how I imagined that? I’m like an imagination machine!)

The point is, as April continues to unfold, which—let us not forget— is National Poetry Month,

let’s try as hard as we can to let our imaginations out of their cages so they can storm the gates of anxiety. Let’s make words that make worlds. Poems that feed us something sweet—or at least something honest. Or maybe something sweet and honest and sour and honest and funny and honest and scary and honest, like ice cream that changes flavors right in the middle of eating it.

Sound good? Sure sounds good to me.

Before you go, check out my new video series.

Sincerely,

Jason

15 Comments

  1. Laboure Rafferty
    April 14, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    Many thanks for this opportunity.

  2. Mary Johnson
    April 14, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    Thank you for this first post! The visual artists in my family are trying to figure out how to continue to create, although studio spaces and galleries have largely closed. They are imagining ways to change flavors, too.

    This thought from the Berggruen Institute will help guide creators now, I believe: “Everyone wants to know when this will end, that’s not the right question. The right question is: How do we continue?”

  3. Katie
    April 14, 2020 at 7:45 pm

    Agreed. Sounds good. ❤️

  4. Rachel
    April 15, 2020 at 11:04 am

    Thank you, Jason. Between this offering we can share with our students and the sharing of your daily poems, you are making us feel all-right.

  5. Sharon Holan
    April 15, 2020 at 11:23 am

    I loved your newsletter, it made me smile! I am sitting here now thinking about how an Ice Cream company should totally get on board with your idea and create an Ice Cream that changes flavors. Thanks for getting my imagination going with ideas for Ice Cream flavors.

  6. Laura Haney
    April 15, 2020 at 11:32 am

    Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.”

  7. Laura H.
    April 15, 2020 at 11:34 am

    Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.”

  8. Jen H
    April 15, 2020 at 1:23 pm

    So appreciate this! Thank you – it’s a great project! SO happy that you are the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature!

  9. Joe Evans
    April 15, 2020 at 5:12 pm

    Thank you for your words of encouragement. I’ll be passing them on to my middle school writers. They’ve been writing some great poetry in this strange time. Any suggestions on where they could post or publish such works?
    All the best,
    Joe

  10. J Jefferson
    April 16, 2020 at 1:11 pm

    Thanks so much for these videos, just perfect for kids of all ages. I’m using them as weekly creative thinking & writing prompts for my elementary students in an online discussion format. It also allows them to become more familiar with Mr. Reynolds, the author. This was a wonderful idea!

  11. Chelsea
    April 16, 2020 at 3:20 pm

    My students and I have loved the prompts. Thank you for all you are doing. Is there a way for students to share their writing/creations with you? A lot of elementary students don’t have social media. Hope you are doing well!

  12. Gina Schaar…
    April 17, 2020 at 11:41 am

    I’m a librarian who wants to promote this to my middle schoolers. I heard you mention Brain Yoga on Instagram. How should the kids access that? Is there a schedule somewhere? Love this!!!

  13. Ejaz Sabri
    April 23, 2020 at 8:34 am

    The way how you express is best than how you write

  14. Renee Johnson
    April 23, 2020 at 4:59 pm

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts, imigination, prompts and honesty. Your videos are now my fourth grader’s Freedom Fri-Yay writing activity. You are having a positive impact on children not only through your incredible writing but right NOW as they experience life in their parallel classroom homes. You are appreciated and making a difference. Thank you.

  15. Makersmakings
    May 24, 2020 at 3:29 pm

    Thanks for sharing this useful information…Keep sharing this type of article…

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