The Brown Bookshelf Presents: Amplify Black Stories 2021

February 24 - November 30, 2021

The Brown BookshelfA Year of Connection for Black Storytellers & Bridge-Building for Children’s Book Publishing Teams to Amplify Black Stories

In partnership with the Highlights Foundation, The Brown Bookshelf presents this year-long program set to amplify Black stories, with a focus on supporting Black storytellers while confronting industry challenges and fostering change. Download a press release. (pdf)


There are two cohorts/tracks in the program: one for storytellers and one for publishing teams.
The tracks will overlap at points for collaboration, though much of the time will center on the needs and responsibilities of each group.

The Storyteller cohort includes debut, midlist, and vanguard Black authors and illustrators across all children’s literature genres and formats, at no cost to the storyteller. Discover the 24 storytellers in the cohort.

The Publishing Teams cohort includes a diverse and inclusive gathering of executives, editors, and marketing and design staff from publishing houses. Our sponsoring publishers and organizations have empowered and funded Black creators and staff to participate while supporting this collaboration to dismantle the systems of racism that exist within the children’s publishing industry. Find sponsorship opportunities here.


Meet our cohort of 24 storytellers! You can find out more about them here.

Cohort of 24 Storytellers

Would you like to see and purchase titles from our Storyteller cohort and members of The Brown Bookshelf?

THE LITERARY CAFE–BOOKS & EVENTS Bookstore Amplify Black Stories Book List, Curated by The African American Children’s Book Project showcases a wide range of topics and talent from the Black Literary Community, including our cohort of Storytellers and members of the Brown Bookshelf. The list includes both non-fiction and fiction titles that will empower, enlighten and enrich all readers. Visit the bookstore.


Amplify Black Stories is a living commitment to the The Brown Bookshelf’s 2020 kidlit industry Call to Action, with recognition of how influential children’s literature can be for social change. It will feature a series of online sessions to:

  • Offer community and mentorship for Black storytellers as they bring their stories to life and provide beloved books for children in today’s world.
  • Foster educator connections and bookseller/influencer networking to bring Black stories to growing audiences, fueling the impact sparked by Black creators.
  • Promote publisher collaborations to craft detailed, change-making, actionable programs of commitment and support for their Black authors, illustrators, and colleagues. Publisher teams will assess current states, see what’s working across the industry, and reimagine possibilities, all building toward a deliverable plan to effectively support and market the work of Black authors and illustrators.
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich talks about the program:


Please note: this schedule is a work in progress and we will be adding speakers and details as they are finalized.


February 24: Opening Celebration of Stories, Programs, and Commitment
Watch the celebration.

MARCH 2021
For Storytellers
Discover the 24 storytellers in the cohort

For Publishing Teams
Wednesday, March 31, 12:30pm Eastern
Panel: A Historical Perspective and Hope-filled Future of Black Stories and Storytellers
Panelists: Dr. Nancy Tolson (moderator), Edith Campbell, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, Wade and Cheryl Hudson and Dr. Kim Parker

Join us and hear from scholars, change-makers, and creatives. This 60 to 75 minute session will honor past books, Black authors, and Black artists, as we look to the future to amplify new Black stories and storytellers. During this first, open session, we will provide an overview of the publisher track, along with details about the first assignment for the course which includes responding to each of the four pillars of the The Brown Bookshelf’s Call to Action.

APRIL 2021
For Storytellers
Sunday, April 25, 7-9pm Eastern
Welcome, introductions and overview of program goals
Break into small groups for discussion on dreams, goals, and what storytellers need from the program
Back to whole group to share and discuss some ideas from the breakout rooms
Overview of program schedule and what to expect month-to-month and from the community forum
Q & A

For Publishing Teams
No live session
Team to gather: Past acquisitions, author relationships and support, and marketing plans

May 2021

For Storytellers
Wednesday, May 5, 7-9pm Eastern
Marketing Your Book: The Journey of a Book from Sale to Sales; Panel Discussion; and Small Group Q & A

For Publishing Teams
Wednesday, May 5, 12:30pm Eastern
Discoveries, Needs, Strengths, and Goals: A working session for industry teams.

June 2021

For Both Cohorts
Wednesday, June 2, 7-8:30pm Eastern
Publishing Organizations Working to Amplify Black Stories
Panel followed by small-group sessions

July 2021

For Both Cohorts
Wednesday, July 7, 7-8:30pm Eastern
Black influencers + Black Booksellers & Distributors Working to Amplify Black Stories
Panel followed by breakouts into cohorts

August 2021

For Storytellers
Wednesday, August 4, 7pm Eastern
School visits, Educator Guides, Speaker Agents, and Conference Proposals

For Publishing Teams
Wednesday, August 4, 12:30pm Eastern
How to Cultivate Relationships with Black Storytellers: Commitment, Calls for Submissions, and Hiring Practices
Panel followed by breakouts into cohorts

September 2021

For Both Cohorts
Wednesday, September 8, 7pm Eastern
Come together, share, and discuss ways we continue to work and move forward

October 2021

For Storytellers
Throughout October
Facilitated conversation based on needs with Fellows and facilitators

Wednesday, October 6, 7-9pm Eastern
Legal, Licensing, Rights, & Permissions, followed by Q & A

For Publishing Teams
Throughout October
Encouraged check-ins with pub teams and facilitators, as well as between pub participants from other houses.

Wednesday, October 6, 12:30pm Eastern

November 2021

For Both Cohorts
Wednesday, November 3, 7-8:30pm Eastern
The Measure of Amplify Black Stories
Come together, share, and discuss ways we continue to work and move forward.

The plans and relationships created during this program will outlast the program itself, creating transformative, palpable change that brings more Black stories to more children everywhere.

HarperCollins Children's Books

Benchmark Education     BloomsburyHighlightsCandlewick PressBoyds Mills and Kane

Stimola Literary Studio Charlesbridge Publishing WorkmanReycraft BooksRandom House Children's BooksAndrea Brown LiteraryPenguin Young Readers

     Children's Book Council      Lerner
Just Us BooksRenee WatsonGallt & Zacker Literary Agency
HachetteThe Authors GuildSerendipity Literary Agency


Cheryl Willis Hudson

Cheryl Willis Hudson is editorial director of Just Us Books, Inc., an independent publishing company that focuses on Black interest…
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Crystal Allen

Crystal Allen is the author of five middle-grade books, all published by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins.  Her accolades include the 2018…
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Ebony Elizabeth Thomas

Born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, Dr. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas taught in public schools for several years after graduating from…
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Edith Campbell

Edith Campbell is an Associate Education Librarian in the Cunningham Memorial Library at Indiana State University. She is a founding…
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Eileen Robinson

Eileen Robinson has worked with children’s writers all over the world for over twenty years. Former Executive Editor at Scholastic…
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Jalissa Corrie

Jalissa Corrie is a Marketing and Publicity Manager at Lee & Low Books, the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in…
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Jennifer Baker

Jennifer Baker is a publishing professional of almost 20 years, contributing editor to Electric Literature, creator/host of the Minorities in…
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Katura J. Hudson

Katura J. Hudson is a children’s book author, editor, and a communication strategist. A native of New Jersey and graduate…
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Kelly Starling Lyons

Kelly Starling Lyons is a founding member of The Brown Bookshelf, teaching artist and award-winning children’s book author. Her mission…
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Kimberly Parker

Dr. Kimberly N. Parker currently prepares preservice teachers as the Assistant Director of the Teacher Training Center at the Shady…
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Nancy D. Tolson

A proud product of the Detroit Public Schools, Dr. Nancy D. Tolson received her Masters and PhD from the University…
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Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich is the author of 8th Grade Superzero, a Notable Book for a Global Society and Notable Social Studies…
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Paula Chase-Hyman

Paula Chase-Hyman doesn’t mind being known as a Jane of all trades, Queen of none. But a single theme has…
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Phoebe Yeh

Phoebe knows a thing or two about finishing a manuscript. She and her team of editors are responsible for the estate…
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Regina Brooks

Regina Brooks is the founder and president of Serendipity Literary Agency LLC, based in Brooklyn, New York. Her agency has…
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Renée Watson

Renée Watson is a New York Times bestselling author, educator, and activist. Her young adult novel, Piecing Me Together (Bloomsbury,…
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Saraciea J. Fennell

Saraciea J. Fennell is the founder of The Bronx is Reading—Bronx Book Festival. She is also a book publicist who…
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Tracey Baptiste

Tracey Baptiste is the New York Times bestselling author of Minecraft: The Crash, as well as the creepy Caribbean series…
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Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Vanessa Brantley-Newton is a self-taught illustrator, doll maker, and crafter who studied fashion illustration at FIT and children’s book illustration…
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Wade Hudson

Wade Hudson’s career as a writer spans more than three decades. A native of Mansfield, Louisiana, he majored in political…
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Antwan Eady

Antwan Eady is a children’s author and a dreamer. Originally from Garnett, South Carolina, he’s now sharing those dreams with…
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Laura Pegram

Laura Pegram is the founding editor and publisher of the award winning literary magazine, Kweli Journal, and the director of…
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