On October 24th, the Children’s Media Association hosted an exceptional panel of storytellers as they spoke on the defining moments that brought them into the children’s media world and how they found their voices. Carly Ciarrocchi (Weird but True) hosted the event with storytellers Josh Dela Cruz (Blues Clues & You!), Kay Wilson Stallings (Sesame Workshop), Marley Dias (#1000BlackGirlBooks), and Princess Daazhraii Johnson (Molly of Denali) as our storytellers! Dan and Claudia Zanes also joined us to provide wonderful musical numbers. The focus point of the event was the impact of using our voice towards a goal that defines us.
Carly started off by allowing attendees to join in a group humming session as an exercise in finding their own voices. She emphasized the importance of finding your voice especially in times when we find a message that needs to be amplified. Dan and Claudia followed up this exercise by playing their song “Let Love Be Your Guide” from their Social Isolation Song Series.
Marley Dias was the first speaker to tell her story and it was truly an inspiration in every sense of the word. She spoke on how her main goal was to make contributions to the world and how the books she read at a younger age helped open doors to different experiences and perspectives. She carried this mindset into her passion project “#1000BlackGirlBooks,” where she collected and donated more than 11,000 books with a female black leading character. Her mission for #1000BlackGirlBooks stemmed from her disappointment in the books she read in school that really only showed her a window to one type of character. Marley is a major advocate for social change, and hopes to place more books in the hands of young readers that show a multitude of relatable stories.
Following Marley, Josh began his story with an enthusiastic rendition of the Blue’s Clues MailTime song, ending in a powerful “MAIIIIIIL.” Josh spoke on how much fun he thought Steve was having on the original Blues Clues and how he made it his goal to achieve the same level of fun in his own work. He spent his career as an actor portraying different characters and roles but he realized he wasn’t expressing his true self in his work. His role on Blues Clues &You! gave him the opportunity to do so and find his own personal voice.
Dan and Claudia played us into our next speaker with their song “Let It Shine!”
Kay Wilson Stallings was our next speaker and she began by showing her love for libraries through a story focused on the novel Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. She spoke on how she found comfort within this book and later helped others find their way to reading it. She regarded the Sesame Workshop Writers’ Room as her proudest achievement as it helps employ and connect writers with the opportunities to be seen and work with other talents.
Our final storyteller, Princess Daazhraii Johnson spoke on the difficulties she faced growing up feeling invisible. She learned early on that no one would speak up for her and that she needed to find a way to break the cycle of racism she endured. Her statement on ending the indoctrination of young people into an education of false history has stuck with me, and I truly believe it’s a crucial point for reform.
Dan and Claudia played us out for the night with their song “Rock Island Line,” and it left me with a feeling of calm reflection as I replayed the stories of the speakers in my mind. Inspiration comes in so many forms, and it was impactful to me to hear that stories of a seemingly small thing like a book or a song can inspire such a drastic change in an individual.