Anti-Gang Literature for the Little Ones
Much is made about the gang epidemic in the Black community. Children are constantly bombarded with images of violence in the media and in their own neighborhoods. In the Black community, many of the role models the children admire are gang members and drug dealers.
Often, law-abiding citizens are left helpless to protect their children from the negative images they see on a daily basis. However, Ralph Burgess, founder of Burgess Publishing and Media, is on a mission to destroy that helpless mentality in the Black community by releasing children’s books with an anti-gang message.
Since being featured on NBC’s Today Show in July 2006, Burgess’ book Cool Calvin’s No Bandanas for Me-Staying Gang-Free Anti-Gang Children’s Book has been read in over 600 classrooms across the country, selling over 30,000 copies in the last year. In addition, Burgess recently entered into a distribution deal with Sussman Sales, which has provided distribution of children’s books to New York City schools since 1973.
“These are the type of deals you hope for as a publisher,” said Burgess. “It feels great to know that decision makers have confidence in your material enough to make such a significant purchase.”
Cool Calvin has a third grade readability and is marketed to grades two through six with an accompanying teacher’s guide.
“I like the fact that it’s written from a peer to peer point of view,” said New Jersey’s Secretary of State Nina M. Wells. “I like the fact it addresses character education. We really have failed to teach core values. If those things were emphasized more, you wouldn’t have a gang problem.”
Not only is the book a hit with school administrators and Black community leaders, but it is also extremely popular with the children.
“I was stopped in the hall by one of our intervention teachers who shared how enthusiastically our students have been reading (Cool Calvin),” said Louis Barrett, school social worker at Brehm Elementary School in Baltimore. “She expressed amazement that she actually had to ask students to put [the] book away, since that’s all they want to read. She noticed many of the third through fifth graders reading No Bandanas for Me and her excitement was evident. Several of our parents applauded us for purchasing [the] book for our students since they recognize that gang activity is a growing problem in this community.”
However, two cities (Chicago and Los Angeles) with a rampant gang problem in the Black community have not gotten on the Cool Calvin bandwagon by purchasing books for their school systems.
“There are no two cities in the country where [the Black community has] been held hostage by gang activity more than Chicago and Los Angeles. I hope a purchase like this will make educators take a deeper look at the huge educational advantages the book has to offer,” said Burgess.
Burgess has also written an anti-gang book for young adults entitled Mo, The Pallbearer.
Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.