US Black History Month: Macmillan Learning Awards ‘Black Stories’

In News by Porter Anderson

Three winning university students and three instructors are honored by a new ‘Black Stories’ program on issues of race and racism, equity and perception, an initiative of Macmillan Learning.

Charles Walker Jr. of Marymount University in his winning video for the ‘Black History, Black Stories competition. Image: Macmillan Learning

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Winner Charles Walker Jr.: ‘You Are Black History’
As annual Black History Month activities and events go forward in the United States, Macmillan Learning has opened and completed a new competition it intends to re-up as an annual event.

Called “Black History, Black Stories,” the program is interesting in part because it engages both college students and instructors who answer a call for input on how they’re “drawing inspiration from Black history, events, movements, or leaders.”

The program’s request for written and/or visual submissions read, in part, “In many respects, we are looking to African-American history to understand what has happened, what might happen, and how it may orient us in finding a better path forward.”

The winning entry, from Marymount University’s Charles Walker Jr. is a reflection on Colin Kaepernick (embedded below) and his positions and defiance as an activist and athlete.

“Black history is more than your Martin Luther Kings, your Rosa Parks, your Malcolm Xs,” Walker says in his three-minute piece.

“In fact, if you’re watching right now and you’re African-American? Then you are Black history.”

Winner Maddison Hill: ‘It’s not Enough To Be Non-Racist’

In her video, the University of Mobile’s Maddison Hill, talks to her camera about starting a club in response to police brutality and the deaths of Black Americans. she was told that three attempts to create a Black student union had failed. Hill persisted in forming Club Unity “to provide a safe space for Black students.”

She adds, “It’s also for white allies to come respectfully and ask questions and be educated, as well.

“Because it’s not enough to be non-racist. You have to be anti-racist.”

Elements of Competition

Submissions were juried by 10 Macmillan Learning employees who work in the company’s history group—you can see its lists here—and their work, of course, supports curriculum materials for university students.

Submitting students and instructors made their submissions during the autumn and were allowed to work either in short essays and photos or with video. Content that arrived, the company says, included stories around issues of slave descendants, contemporary activism, and more. Jurors worked in first-, second- and third-place categories.

The company awards US$1,000 to the first-place winning student and instructor; $500 to the second-place student and teacher, and $250 to the third-place winning student and instructor.

Riell Swann: ‘The Ticking Clock of Darker Skin’

Third-place winning student Riell Swann of Marymount works entirely in text, in an essay based in the dynamics of Black Lives Matter.

“These deaths strike home,” he writes of systemic racism and American law enforcement.

“When those sworn to the law choose not to protect you. Inconsequential. This is what they say to me when around every corner people of color asking to be seen.

“I am Black.”

Macmillan ‘Black History, Black Stories’ 2021 Winners

Student Winners

Student winners in the Macmillan program are, from left, Charles Walker, Maddison Hill, and Riell Swann

  • 1st Place: Charles Walker, Marymount University
  • 2nd Place: Maddison Hill, University of Mobile
  • 3rd Place:  Riell Swann, Marymount University
  • Honorable Mentions: Cyara Cooper and Kourtney Black

Instructor Winners

Instructor winners in the Macmillan competition are, from left, Bradley J. Borougerdi, Headley White, and Shiarnice Taylor

  • 1st Place: Bradley J. Borougerdi, PhD, Tarrant County College
  • 2nd Place: Headley White, PhD, Bethune-Cookman University
  • 3rd Place: Shiarnice Taylor, PhD, Houston Community College
  • Honorable Mentions: Peter Boykin, Wayne County Community College and Robert Davis of Wallace State College

One of the Macmillan jurors pointed out that Tarrant County College instructor Bradley J. Borougerdi’s video essay speaks “directly to how our study of history can motivate the actions we take toward influencing change in our present and future. He demonstrated the understanding that we cannot study history as outsiders who are removed from its truths, but instead must allow it to teach us about who we were, who we are, and who we want to be.”

On a special page set up for the winners’ announcements, you can review their writings and visual material to see their winning responses to Macmillan Learning’s call.

And here is the top winning video from Charles Walker Jr.

More from Publishing Perspectives on issues around race is here. More on education is here. More on Macmillan is here.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.