Black authors and illustrators tell students what it takes to be creative

At the age of 9, Derrick Barnes filled pages and pages of notebooks with short stories teeming with odd characters. As a teen, those stories evolved into rap songs which then graduated to poems and love letters in his young adult years.

Now, as a children’s book author, he creates “positive images” in his series, “Ruby and the Booker Boys,” for children of color to emulate, he said.

But to make a greater impact, he added, he travels, spreading the word to youngsters about the importance and power of prose.

Beginning tomorrow, Barnes will join three other noted African American creative minds at five of the district’s Promise Academies to talk about their professions and answer questions on what it takes to achieve success in the literary world.

“I want to be an example of what they can do in their life,” Barnes said today from his home in Kansas City, Mo.

“You can do this too. I come from the same background,” he said.

His whole life he says has been dedicated to reading and creating stories. He credits his love of literature to the mother who raised him and his older brother on her own.

Though he always enjoyed reading and writing, it wasn’t until he turned 21-year-old did he realize he could pursue his dream of becoming an author, after meeting for the first time a black author.

“I’m conscious of my social contribution as an artist,” he said. “I hope to inspire someone to become an author who didn’t that was a possibility for them.”

Details of the program are below:


- Potter-Thomas Elementary, 3001 N. 6th St., with Cartoonist/author Jerry Craft, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.


- Ethel Allen Elementary, 3200 W. Lehigh Ave., Cartoonist/author Jerry Craft, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and Dinah Johnson, author of "Black Magic and Hair Dance," from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

- University City High School, 3601 Filbert St., L. Divine, author of the "Drama High Series" from 12:00 p.m. to 2 p.m.

- Paul L. Dunbar Elementary, 1750 N. 12th St., with Derrick Barnes, author of the "Ruby and the Booker Boys" series and "We Could Be Brothers," from 10:00 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Cartoonist/author Jerry Craft, from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

- Robert Vaux High School, 2300 W. Master St., with Derrick Barnes from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.