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Philly Heroes: Free to Be

With the Liberty Bell as their guide, readers meet Philadelphia heroes with messages of inclusion and inspiration to be themselves.

Photo of Courtney Mather

Written by

Philly Heroes: Free to Be (please see attached manuscript in .pdf format)

Philly is where you can see,
Liberty Bell. That is me!
 
I share these words, near and far:
Be free to be who you are!
 
Philly Heroes show us how,
Let’s go meet a few right now.
 
Marian Anderson!
She sang her songs,
Her spirit, strong.
 
SING! And let your song reach far,
Free to be just who you are!
 
Octavius Catto!
He saw what’s true,
And spoke it, too.
 
SPEAK! And let your words reach far,
Free to be just who you are!
 
Michael Hinson!
He lets love see
Equality.
 
LOVE! And let your love reach far,
Free to be just who you are!
 
Rebecca Cole!
She did great deeds,
Helped those with needs.
 
HELP! And let your help reach far;
Free to be just who you are!
 
Peter Biar Ajak!
He speaks for peace,
Hopes war will cease.
 
HOPE! And let your hope reach far,
Free to be just who you are!
 
William Penn!
Helped all to pray,
In their own way.

GIVE THANKS! And let your thanks reach far,
Free to be just who you are!
 
Sing, speak, love, help. hope, and pray.
Be free to be, your own way!

The End.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Author's Note: Bios

The Liberty Bell: A symbol of freedom commissioned in 1751 to honor the 50 year anniversary of Pennsylvania's first constitution. Originally the "State House Bell," it was renamed the "Liberty Bell" by abolitionists in 1837. Reportedly cracked on first use, the Liberty Bell became unringable in 1846. The Liberty Bell is now tapped gently in honor of important occasions like Martin Luther King Day and the 4th of July.

Marian Anderson: A legendary opera singer who overcame racism by performing to 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial after being denied use of Constitution Hall in 1939. The Marian Anderson Historical Residence Museum in Philadelphia preserves her legacy in the house she bought in 1924. 

Octavius Catto: A prominent civil rights advocate, educator and athlete in Philadelphia. Among countless other accomplishments, Catto was instrumental in desegregating trolley cars, advocating for the needs of African American students, and prohibiting racial discrimination in voting. The Octavius V. Catto Memorial at Philadelphia City Hall honors his legacy.

Michael Hinson: A pioneering advocate for inclusion and Philadelphia’s first LGBT liaison and champion (initiator of gender identity protection, founder of health services for black LGBTQ communities, and co-founder of Philadelphia Black Gay Pride). Hinson currently serves as the Director of Policy and Programs for the International Federation of Black Prides, Inc. in Washington, D.C.

Rebecca Cole: The second African American M.D. in the United States and a pioneer in providing access to medical and legal services for women and children in need. Cole is honored in the Innovators Walk of Fame at Innovation Plaza in Philadelphia.

Peter Biar Ajak: A former “Lost Boy” of South Sudan who was resettled to Philadelphia and became a youth advocate for peace and a human rights defender. At the time of writing, he is detained in South Sudan with international efforts for his release underway.

William Penn: Founder of the province of Pennsylvania, the city of Philadelphia (as the "City of Brotherly Love"), and advocate for religious freedom. Penn's principles informed the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights. The William Penn statue rests atop the Philadelphia City Hall tower.





Describe the intended vision for your early childhood book manuscript in 1-2 sentences

As a former therapist, I've seen that it's never too early for children (or too late for adults) to receive encouragement to be and value themselves. "Philly Heroes" provides a playful space for children and caregivers alike to receive inspiration from legendary urban role models and to return again and again for more. Use of rhyme, repetition, urban history/role models, and potential for caregiver/child interaction provide different learning angles, promoting an early start to literacy.

Share your suggested book title

Philly Heroes: Free to Be

PLEASE USE THE VERSION OF THIS QUESTION AT THE TOP OF THE SUBMISSION FORM: Share a draft of your manuscript (250 word limit, not including title).

Philly is where you can see, Liberty Bell. That is me! I share these words, near and far: Be free to be who you are! Philly Heroes show us how, Let’s go meet a few right now. Marian Anderson! She sang her songs, Her spirit, strong. SING! And let your song reach far, Free to be just who you are! Octavius Catto! He saw what’s true, And spoke it, too. SPEAK! And let your words reach far, Free to be just who you are! Michael Hinson! He lets love see Equality. LOVE! And let your love reach far, Free to be just who you are! Rebecca Cole! She did great deeds, Helped those with needs. HELP! And let your help reach far; Free to be just who you are! Peter Biar Ajak! He speaks for peace, Hopes war will cease. HOPE! And let your hope reach far, Free to be just who you are! William Penn! Helped all to pray, In their own way. GIVE THANKS! And let your thanks reach far, Free to be just who you are! Sing, speak, love, help. hope, and pray. Be free to be, your own way!

How has this book been informed by early childhood language development research and evidence? (response minimum 250 Characters)

This book has been informed by the contest resource list and webinars as well as outside resources for ages 0-3. Use of rhyme, repetition, Tier 1 (with occasional Tier 2) vocabulary, and the opportunities for caregiver/children interaction during the story are prioritized in order to promote an early start to literacy. Each exclamation (e.g. SING! SPEAK!, etc.) offers potential for interaction, fun, and play. As in the Amari series, "serve and return" could also be further developed with an accompanying guide for caregivers; it could provide question ideas relevant for each development phase (6m-1y, 1-2y, 2-3y), thereby helping the child and book grow together. As an additional learning opportunity, Philadelphia residents can go visit the Liberty Bell and sites that honor many of the heroes. I also see potential for this story to be a song (a musical history lesson), used with a bell (see video) symbolically as the Liberty Bell no longer rings, and further developed into a book series.

Please describe any familiarity you may have with Philadelphia and its residents? (optional question)

I grew up 45 minutes from Philadelphia and still vividly remember the first time I saw the Liberty Bell as a small child (back in the day when we could actually walk up and touch it!). I've always been captivated by Philadelphia's history, its messages of freedom, equality, and inclusion, and the courage and bravery of its legendary heroes. Growing up with Philly TV stations, news, and sports not only familiarized me with Philadelphia and its residents, it also helped me feel like part of the greater Philadelphia community.

How have you crafted this manuscript to resonate with and/or reflect the experiences of those living in urban contexts? (optional question)

I hope readers will benefit by learning about urban heroes and their messages of freedom, equality and inclusion. Like the Challenge Personas, these heroes were either born in Philadelphia or resettled there. Having faced seemingly insurmountable odds, each hero also offers a powerful example of courage, strength, and resilience. I would be delighted if this book inspired children and caregivers to read, learn about and from Philadelphia's heroes, and spend time together visiting sites like the Liberty Bell Center, the Marian Anderson Historical Residence Museum, the Octavius V. Catto Memorial, the Innovators Walk of Fame (Rebecca Cole, 2015 honoree), and the William Penn statue.

Location: Country

I am from the US but work mainly in Geneva, Switzerland and Africa as an international aid worker.

Location: City

Geneva, Switzerland

Tell us more about you / your team

I am a writer, international humanitarian worker, and coach. Having grown up 45 minutes from Philadelphia, I find myself captivated by its rich history, its heroes, and the symbolism of the Liberty Bell. As my work has often taken me far from home and into conflict areas, I find inspiration in Philadelphia's messages of freedom, equality and inclusion. In addition, I've long hoped to write a children's book inspiring children about inclusivity and being themselves. Thank you for this opportunity to merge these interests!

Provide an example visual identity for a look and feel you might like to achieve. ( (optional question, 3-5 visuals)

Here are ideas of illustrations that resonate with and inspire me. Part of the excitement of this project for me, however, would be to see how an illustrator's creativity would help bring the story to life.

Multiple Choice - Have you been previously published (online, self-published, and print included)?

  • Yes

If yes, please list titles and publications.

In magazines as a freelance writer, never before as a children's book author. Most recently: "Somehow" (http://middleburymagazine.com/road-taken/somehow); "Massage in the Midst of South Sudan's Civil War" (https://www.massagemag.com/massage-midst-south-sudans-civil-war-84010/)

Do you have an agent?

  • No

How did you hear about the Challenge? (optional question)

  • OpenIDEO announcement email

What best describes you? (optional question)

  • I am/we are creatives, writers, or artists

Attachments (1)

Philly Heroes.pdf

Full visual representation of the book idea

15 comments

Join the conversation:

Comment
Photo of Dawnnbooks .
Team

Nicely done!!
Powerful.
Wasn't Marian Anderson African American too???

Photo of Courtney Mather
Team

Wow, thank you so much Dawnnbooks. Yes and today is actually 80 years since her incredible concert at the Lincoln Memorial (April 9, 1939)!

https://6abc.com/society/once-in-a-hundred-years-the-life-and-legacy-of-marian-anderson-to-air-sunday/5236087/

Photo of Dawnnbooks .
Team

I know the name through my mum.
May I suggest that you add that to her bio?

It's there for Rebecca Cole and Peter Biar Ajak, but not Anderson.

Just a thought.

Photo of Courtney Mather
Team

Thank you so much for your suggestion and encouragement; I'm very grateful. You really inspired me to go back and expand the bios to better represent this (Octavius Catto and Michael Hinson included) and I welcome your feedback on the changes. I can see you are a powerful part of the positive environment in this community and I look forward to spending time enjoying your entries!

Photo of Dawnnbooks .
Team

Thank you.
I hope you enjoy and I look forward to your feedback.

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