The Dallas Examiner
Children of all ages along with their parents filled the Angelika Film Center on Jan. 23 for the 32nd Annual Kid Film Festival. As part of the USA Film Festival, the two-day festival is the oldest and largest children’s film festival in the United States and free to the community. It allows children of all ages to come together to celebrate diversity and creativity through films, music and books.
Some of the artists in attendance were author Kate McMullan and illustrator Jim McMullan, author Katherine Paterson, and singer and songwriter Lisa Loeb.
Actor and author Taye Diggs, known for his roles in The Best Man, How Stella Got Her Groove Back and the Broadway musical Rent, was the featured guest during the “Mixed Me! A read-along session with Taye Diggs and Shane Evans” on Saturday afternoon, along with illustrator Shane Evan, who has illustrated over 30 books.
Diggs was unable to attend because he was under the weather, so Evans conducted the read along alone. The session focused on Diggs’ latest children’s book, Mixed Me! The book is about a confident energetic boy named Mike, who is the son of an African American man and Caucasian woman.
“We mixed you perfectly, and got you just right,” Mike’s parents tell him.
Mike embraces his big curly hair and caramel cappuccino colored skin. He celebrates everything that makes him different.
“And if they care too much about my hair too much that it’s not straight enough, I say it’s MY HAIR, don’t touch!” Mike said.
The book teaches multi-race children who may constantly get questioned about their appearance to embrace what makes them different, have confidence and love themselves. It also teaches children to celebrate diversity.
Diggs’ first book, entitled Chocolate Me!, was based on his own personal experiences of growing up with a dark complexion.
“I remember my head hadn’t grown into my ears yet, and this boy use to make fun of my ears. Eventually I got into it and told him these are my ears. Don’t worry about my ears, worry about your own ears. I think over time you just gotta embrace yourself, you have to love yourself. That’s what Chocolate Me! is all about. It’s Taye’s real life story. He was 5 and that inspiration came to him. We actually started that book when we were in college, but we didn’t actually publish the book until a little bit later,” Evans said.
After the birth of his son Walker, who is both African American and Caucasian, Diggs decided to write Mixed Me! There has been some controversy surrounding the book because Diggs wants his son to be able to choose which side he wants to be referred to and not solely be identified as an African American.
During the read-along session, Evans shared his own life journey. He and Diggs graduated together from Syracuse University. After that, he began working at Hallmark and traveling the globe. His travels to Asia, Africa and South America have influenced his artwork.
“I’m the little dreamer, I’ve been doing this since I was 5 years old. I’ve been drawing since I was little and I just kept going, nothing could stop me,” Evans revealed.
Evans then encouraged the children to follow their dreams and never give up.
“I can see a whole bunch of gifted human beings in this room. You just got to share a little bit of what you know wherever you go,” Evans said.