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One Book Baltimore Features Hometown Writer In Third Year

D. Watkins’ We Speak for Ourselves: A Word from Forgotten Black America Selected for 2020-2021 School Year

October 1, 2020

Baltimore, MD – One Book Baltimore returns for a third year featuring Baltimore’s own D. Watkins and his book We Speak for Ourselves: A Word from Forgotten Black America. One Book Baltimore seeks to promote literacy for Baltimore City 7th and 8th graders, and facilitate city-wide dialogue with their families and community members by reading the same book. Watkins will be introduced as the One Book Baltimore writer during a virtual event with students at 10 am this Thursday, October 8. The broadcast will be available for media via this Zoom link with the passcode 697864.

Pioneered by the T. Rowe Price Foundation, One Book Baltimore is a collaboration between the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore City Public Schools, and other community partners. The program was recently runner up for the 2020 Penguin Random House Library Award for Innovation.

Copies of We Speak for Ourselves will be distributed to all City Schools 7th and 8th -graders. The book is a powerful collection of essays and stories centered on Watkins’ East Baltimore neighborhood.

“Having my work selected for One Book Baltimore is an honor, and the highlight of my career,” says D. Watkins “Don’t get me wrong, winning awards, being on TV and touring is great; but, One Book Baltimore will give so many students from my city— some from schools I even walked the halls of— the opportunity to read, study and have complex conversations about the love and pain that exists in our current climate and work toward attainable solutions that could potentially make our world a better place. That’s all I’ve ever dreamed of. I’ll be forever grateful.”

Throughout the fall and winter, Watkins will conduct virtual school visits during which he will talk about the book and answer questions from the students.

"One Book Baltimore aligns perfectly with our Blueprint focus on literacy. D. Watkins is a native son recognized nationally and internationally who still finds time to be present in our schools. He spends time in our classrooms and gives book talks. He walks the talk and is respected in the writing community and in neighborhoods," said City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises. “Sharing We Speak for Ourselves will help our students to connect with each other and their schools during this time of potential isolation. We are grateful to all of our partners for collaborating on such a rewarding program.”

“2020 has been a difficult year by any measure, which is why we’re particularly excited about the opportunities One Book Baltimore offers for dialogue, connection, and healing,” says John Brothers, president of T. Rowe Price Foundation. “One Book Baltimore is in its third year, and we’ve had opportunity to assess its impact. On the whole, survey findings point to the value of this programming and its ability stimulate safe discussion, reduce stigma, and prompt opportunities for youth to share their experiences. We’re proud that One Book Baltimore continues to help support youth and the community in this way.”

Virtual programs surrounding the themes of We Speak for Ourselves will be offered on Pratt Library platforms.

“D. Watkins has always been such a great friend of the library, and we’re honored to have him as the One Book Baltimore writer this year,” says Pratt Library President & CEO Heidi Daniel. “I know his words and message will resonate with young people across Baltimore.”

Previous One Book Baltimore authors include National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Jason Reynolds and New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone.

One Book Baltimore is a collaboration between the T. Rowe Price Foundation, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore City Public Schools, and other community partners including Maryland Humanities, Baltimore Ceasefire 365, Maryland Book Bank, the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, and JHU Brain Science Institute.

WBAL-TV11 is the media sponsor of One Book Baltimore.

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About D. Watkins

D. Watkins is Editor at Large for Salon. His work has been published in the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, The Guardian, Rolling Stone, and other publications. He holds a Master’s in Education from Johns Hopkins University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Baltimore.

He is a college lecturer at the University of Baltimore and founder of the BMORE Writers Project, and has also been the recipient of numerous awards including the BMe Genius Grant, and the Ford’s Men of Courage. Watkins was also a finalist for the Hurston Wright Legacy Award and Books for A Better Life. He has lectured at countless universities, and events, around the world. Watkins has been featured as a guest and commentator on NBC’s Meet the Press, CNN’s The Erin Burnett Show, Democracy Now and NPR’s Monday Morning, among other shows.

Watkins is from and lives in Baltimore. He is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America and The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir and We Speak for Ourselves: A Word from Forgotten Black America.

About We Speak For Ourselves

The latest from award-winning author D. Watkins, We Speak for Ourselves is an existential look at life in low-income black communities, while also offering a new framework for how we can improve the conversations occurring about them.

About One Book Baltimore

One Book Baltimore launched in 2018 and is a collaboration between the T. Rowe Price Foundation, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore City Public Schools, and other community partners including Maryland Humanities, Baltimore Ceasefire 365, Maryland Book Bank, the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, and JHU Brain Science Institute. The program provides opportunities for Baltimore City 7th and 8th graders, their families, and community members to connect through literature by reading the same book. Discussions and programming are held in conjunction to spark conversations focused on peace and how to promote change in our community. For more information, go to www.prattlibrary.org/onebook.