New kid on the block: author Jerry Craft discusses inclusivity

Chloe Choi, Contributing Writer

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Sixth grade English classes eagerly poured into the Recital Hall this past Thursday for an assembly highlighting guest speaker Jerry Craft, a successful American cartoonist and children’s book author. In the sixth grade curriculum’s recently implemented Seminar on Identity (SOI), students were tasked with  reading one of Craft’s books, New Kid, which discusses the experiences and assumptions a new middle school student faces.

During the assembly, Craft shared details about his life and the journey of overcoming hardships due to his race which eventually led to his major success. He spoke about the degrading assumptions and prejudice he faced on a daily basis, being only one of ten African American students in his entire Fieldston class.

Middle Division (MD) librarian Rachael Ricker thought that considering students are learning about microaggressions, she hopes that having Craft speak about his life and experiences as a ‘new kid’ will fit and assimilate well with everyone, she said. “It’s always more powerful and meaningful to have an author actually come in and meet students,” she said.

Daniel Pustilnik (7) was especially excited to speak to Craft and feels that it’s so important for all students to fully understand the power of assumptions, and to always think twice before making one, he said. Rayhana Choudhury (6) has faced many of the same experiences as Craft, and found New Kid to be exceptionally relatable, she said. “I was surprised to see that there are so many people going through the same struggles as me, and it feels really good to know that I’m not alone,” she said.

Craft would like to offer a word of advice for those who are going through the same struggles as he did in middle school, he said. “It’s crucial to find people who are more like you and respect you,” he said. “Always make sure to embrace your differences. You should never change yourself to fit other people’s expectations or views.”

“I find Mr. Craft to be really inspiring,” Olivia Coward (6) said. “He turned the bad experiences in his life into something great that also helps others. Also, when all publishers turned him down, he never gave up and created his own publishing company.”

After the assembly, many MD students joined Craft in the library during their lunch periods to ask him questions and talk about any experiences they may have gone through as well.

Neeva Patel (7) was among the numerous students who joined Craft during D and E periods. She hopes that after the assembly, all students will be more mindful of the consequences and effects their assumptions have on people, she said. “Our community should work to accept everyone’s differences and be more aware of how we treat and perceive people,” she said.

“I particularly liked how Mr. Craft drew while still talking about really serious topics, he was really engaging and interesting to listen to and watch,” Coward said.

Following the assembly, Craft hopes that New Kid can work to open up more conversations. “These topics seem to make people uncomfortable, especially middle schoolers, so I hope that everyone will begin to realize and respect differences after today,” he said.