Friday, January 20, 2017

Q&A with April Ryan

April Ryan is the author of the new book At Mama's Knee: Mothers and Race in Black and White. She also has written The Presidency in Black and White. She is the White House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Network, and she lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

Q: You begin your new book with a discussion of "the talk" between African American fathers and sons, and you write, "I want to explore the opposite side of the parental conversation. What does mama say about race to her sons and daughters?" How would you answer that?

A: Mothers and fathers deal with the race talk in different ways. In At Mama's Knee I spoke with many prominent African Americans who share how their parents talked with them (or didn't) and how that influenced the way they interact with their own children.

From famous politicians and actors to everyday people caught in extreme circumstances, they all had stories to share. One thing they all agree on is that "the talk" is necessary in today's society, regardless of how it is delivered. It's a matter of survival.

Q: In the book, you write, "The stories of Black males being killed by police have been detailed for decades in the Black media and by word of mouth. Only recently has the mainstream media begun to tell the tale..." What do you think the impact of this coverage has been?

A: Social media has played a large part in giving more exposure to stories of racial injustice and police brutality. The fact that people can film these horrible events and post them online helps give a voice to many who would otherwise not have one.

We all know law enforcement is a tough job, but that doesn't give anyone the right to treat others unfairly and without dignity, especially when it has become clear that young black men are often unfairly singled out because of their skin color.

Q: Throughout the book, you describe your own mother. What do you see as her legacy, and was she the inspiration for this book?

A: She was and continues to be an inspiration for me and as a result, she certainly inspired this book.

The goal of these stories is to bring more attention to what is happening to people of color and hopefully with awareness will come change. My mother was involved in education and would be very proud if this book is able to help make a difference and bring about real change.

Q: As a White House correspondent, what do you see looking ahead when it comes to racial issues in this country?

A: I've always thought that things would gradually get better in this country, but that hasn't been the case. After the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, it seemed that finally change was coming, but every new decade appears to bring with it more challenges to overcome.

Despite all of that and all of the incidents that have made headlines recently, I still have hope that we are going to come together as a country and learn how to respect and appreciate our differences.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Of course with the new administration I'm busy covering the changes at the White House, and I'm also traveling around the country and sharing these important stories.

Also, believe it or not, I've already started my third book project. There is just so much to say and with all of the positive feedback I've received, it helps me to realize that people are hungry for this type of information and these inspiring stories. It gives me hope that things will get better.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: No matter what your political beliefs or personal convictions, everyone should remember that none of us understands what another person is dealing with so we should try to be open and tolerant.

Maybe take the time to listen to someone's stories and learn from them. It could be an eye-opening experience and maybe that one interaction will give you insight into someone else's world.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. For a previous Q&A with April Ryan, please click here.


  1. Deborah,

    I'm inspired by this passage from your interview with April Ryan: "I still have hope that we are going to come together as a country and learn how to respect and appreciate our differences."

  2. I just finished reading The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, whom I was fortunate enough to meet at the SCBWILAMS JambaLAya conference. Her YA book ends with the same message of hope.

    1. Interesting, Kathy--I will look for that book!