Many children’s book illustrators have joined forces with author and audio producer Julie Burstein and Pippin Properties creative director Holly McGhee, to make available images for posters that can be printed and carried by people marching in protest of the U.S. government’s recently rescinded policy of separating the children of undocumented immigrants from their families. The images can be downloaded at the newly launched website raisingourvoices.today, which is the brainchild of Burstein and McGhee, who are friends.
McGhee says she had been sharing protest art by friend and longtime Pippin client Edel Rodriguez on social media with “increasing frequency” in light of the public outcry against the separation of families and detainment of children. “He came over from Cuba as a boy on the Mariel Boatlift, and here he was using his freedom of speech to protect all of us,” said McGhee. “I was so inspired.”
Burstein, who follows McGhee on social media noted, “When I saw the haunting Edel Rodriguez image that Holly posted on Facebook, inspired by the Goya painting “Saturn Devouring His Children,” I was so moved, and wanted to figure out a way to share it.” She said the image brought to mind another recent protest campaign. “I immediately thought of my friend Laura Silverman’s powerful and heartbreaking poster and postcard campaign, ‘Portraits of Parkland,’ which Laura created in response to the Parkland murders,” Burstein said. “I reached out to Holly to see if we might do the same thing with artwork from illustrators.”
That motivation quickly grew into a more organized activist effort. “When Julie wrote to me, it was like a door opening,” said McGhee. “I believe in the power of resistance through the arts, and the fit was perfect because our agency represents both authors and illustrators. So many of them wanted to do something, anything, and the posters started coming in very fast.” McGhee said that there is a range of posters available now. “Some are harder hitting, some more gentle, some focused for children to carry, but all are incredibly gripping,” she said. “We’ve received posters from outside the agency too.” In addition to Rodriguez, participating illustrators include 2018 Newbery Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly, Peter H. Reynolds (whose poster is specifically designed for children to carry), Sujean Rim, Marc Rosenthal, and Alison Farrell.
Burstein admits that she “wrestled with WordPress” to create the site, something outside of her expertise. She consulted with Silverman to work through how to best share the images. McGhee knew they had to figure out how to print the posters in a way that was accessible to all. As a test run, McGhee’s husband uploaded a poster through the Staples website and then picked it up at their local Staples store. He also created step-by-step instructions on how to do this, which are posted on raisingourvoices.today.
“My family got involved too,” said Burstein. “I was out of town, so last Friday [June 22] my husband printed out several images and we carried them to a protest in Montclair, N.J., on Saturday morning. So many fellow marchers commented and asked to take photos, including one woman who said, ‘A little Goya goes a long way.’ ” When Burstein and her family got home from the protest, she made the site live. “The response has been really heartening,” she said.
“Yes, we launched during ALA,” said McGhee, noting that because she attended the conference she was running back to her hotel room whenever possible to work on the site development. According to McGhee, word of their endeavors quickly spread during the conference via social media, with people using the hashtags #raisingourvoices, #familiesbelongtogether, #wherearethechildren, and #keepfamiliestogether. By Wednesday afternoon, June 27, close to 200 posters had been downloaded in just four days. She expects that “quite a few” will be on display at the New York City march on Saturday.
Burstein and McGhee said they plan to offer posters on other crucial topics via their site in the future. The duo is working on a larger postcard campaign, but “more immediately, within the next week, we plan to create postcards that can easily be printed out to send to elected officials and the CEOs of companies that are profiting from the human misery this terrible policy has created,” they said in a joint note to PW. “We also hope to have postcards of sunnier images soon that can be sent to children held in detention, through Senator Dick Durbin’s campaign to have children write to those in detention.”
But Burstein and McGhee point out that there’s no need to wait until those postcards are ready to send an encouraging message to children separated from their family. The program that Durbin is promoting receives mail at the Unaccompanied Alien Children program in the office of Refugee Resettlement: UAC/ORR Program, Attn: Cards for Kids, 330 C Street, SW, 5th floor, Washington, D.C. 20201.