An illustrated book telling the true story of a whimsical & effective retort to a racist rally. The KKK meets the Coup Clutz Clowns...
An illustrated book by David LaMotte, Illustrations by Jenn Hales
The excitement about the book has been so extraordinary that we've decided to go from an initial printing of 2500 copies to an initial printing of 10,000 copies! That's because of your enthusiasm. Thank you! And there's much more fun news in the video above.
And by the way, several people have asked how to pre-order multiple copies of the book. Thanks for asking! By popular demand, we have added some rewards called "Just books!" that allow you to just buy multiple copies of the books, at the $105 and $205 level. Scroll through the options at the right to check them out.
If you would like to see a video of the poem in Atlanta a few weeks ago, click here. You can read the poem at the bottom of this page, just scroll down.
White Flour tells the true story of a whimsical and effective response by counter-protesters to a white supremacists' march in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2007. The Coup Clutz Clowns, a group of local anti-racism activists, used humor and non-violence to reveal the silliness of the march, vanquishing hatred with laughter.
The clowns slightly altered the supremacists' chants to make them a bit... better. As the hooded marchers shouted "white power!" the clowns joined right in, shouting "white flour!" and pulling out bags of the stuff they had brought from home for a flour fight. They walked a bit farther and decided they had heard wrong, and that the klansmen must be shouting "white flowers!" so they shouted that, and passed flowers out to the crowd ...and it gets better from there (the full text of the poem is below). The point is that rather than shouting down the shouters, meeting rage with rage, they simply refused to take such foolishness seriously. Fight and flight are not our only two options, and humor, it turns out, beats hatred. At least it did on that day.
The art and the rhyme...
The illustrations for the book are by Jenn Hales, an artist based in Raleigh, NC. Jenn manages to miraculously hold the whimsy and the humor of the event in tandem with its seriousness, not letting the darkness deflate the laughter or the humor undercut the story's important message.
I wrote the poem that provides the text for the book in a boxy, Dr. Seussian rhyme scheme in an effort to echo the content with the form—with just a touch of silliness.
Who the book is for...
The book targets middle school age children up through adults. At an age where children are old enough to take in the harsh reality that organizations like the KKK exist, and are also ready to be exposed to some principles of non-violence and some of its success stories. Having performed the poem at live concerts for several years now, I can attest that adults react strongly to it as well.
What's most amazing about this tale, though, is that it is true. Though the story was largely missed by the mainstream media when it happened, it is a story that needs to be told, as it demonstrates the power of non-violence and humor in the struggle against bigotry and hatred. It's funny, historical, instructive, and inspiring. We're hoping that it might even prove worthy of some national media attention. The book will be released on the five year anniversary of the rally that inspired it.
If you have any questions, there is a "message" button above. I'd love to hear from you, and I will get back to you as quickly as possible.
If you love this idea, please spread the word to your friends on Facebook, by email, passing notes in class or whichever means of communication is your favorite, and click the "like" button above. Do you know anyone who would love this? Please let them know about it. If you feel like chipping in, I'll be deeply grateful, and Jenn and I will welcome you as our partner in making this dream a reality.
The day was bright and sunny as most May days tend to be
In the hills of Appalachia, down in Knoxville, Tennessee
A dozen men put on their suits and quickly took their places
In white robes and those tall and pointed hoods that hid their faces
Their feet fell down in rhythm as they started their parade
They raised their fists into the air, they bellowed and they brayed
They loved to stir the people up, they loved when they were taunted
They didn’t mind the anger—it’s exactly what they wanted
As they came around the corner, sure enough the people roared
But they couldn’t quite believe their ears, it seemed to be… support!
Had Knoxville finally seen the light? Were people coming ‘round?
The men thought for a moment that they’d found their kind of town
But then they turned their eyes to where the cheering had its source
As one their shoulders crumpled when they saw the mighty force
The crowd had painted faces and some had tacky clothes
Their hair and hats outrageous, each had a red foam nose
The clowns had come in numbers to enjoy the grand parade
They laughed and danced that other clowns had come to town that day
And then the marchers shouted, and the clowns all strained to hear
Each one tuned in intently with a gloved hand to an ear
“White power!” screamed the marchers, and they raised their fisted hands
The clowns leaned in and listened like they couldn’t understand
Then one held up his finger and helped all the others see
The point of all this yelling, and they joined right in with glee
“White flour!” the clowns shouted, and they reached inside their clothes
They pulled out bags and tore them and huge clouds of powder rose
They poured it on each other and they threw it in the air
It got all over baggy clothes and multi-colored hair
Now all but just a few of them were joining in the jokes
You could almost see the marchers turning red beneath white cloaks
They wanted to look scary. They wanted to look tough.
One rushed right at the clowns in rage and was hauled away in cuffs
But the others chanted louder, marching on around the bend
The clowns all marched on too, of course, supporting their new friends
“White power!” came the marchers’ cry. They were not amused.
The clowns grew still and thoughtful. Well... perhaps they’d been confused?
They huddled and consulted, this bright and silly crowd
They listened quite intently, then one said “I’ve got it now!”
“White flowers!” screamed the happy clown, and all the rest joined in
The air was filled with flowers, and they laughed and danced again
“Everyone loves flowers, and white’s a pretty sort
I can’t think of a better cause for people to support!”
Green flower stems went flying like small arrows from bad archers
White petals covered everything, including the mad marchers
And then a very tall clown called the others to attention
He choked down all his chuckles and said “Friends I have to mention
That what with all this mirth and fun it’s sort of hard to hear
But now I know the cause that these paraders hold so dear...
“Tight showers!” the clown blurted and he hit his head in wonder
He held up a camp shower and the others all got under
Or at least they tried to get beneath, they strained but couldn’t quite
There wasn’t room for all of them. They pushed, but it was tight.
“White Power!” came the mad refrain, quite carefully pronounced
The clowns consulted once again, then a woman clown announced
“I’ve got it! I’m embarrassed that it took so long to see,
But what these marchers march for is a cause quite dear to me!”
“Wife power!” she exclaimed and all the other clowns joined in
They shook their heads and laughed at how erroneous they’d been
The women clowns were hoisted up on shoulders of the others
Some pulled on wedding dresses, chanting “Here’s to wives and mothers!”
The men in robes were sullen, and they knew they’d been defeated
They yelled a few more times and then they finally retreated
And when they’d gone a kind policeman turned to all the clowns
And he offered them an escort through the center of the town
The day was bright and sunny as most May days tend to be
In the hills of Appalachia down in Knoxville, Tennessee
People joined the new parade. The crowd stretched out for miles
The clowns passed out more flowers and made everybody smile
And what would be the lesson of that shiny southern day?
Can we understand the message that the clowns sought to convey?
Seems that when you’re fighting hatred, hatred’s not the thing to use
So here’s to those who march on in their big red floppy shoes
If you would like to buy copies of the book for friends, school teachers, etc., just add $20 per extra copy to your pledge amount, claim the $25 reward, and drop me a note to explain that you would like multiple copies. So if you want 10 copies altogether, for instance, you can pledge $205 — $25 for the first one and $180 for the other nine.
After the kickstarter campaign ends (on April Fool's Day!), we'll confirm the details with you. If you have already pledged, you can't pledge again, but you can increase the amount of your pledge, so just do that and let me know how you would like to do things.
Here are the step-by-step instructions:
Go to http://../projects/davidlamotte/white-flour-book
- sign in if necessary (upper right)
- click on "manage your pledge"
- in the big white box under "pledge amount", change the amount, adding $20 per extra book you would like to order, but don't change your original reward.
- We'll check in with you before sending books to make sure we've got it right!
Excerpts from Kickstarter's FAQ pages:
Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative projects. Kickstarter is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.
Kickstarter is focused on creative projects. We're a great way for artists, filmmakers, musicians, designers, writers, illustrators, explorers, curators, performers, and others to bring their projects, events, and dreams to life.
The word “project” is just as important as “creative” in defining what works on Kickstarter. A project is something finite with a clear beginning and end. Someone can be held accountable to the framework of a project — a project was either completed or it wasn’t — and there are definable expectations that everyone can agree to. This is imperative for every Kickstarter project.
My own addendum: This is a pretty amazing service. The all-or-nothing structure works well for everyone — Project creators don't end up with half the funding they need, and backers don't end up contributing to a project that isn't going to happen. I'm amazed at the support I've seen, and happy to pay Kickstarter their fee (5% of the backing). Thanks again to you for making this such a roaring succes!
Some friends in Australia wrote to say that they each wanted to contribute, but couldn't do it on the same computer. Apparently Kickstarter identifies a donor with the computer they used rather than an email address, so in order to have two different people contribute in the same place, you'll need to find two different computers to use. Sorry if that's an inconvenience!
I've been in touch with two of the main organizers for the clown action, and they are both very excited about the book. It's great fun to have talked with them, as I really admire what they've done. When we send out press releases, I will list them as contacts as well, so that journalists who want to talk with them can be in touch with 'original sources.'
After the Kickstarter campaign is over, we'll be in touch with each donor individually to check in about your reward packages. We'll make sure we get that part right!
All of the rewards listed here will be available for the whole month of March, and even when we meet the goal, they will still be available. We will make sure to meet all the commitments made here, regardless of how far over we go.
There are children's book projects on Kickstarter that have gone to 600% of the goal, and though we're not expecting to do that, we're thrilled to be on track to meet the goal early.
So if we go over, there will allow us to add more publicity efforts, and possibly to do a bigger first run of the books. We're hopeful that we may be able to score some national media, given that we're releasing the book on the five-year anniversary of the event that inspired the book. Features could focus on the event itself, which we think is a pretty compelling story to tell.
We're also reprinting my early children's book, S.S. Bathtub, at the same time that we're printing this one, and the extra revenue would take some weight off of that effort.
Thanks again for your incredible support! It is humbling and affirming.
Here's to those who march on!
If we find the support we're hoping for here on Kickstarter, the book is scheduled to be released on the five year anniversary of the event that inspired it, May 26, 2012. Like all kickstarter projects, if we fail to raise all of the money, your donation will not be billed and I'll scratch my head and try to figure out how to start over.If we meet the goal, though, the money will be spent to get professional scans of the art, to pay the artist, to pay for the manufacturing of the book, the shipping to get it here, etc. They’re a bit more expensive than some books are, because we're printing the book in Canada (not China), on paper that is independently certified as responsibly grown and harvested, with some post-consumer content and soy-based inks. The books will be hardcover, 36 pages, and beautifully made. If we surpass the goal, we'll have some money to put toward publicity and to print more copies and spread the word some more. Surpassing the goal would also be an indicator that the demand may be strong, so we might also up the quantity of the initial print run. Thanks again for your support!
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SMILE! I will look up from my computer and grin and be thankful for your kind support. Then I will celebrate that there are people in the world who are happy to trade a dollar for a smile, and to help with an effort to tell an inspiring story with no tangible reward to themselves. You rock.Estimated delivery:
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JUST BOOKS! This is simply for five copies of the White Flour book. If you don't see the quantity you want, just claim the $25 reward, but add $20 per book and order as many as you like. We'll check with you to confirm that we've got it right before sending them.Estimated delivery:
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JUST BOOKS! This is simply for ten copies of the White Flour book. If you don't see the quantity you want, just claim the $25 reward, but add $20 per book and order as many as you like. We'll check with you to confirm that we've got it right before sending them.Estimated delivery:
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SIT IN! Everything above, plus two VIP tickets to launch party of your choice (you just need to get yourself to Asheville, NC, Raleigh, NC or one of the other locations to be determined...), and a personal phone call from David to thank you for your support.Estimated delivery:
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MARCH! The autographed book, the eBook, the wallpaper, TWO autographed copies of David's children's CD, the SS Bathtub, the phone call, FOUR VIP tickets, plus your name printed in the first edition of the book as a supporter of the project.Estimated delivery:
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SING! Five autographed books, the eBook, the wallpaper, two autographed copies of David's children's CD, the SS Bathtub, the phone call, four VIP release party tickets, my thanks to you printed in the first edition of the book, PLUS a 16" x 20" giclée canvas print of any panel from the book you choose (with or without text).Estimated delivery:
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DANCE! Five autographed books, the eBook, the wallpaper, two autographed copies of the SS Bathtub CD, the phone call, four VIP release party tickets, our gratitude to you printed in the first edition of the book, plus the *original painting* of any one page from the book that you choose, signed by Jenn Hales (note: only ONE of these available through kickstarter!).Estimated delivery:
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FLY! Five autographed books, the eBook, the wallpaper, two autographed copies of David's children's CD, the phone call, four VIP release party tickets, our gratitude to you printed in the first edition of the book, plus a David LaMotte concert and a reading of the book in your home or the venue of your choice, living room or auditorium (anywhere in the world, on a mutually agreed date, you cover travel expenses). ...and by the way, you could get a few friends chip in on this one ...I'm just sayin'.Estimated delivery:
- (31 days)