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
- (31 days)