An image from the book Beautiful Blackbird, written and illustrated by Ashley Bryan.

Indigo Arts Alliance, an organization committed to cultivating the artistic development of artists of African descent, launches the Beautiful Blackbird Children’s Book Festival — in homes across the state. The event was created to honor legendary children’s author and illustrator Ashley Bryan, whose award-winning picture book Beautiful Blackbird is a celebration of Blackness. Indigo, in partnership with I’m Your Neighbor Books and the Diverse BookFinder, will use the festival to celebrate children’s books and their creators from across the African diaspora.

Unable to engage with readers in person, the Beautiful Blackbird Children’s Book Festival is bringing the festival to homes by providing book read-alouds, creator interviews, dance instruction, art projects and more by video over a nine-week period this summer on Hundreds of children served by Portland Housing Authority and Portland Parks & Recreation will get books and activities delivered directly to them ensuring book access and engagement at home during the summer months.

“The Beautiful Blackbird Children’s Book Festival is one of several Indigo programs that bring real, actionable change to Maine’s arts and culture sector,” said Marcia Minter, Indigo’s co-founder. “It is our commitment to raise readers who see themselves reflected in the literature they consume and to cultivate artists who understand the necessity of that representation.”

This year’s featured picture books and creators include Ashley Bryan, the author and illustrator of Beautiful Blackbird; Daniel Minter, illustrator of Going Down Home with Daddy; Francie Latour, author of Auntie Luce’s Talking Paintings; Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome, creators of Overground Railroad; Kelly Starling Lyons, author of Sing a Song; Munir D. Mohammed, illustrator of Wherever I Go; and Samara Cole Doyon, author of Magnificent Homespun Brown. The festival also features Omar Mohamed, co-creator of the graphic novel When Stars are Scattered. These books represent the modern and historically African-American experience but also the experience of recent immigrants from Ethiopia, Somalia and Haiti.

“We are proud to have retooled and redesigned this festival so we could bring it directly to families and children,” said Indigo co-founder Marcia Minter. “It honors diversity, respects all cultures, and builds a strong sense of community for all of us. We’re looking forward to seeing how it grows.”