One year after our series Black Voices: Pushing for Change in Children’s Publishing, we will reconvene to discuss the push for equity and how to keep up the momentum moving forward. Led by Kelly Starling Lyons and Judy Allen Dodson, this event will feature Carl Lennertz of The Children’s Book Council and Wade and Cheryl Hudson of Just Us Books discussing past efforts to push for equity and how this moment has differed. Then, Paula Chase of The Brown Bookshelf and Denise Adusei of Black Creators in Kidlit will discuss new organizations and programs that have launched this past year. 


Denise Adusei has a passion for social entrepreneurship and children's literature. To support emerging writers of color and increase diverse representation in children's books, she co-founded both #BlackCreatorsinKidLit and #LatinxPitch. After earning her bachelor's from Brown University and a master's degree from Columbia University, Denise launched a preschool and became a professional imagineer for children in Harlem. Her direct experience with educators and children in the classroom inspired her to write children's stories that tap into childhood experiences. Her goal is to write fun stories that can be utilized in the classroom and read aloud at home. To launch writer support groups and a preschool, Denise drew from her previous experience in nonprofit management, consulting for child development, healthcare organizations, and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. She is represented by Serendipity Literary Agency and will soon announce projects that will light up children's literature and increase diverse representation in children's books. 

Co-founder of the award-winning blog, The Brown Bookshelf, Paula Chase is a longtime Inclusion Jedi and advocate for diversifying the type of fiction featuring Black characters that’s highlighted among educators, librarians and parents. She’s presented and blogged about the need to expand the focus beyond children’s literature that centers the pain of the Black experience. Chase is the author of nine children’s books. So Done (Greenwillow/HarperCollins), her critically acclaimed middle grade debut, was named a 2018 Kirkus Reviews Best Book. So Done and its companions, Dough Boys and Turning Point are blazing the trail for books that tackle tough and sometimes taboo topics for younger readers. 

Cheryl Davis is the general counsel of the Authors Guild. Prior to joining the Guild, she was a partner at the firm of Menaker & Herrmann LLP, where she specialized in intellectual property and wrote a number of articles and made presentations about how artists can protect their intellectual property.

Judy Allen Dodson is a librarian and archivist who has extensive experience working with special collections and local history research. As a children’s book writer, Judy is the recipient of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators' On-the-Verge Emerging Voices Award for her manuscript Fast Friends. Her mission is to help foster a growing community of North Carolina writers. She holds a B.A. in communications from Western Michigan University and an M.L.S. from North Carolina Central University. 

Cheryl Willis Hudson and Wade Hudson are co-founders of Just Us Books and are authors and editors of many books for young readers, including We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, published by Crown Books for Young Readers, and The Talk. A third anthology by the Hudsons, Recognize! Honoring and Amplifying Black Life, will be published this October. Wade's coming of age memoir, Defiant: Growing Up in the Jim Crow South will also be published this October. 

Carl Lennertz has held executive positions at several publishing houses and non-profits. He was Marketing VP at Knopf for 10 years and held marketing positions at HarperCollins and Little, Brown. He organized over 2,000 national author tours and oversaw bestselling book campaigns as well as debut launches. He published a book with Random House and has edited over 25 books. Lennertz taught marketing at the University of Denver for 11 years, giving the commencement speech in 2020. His non-profit and association work includes the ABA (working on a national campaign for independent bookstores), three years running World Book Night US (where 250,000 free books were handed out to people in need each year on April 23), and now as the CBC and Every Child a Reader executive director for four years. 

Kelly Starling Lyons is an award-winning children's book author, teaching artist, and founding member of The Brown Bookshelf. Her latest titles are Tiara's Hat ParadeDream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip FreelonSing a Song: How "Lift Every Voice & Sing" Inspired Generations, and Going Down Home with Daddy. Her mission is to create books that center Black heroes; celebrate family, friendship, and heritage; and show all children the storyteller they hold inside.