Carol Swartout Klein: “Painting for Peace in Ferguson”

See image credit below.

See image credit below.

I grew up in Ferguson, Missouri, about a mile from the Michael Brown shooting. Since the shooting, my family and I have been following the Ferguson news very closely.

My mother – ever the sharp lookout for a good book – recently came across Carol Swartout Klein’s children’s picture book, Painting for Peace in Ferguson. Better yet, Mom was able to get the author to sign a copy of the book for me. I was delighted when it arrived in the mail.

The beautiful book opens with an epigraph from Fred Rogers, who said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

It is wonderful to see Klein – who grew up in Ferguson – along with many Ferguson residents helping to heal the unrest in our beloved community.

Earlier this month, the book got a huge thumbs-up from Midwest Book Review:

Painting for Peace in Ferguson is the stunning result of a native artist’s compassionate response to the boarded up storefronts of Ferguson that resulted from the violence and racism of 2014. Painting for Peace in Ferguson shows the amazing results that stem from members of a community, black and white, coming together to create a new, vibrant, healing vision expressed through art, painted on the blank storefronts. A citywide Paint for Peace effort left all the blank storefronts transformed into dazzling, inspiring works of art with messages of peace, love, and racial harmony. . . . The rainbow and black and white art works are amazing, overwhelming, full of hope.

The book includes text that explains what has happened in Ferguson since August 2014, with a special focus on the entire community, both black and white residents, coming together to paint boarded-up storefronts destroyed in the demonstrations and riots after Michael Brown’s shooting. The text is appropriate for children, and the Painting for Peace website provides tools for teachers and parents to use as they share the book with children.

Most wonderful of all is the fact that the book contains many, many images of the paintings themselves. Spotted on the paintings are slogans such as “Harmony Ferguson,” “Shine on St. Louis,” “Heal STL,” “Peace for Ferguson,” and “Stay Strong Ferguson.” Quotes from Mother Teresa, Bob Marley, Mahatma Gandhi, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. are featured as well. These beautiful paintings remind me of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Project, which features community-created murals throughout the city.

Painting for Peace in Ferguson is “dedicated to the people of Ferguson and St. Louis as they begin the steps of healing and creating a stronger and better community.” I can think of no better mission to support. According to the Painting for Peace website, “100% of all proceeds after the cost of printing this book will be donated to support youth arts and small business recovery in North St. Louis County.” Order a copy of the book here.

Visit the Painting for Peace website to learn more and to find resources you can use as you talk to children about civil unrest. You can also read coverage of the book at the Huffington Post and the Washington Post, and you may also want to check out Klein’s essay “Why I Believe in the People of Ferguson” (also published in the Huffington Post).

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Watch:Watch Carol Swartout Klein and members of the Ferguson community talk about Painting for Peace in Ferguson in this three-minute video.

Image credit: Book cover used with permission of author.