The award recognizes Martin’s work encouraging and nurturing scholars in the children’s literature field. Martin focuses primarily on helping young scholars of color, particularly African American women, when they seek support and advice. The number of full professors in the U.S. who are black women is so small, “we could probably all fit into one conference room,” she said. In fact, only 2 percent of U.S. professors are black women, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. As a result, Martin feels a responsibility to do what she can to help make academia more diverse.
“I would never refuse to share whatever wisdom I’ve gained from doing this work because I want the next generation of faculty to be browner than the current one,” she said. “And the only way to contribute positively to that change is to help those who are coming behind me.”
Martin said the award is particularly meaningful to her because of her relationship with the 2017 recipient, June Cummins of San Diego State University. An academic peer who finished her Ph.D. around the same time, Cummins roomed with Martin at Children’s Literature Association conferences for many years.
“She died of ALS a few months ago, so it’s particularly special to me to win it right after June,” Martin said.
Martin will be honored at the 2018 Children’s Literature Association Conference awards banquet in June in San Antonio, Texas.