White Flour

White Flour is David LaMotte’s second children’s book, with illustrations by Jenn Hales.  In Seussian rhyme, it tells the funny and inspiring story of the day that the Ku Klux Klan met the Coup Clutz Clowns, who offered a whimsical and wise retort to their racist rally. The poem that provides the text for the book was inspired by true events in Knoxville, TN in 2007. It is a 36-page hard-cover book, printed in Canada on Forest Stewardship Council-certified recycled paper with over 10% post-consumer content, and will also be released in several eBook formats.

White Flour will be released on May 26, 2012, the fifth anniversary of the little-known event that inspired it. 

Click here to read the poem or see video of David reading it.

Order the hardcover (please inquire for bulk orders)
Small Teacher Pack – 10 books for $140
Big Teacher Pack – 25 books for $325
Choose from a selection of eBook formats
Order White Flour and David’s other children’s book, S.S. Bathtub
Order White Flour, the S.S. Bathtub book, and the 12-song CD S.S. Bathtub
Download the audio of David reading White Flour (Click here to preview)

Overwhelming Support and ‘Buzz’

During the month of March, a campaign was mounted through Kickstarter.com to raise money for the printing of the book. The response was overwhelming — it was quickly ‘shared’ around the internet through Facebook, Twitter, etc., and the $18,500 target was reached in only twelve days.

By the end of the month, 592 backers had pledged $37,805 toward the book, 204% of the original goal.  All of the excitement around the book seemed to indicate that the book has a bright future, so we took a deep breath and made a big decision—to order 10,000 copies for the first edition, rather than the modest 2500 we were originally planning on.

The Art

David sought out Jenn Hales to illustrate the book after being introduced to her work through a mutual friend. Much of Jenn’s art seems to hold whimsy and seriousness, beauty and sadness in tension, and it seemed a perfect fit for a book that involves both a very serious topic and a good deal of humor.  Jenn extensively studied images of Knoxville, as well as of the original event, to inform her depictions of the day’s events, and though we took certain artistic liberties in order to communicate the story effectively, those who were there and who know Knoxville will recognize certain landmarks and moments from the day’s events. Jenn created the art on prepared plywood canvasses, and used the wood grain in the illustrations, which were captured on high-end scanners to reveal that grain rather than hide it.

David LaMotte is a singer/songwriter, speaker, humanitarian and activist from North Carolina. He is also a Rotary World Peace Fellow with a masters in International Studies, Peace and Conflict Resolution. This book represents a confluence of his career as a performer and his passion for peace work.

Why This Book Matters

In the aftermath of a tragedy in Florida with significant relevance to race relations, at a time with Occupy Wall Street is ramping up for the spring and sparking important conversations about non-violence, in the midst of a national conversation about bullying, and in a world that is struggling with how to productively respond to aggression of various kinds, it is important that we have some teachable and accessible examples of a Third Way. It is natural to respond to threat with “Fight or Flight” responses. Those two options are deep in us. Non-violence presents a third option, though, and it requires creativity. These third kinds of responses aren’t easy or obvious. They’re not easily transferable from one situation to the next. But they’re often the best options we have. This book has the potential to start important conversations, not only about what we must stand for, but how we go about standing for it. The events depicted in the book are both true and recent. The story is also funny, and the rhyming poetry makes it all the more accessible for children, and maybe for adults, too. As Paul Loeb, the author of NYT bestseller Soul of a Citizen, says:

A great retelling of a wonderfully imaginative anti-Klan protest that few of us have heard of. It may be aimed at kids, and they’ll love it, but I can attest that adults will love it equally. Here’s hoping it inspires equal engaged comic imagination on some other fronts as well.”

Internationally-known storyteller Donald Davis writes:

“His story models for us a new way we can learn to respond to fear and evil. His book can serve to inoculate readers against their own responses of frustration and point them toward better choices. The poem is simply marvelous!”  


In Other News…

• There are two women in Texas and South Carolina working on creating a school curriculum for Texas fifth graders based on the book which meets standardized educational goals. After that, they will then customize the curriculum for each of the fifty states to meet teaching standards there.

• A man in Birmingham, AL has established White Flour Weekend for  May 26-27, where readings of the poem will take place all over. He has set up a reading in his Unitarian church, but there are also people that are going to call everyone to attention, gather around the grill and read the poem to their friends at Memorial Day parties.  If you would like to participate, the poem is below, and you are welcome to simply print it out and read it (no need to buy the book—let’s share the story!). Flip’s facebook page for White Flour Weekend is here.

• Bunches of bloggers have written beautiful pieces about the poem/book and how it intersects with their own lives, faith, etc. This one by Barbie Angell is a particularly lovely one.

• Several friends of mine are sending a preview of the book to some pretty incredible humanitarian heroes of our age to see if they would like to offer testimonial quotations for the book cover. I can’t tell you who, because it would be bad form to drop the names of folks who haven’t actually offered their endorsements, but I’m really excited about these possibilities (and if you have those kinds of connections, feel free to get in touch with folks yourself!).

• Several pastors are using the poem in their church services. It was apparently read in quite a few churches on Palm Sunday. Some have even acted it out.

• The original organizers of the Coup Clutz Clowns have been in touch and are extremely excited about this, and we have contacted a Senior Research Fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. Both have agreed to be press contacts for media stories about the event that inspired the book.

• Another friend works with a major book distributor and is talking to folks there about carrying the book. Others have written because they have strong connections at network TV shows and are putting my publicists in touch with them. Another knows an influential leader at the American Library Association who is interested.  And there’s so much more…

Oh, and here’s me reading the poem, with images from the book at the end…

White Flour

by David LaMotte

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 bright red 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 hand cupped 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, as 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, 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 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

(based on true events of May 26, 2007 – ©2007 David LaMotte)

2 comments to White Flour

  • Scott Webber

    The events of this day were such a moving and compelling example of the POWER of NON-violent ACTION. ‘White Flour – The Book’ captures this energy and transforms it into a message of peace that can be shared and UNDERSTOOD by the masses. Part of the magic of this book – and the poem – and the video – and this website – is that it now lives in a format that can speak to — and be shared with — an audience from the moment they are able to contemplate the very concepts of hatred, racism, and prejudice… to an audience that can take this message and truly effect change in the world. Time to start spreading the word!!

  • [...] (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}It is amazing to see all the excitement White Flour is generating, still six weeks out from its publication. Here are a few of the exciting things [...]

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