SUBE founder Jeffrey Cheetham kicks off his first children’s book day in Seattle

by Troy Landrum Jr.

My writing journey began nearly eight years ago—maybe 30, if the journey included reading memorable books and making up stories in my head during my middle and teenage years. Precisely during that eight-year period, I had the privilege of meeting so many wonderful people along the way who shared the same hopes of making something out of the stories that floated through their heads.

My first encounter with Jeffrey Cheetham was about five years ago. He was teaching a workshop at Renton Highlands Library. My hope was to meet like-minded people who understood the specific struggles of finding a path into the literary matrix as a person of color. His workshop provided this for me, causing me to make connections with other authors with whom I would collaborate in the future, be encouraged, remain accountable to them, and whom I can support on their journey along the way. Jeffrey, as an instructor, was available and open to share that journey with us, breaking down the instructor-student hierarchy. Explain that we were all peers trying to turn our passions into reality; He was just a helpful guide interested in creating platforms for our work to rise along with his business. With these platforms he hoped to offer and attend, he made it easier for all of us to support and watch the wonderful things he had in store for the future.

Cheatham at Dr. Seuss’ birthday party hosted by the Washington Educational Association. (Photo courtesy of Seattle Town Hall)

Jeffrey Lee Cheatham II is an award-winning children’s book author in Seattle and founder of the Seattle Urban Book Fair, SUBE for short. The Seattle Urban Book Fair is one of the largest platforms it has created for authors and more specifically for authors of color. SUBE was created to open doors for self-published authors in a city that loves to read but rarely provides a space for authors of color to promote and thrive as writers. Cheatham focused on changing that. His summer fair brings self-published authors from all over Washington to promote and sell their work to the public, build their audience, build their brand, and establish themselves as published authors. SUBE has grown every year, from 250 participants in 2016 to triple those numbers in 2022.

Cheatham focuses on continuing to expand with frequent partner workshops and events throughout the year to maintain momentum, “I try to get the community to see that the gallery is here, and that we’re here in the community frequently, not just for the summer. I want to get started,” Cheatham said. In developing trust within the community and the community of writers and authors.

One of the newly created events that SUBE will host this winter is a second summer fair, known as Children’s Book Day. This event will take place at Town Hall on December 3 from 12-3pm. The event will feature authors and programs, such as Tyrah Majors, Seattle Escribe, Joe Brooks, Sana Vinoth, and Look, Listen, & Learn.

Next month’s Children’s Book Day will be held at Town Hall. (Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Cheetham).

Children’s Book Day is a free event that gives young and old a chance to support local BIPOC children’s book authors in our area. “For SUBE, this will be an opportunity to highlight the talents we have in our communities. My ultimate goal is, I would like the kids to meet their new favorite children’s book author. … Also, that you learn about the Urban Book Fair in Seattle and that you are willing to support and help us. on growth, so that we can expand our reach and establish more of our feet in society as a legitimate and viable literary organization,” Cheetham.

This event will make Cheatham’s writing journey complete – one that never followed a straight road map, but flowed through the vicissitudes of life, driven primarily by an itch to follow his creative instincts. When his daughter was born, he made it his mission to show her how to follow her creative instincts. “I chose to show my daughter that if you have a passion for something, you should pursue it,” Cheetham said.

His assignment prompted him to write his first children’s book, The Jones family and Rex eggsIt was a book he wrote for his daughter due to the lack of melanin in the characters of the books she was available to read. Cheetham’s first book caught the attention of Stacy Marie Robinson, who created the Toronto Urban Book Fair in Canada. He was really inspired after seeing the extraordinary work the gallery did for its local authors and wanted to replicate it in Seattle. He did, and he’s been leading the mission since 2016, eventually bringing himself back to the very thing that started his children’s book journey. He is now able to share this joy with his community.

Cheatham is changing what it means for local BIPOC authors to gain community knowledge and have their work be household names for the many families and community members who come and support local talent. He saw a need in the community and fulfilled that need. It has been amazing to see Cheatham creating spaces for optimistic writers like myself to learn, grow, collaborate and find the courage to claim themselves as artists. December 3 will be an ongoing testament to what the power of storytelling and opportunity can generate for our wonderful communities and – who knows? -Maybe one day you inspired a young mind to create more space.

Troy Landerm Jr. Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, she is currently a producer for KUOW’s Radioactive. He has spent the past few years as a bookseller at Third Place Books in Seward Park and recently graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Washington, Bothell. Follow Troy on Twitter at Tweet embed.

📸 Featured image: Jeffrey Cheetham at the 5th Seattle Urban Book Fair. (Photo: Victor Jones from DV Squared)

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