One Book Baltimore has selected Baltimorean D. Watkins’ book We Speak for Ourselves: A Word from Forgotten Black America for the 2020-2021 school year. One Book Baltimore seeks to promote literacy for Baltimore City seventh- and eighth-graders and facilitates city-wide dialogue with families and community members by reading the same book.

One Book Baltimore, in its third year, is a collaboration between the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore City Public Schools, the T. Rowe Price Foundation, and other community partners. The program was recently runner up for the 2020 Penguin Random House Library Award for Innovation.

Copies of We Speak for Ourselves will be distributed to all city schools’ 7th and 8th -graders. The book is a collection of essays and stories centered on Watkins’ East Baltimore neighborhood.

D Watkins with his fiancée, Caron Brace.

“Having my work selected for One Book Baltimore is an honor and the highlight of my career,” said D. Watkins in a statement. “Don’t get me wrong, winning awards, being on TV and touring is great; but, One Book Baltimore will give so many students from my city— some from schools I even walked the halls of— the opportunity to read, study and have complex conversations about the love and pain that exists in our current climate and work toward attainable solutions that could potentially make our world a better place. That’s all I’ve ever dreamed of. I’ll be forever grateful.”

Watkins will be introduced as the One Book Baltimore writer during a virtual event with students at 10 a.m., Thursday, October 8. Throughout the fall and winter, Watkins will conduct virtual school visits during which he will talk about the book and answer questions from the students.

“One Book Baltimore aligns perfectly with our Blueprint focus on literacy. D. Watkins is a native son recognized nationally and internationally who still finds time to be present in our schools. He spends time in our classrooms and gives book talks. He walks the talk and is respected in the writing community and in neighborhoods,” said City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises in a statement. “Sharing We Speak for Ourselves will help our students to connect with each other and their schools during this time of potential isolation. We are grateful to all of our partners for collaborating on such a rewarding program.”

Virtual programs surrounding the themes of We Speak for Ourselves will be offered on Pratt Library platforms.

“D. Watkins has always been such a great friend of the library, and we’re honored to have him as the One Book Baltimore writer this year,” said Pratt Library President & CEO Heidi Daniel. “I know his words and message will resonate with young people across Baltimore.”