Topics about acceptance and social justice for African Americans are in the news daily. What are the conversations that can take place with children as their curious minds seek understanding? Two African American authors tackle these issues through the books “You So Black!” by Theresa Wilson (a.k.a. Theresa Tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D.) and “Sarah Rising” by Ty Chapman. Through their writing, these authors build on the mantra “Black Lives Matter.”
“You So Black”
- By Theresa Wilson (a.k.a. Theresa Tha S.O.N.G.B.I.R.D.), Illustrated by London Ladd
- Ages 4-8
- 48 Pages
- A Denene Milner Book/Simon & Schuster
Wilson turns the negative connotations of the word “Black” into something beautiful. The opening pages immediately set the tone to intentionally bring joy.
“You so Black, when you smile, the stars come out. You so Black, when you’re born, the god come out.”
Wilson’s book is based on her poem of the same title. The poem went viral after she delivered it a few years ago during the “Trumpet Awards,” an annual broadcast honoring Black excellence.
“The poem came about in a mental state when I was very aware that my body of work needed more substance,” said Wilson, a Grammy-nominated poet and Chicago, Illinois native now living in Atlanta, Georgia. “I started working on songs and poems from ancestral love and honor.”
Illustrator London Ladd created big images with bright splashes of color. All types of Black hairstyles are seen on pages, featuring characters in various settings. Readers will see people in a place of worship, at an elegant formal affair, on a beach, and at a protest rally.
As a source of inspiration for her book, Wilson used the breadth of Black culture. She thought about “playing the dozens” or “jonin’,” which usually comes from a caring individual in our lives. One of those making fun statements may eventually get to, “You so black . . .”
“It’s just not ‘You so black,’ it’s the idea that blackness is weaponized against us,” Wilson said.
Wilson set out to do the opposite by using affirmations of love in her book that included, “Black is pyramids and mathematics. Black is melanized, and magic” and “Black is brilliant.” Wilson does not shy away from difficult feelings about being Black with statements such as, “Black is tough” and “Black is hard to do!” This is an easy-to-understand book that is beautiful-to-look-at that is wrapped in unity. “You So Black!” is a winner for everyone.
View a video trailer of “You So Black” https://youtu.be/lXwwYEVGHFw Learn more about Wilson at https://www.thasongbird.com
- By Ty Chapman, Illustrated by DeAnn Wiley
- Ages 5-8
- 40 pages
- Beaming Books
Sarah begins what appears to be a normal day. Then something different happens. Sarah is taken to a protest march by her father. It becomes a day of unexpected lessons. Based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota area, author Ty Chapman was inspired to write “Sarah Rising” following the uprising following the George Floyd killing. Sarah’s story takes a child’s-eye view of a protest, opening a dialog about how peaceful protest is a way to advocate for social justice.
Chapman relied on his work as a behavioral specialist in K-12 settings. He is also an accomplished poet, puppeteer, and playwright. That combination of skills allowed Chapman to weave together a story that is a learning experience for children and adults.
“My background in education and behavioral management is pretty robust. There were conversations I was already having with young people,” Chapman said. “In a school setting, I did have tough conversations with kids where I had to explain that the world we live in is not always safe for us.”
As a result of Chapman’s conversations, he realized that kids are capable of digesting and learning a lot more than most of us understand.
A lovely aspect of “Sarah Rising” is that this little girl is escorted to a protest gathering by her father. Her sweetness and eagerness to learn are endearing to other people she meets. Her interaction with the police is full of curiosity. Sarah’s innocence approaches questions that not only children but also adults have.
Illustrator DeAnn Wiley captures Sarah’s curious nature perfectly. The images support a desire to understand analogies in Sarah’s world as a child to what she is exposed to during a day of protest.
Chapman did public readings of “Sarah Rising” in the Twin Cities area that affirmed his approach.
“There was a reaction of excitement and support,” Chapman said. “The way George Floyd rocked our communities here; I think most people had a level of personal investment with the story. There was a lot of love, warmth and healing.”Learn more about Ty Chapman at https://tychapman.org