After the death of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd there has been more than a public outcry for change. There is a demand for a deconstruction of the current political system, a call for an end to police brutality, the terrorism of black communities as well the demand for black lives to finally matter. Many of us have taken to the streets to protest and walk for this change. But, others have turned to change their everyday lifestyles, their spending habits, and even their classroom curriculums.
Throughout the past couple of weeks, I have seen a change in the mindsets of teachers and librarians alike who want to bring diversity to their schools, to understand the black experiences. I have seen countless book suggestions ranging from sit-ins, to marches and mass incarcerations but, I have seen an extreme lack of books that preach self-love. Not to say the entire act of fighting for what you believe in isn’t self-love, but there must be a balance between explaining and unpacking the trauma our children face daily and teaching them that they deserve love even when the world doesn’t treat them that way.
As a disclaimer, this blog post is in no way telling you NOT to give your children books about our rich black history and the ongoing struggles we face. Rather, it is only telling you to add to your long list of literature. There are various black authors and black books that celebrate black youth (more than you think) and educators must find a balance between teaching history and teaching healing. Our children need to learn about their history and of the struggles laid out before them but, they must learn that it’s not their fault and they are not the ones to blame. If one is to be completely Anti-Racist, they must understand that black inferiority has been taught in the education system for centuries. And, in order to dismantle this system, one must think critically about what they teach their students and why.
At a summer camp, I was staffed at (years ago) that focused on black history and struggles, I often found the children unengaged and uninterested when learning of those that fought before them. Truth is, its painful. Many of the students at this summer camp seemed drained from constantly being told they were not wanted and not loved through books that spoke of a reality that most of them had already experienced first hand. But, on the days we put down books about our collective struggle and picked up the books about the beauty of being black their eyes gleamed in a different way. In a way that had been longing for validation and an understanding that they were worthy of love, regardless of if they were freedom fighters or not.
I implore all educators to pick their books and learning materials in a conscientious way. We must find a balance between teaching black children, helping them to understand black history, current events, and the current racial climate but, also teaching them that they can also just be kids. Pick a book about a black love story, a black superhero, a black boy's first haircut or a little black girl's crazy wash day, books about a trip to an amusement park, or the monster under the bed. Representation is everything, as I have said before, and we must make sure that black kids can see themselves as worthy of love and worthy of being the protagonist of their own stories. Educators must look beyond Scholastic and beyond the few books that make it through the white gates of traditional publishing. We cannot wait to be given the books that our students will love, but we must take the time to search it out for them. Take this time to love on your children, be kind to them, understand that this is a lot to take in even for adults, and even for yourself. And maybe, give them a book that tells them it’s okay, and let them process the world around them when they seem ready. Black Joy is still a form of resistance and it’s our job to keep their smiles going.
Below I have included a very short list of books, bookstores, and bookstagrams that can point parents or teachers, in the right direction to find books that celebrate their children and that also prepare them for what they might face. If you are interested in my books, Wash Day and The Fluffy Adventures of Fromo Series you can access my online store through the link below.
Online Store: https://www.tbdarksauthor.com/shop
*Again this is a very short list, and mainly composed of self-published authors, see the hyperlink at the end of each list for more books*
Natural Hair and Self Love
Link to a list of black-owned bookstores: https://aalbc.com/bookstores/list.php