“Black boy, black boy, what do you see?”
“I see a judge looking at me. He is fair, just like me.”
It started out as a mantra.
Whenever I babysat or hung out with my nephews, I riffed on the childhood classic, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? In the midst of a conversation or even out of the blue, I’d stop and ask playfully, “Black boy, black boy, what do you see . . . ?”
It was a question and a challenge thrown down to the boys in my life.
Look into your future, I said, what do you want to be when you grow up? More importantly, what steps will you take to make that happen?
“Black boy, black boy, what do you see?”
“I see a president looking at me!”
My nephews loved the call-and-response structure. It felt like a game, but as an adult who loved them, I knew something more was happening. At a time when we still have to shout that black lives matter, I wanted to prompt the black boys who I loved to envision all the possibilities before them. I wanted them to picture a future of positivity and hope—one of pride in their own greatness and power.
Soon I wrote down my favorite responses from my nephews, and Black Boy, Black Boy was born.
This book taps into the magic of this mantra’s simple positive message: black boys can be a doctor, a judge, the president . . . anything they want to be!
Each page depicts a boy looking into the future, seeing his grown-up self and admiring the greatness reflected back at him. This book is created to teach black boys and the world that there are no barriers, and if you can dream it you can be it.
A BOOK FOR BLACK BOYS
After the birth of my nephews—five of whom are currently under the age of seven—I quickly noticed how few books with characters that looked like them were on the shelves of local bookstores and public libraries.
Honestly, I was stunned. Growing up I knew there weren’t a lot of books full of kids that looked like me, but with all the recent attention on the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement and similar initiatives, I mistakenly believed things were different now. Somehow, I imagined row upon row of bright, colorful books full of black characters—positive role models for the young boys I love so dearly.
Unfortunately, the truth is much different.
Only 7 percent of children’s books show characters of color, and only 2 percent of those books are made for black boys.
As my nephews transitioned from pre-K into grade school, I noticed they stopped reading and engaging with books. And looking at those statistics, it’s not surprising why. Books aren’t made for them. They aren’t written by people who look like them.
And there’s a big reason that needs to change.
As children approach 3rd grade—typically 8 or 9 years old—if they’ve failed to meet basic reading and writing standards, they’re often deemed “at-risk.” This means they’re often subject to “zero tolerance” discipline models—especially if those children are black, indigenous, or brown boys. It also means they’re included in the statistics the government tracks to determine how many beds they assume they’ll need in prisons.
This is the big thing I want my book to change in the world—I want to encourage little black boys like my nephews to read! Reading is the most fundamental tool that people have. If you can read, you can learn! If you can learn, you can grow. If you grow, you can be anything!
I wrote this book for black boys so they can be excited to see themselves as the heroes of the story.
I wrote this book for black boys so the repetitive patterns can help them learn to read.
I wrote this book for black boys so it will become a subconscious mantra—the things you say to kids become what they think. And I want black boys to know they can be anything.
ABOUT THE CREATORS
I’m Crown, and Black Boy, Black Boy will be my first book of many! I’ve always been deeply rooted in literature and writing, but it wasn't until I found more writers that looked like me that my writing soared. Octavia Butler is one black female author who allowed me to dream and create by my standards, and from a point of view of a black protagonist. I hope my books will inspire other black writers in the same way.
I was intentional about hiring a black male artist and am lucky to collaborate with St. Paul native Mychal Baston. Mychal Batson is a designer, illustrator, and writer from St. Paul, MN. Through his work, he aims to capture the vibrancy, uniqueness, and beauty of the black experience. He recently created a comic book series about Frogtown in St. Paul.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
The story is written. The illustrations are in process. Now all that’s left is to raise the funds for printing.
The book will be a hardcover 9.5 x 8 full-color book. With the publishing costs of illustration, design, and printing, I need to raise $5,000 to bring this book to life.
And that’s where you come in. I’ve put together special reward bundles for all pre-orders of Black Boy, Black Boy that help me bring this book to black boys everywhere.
Along with being one of the first people to receive a signed copy of Black Boy, Black Boy, I’ve created an assortment of fun rewards to inspire reading!
Risks and challenges
Like any artistic endeavor, funding is one of the biggest challenges this book faces. However, that’s the biggest hurdle! I’ve partnered with a Twin Cities publisher, Beaver’s Pond Press, to ensure a smooth and professional publishing process—and a beautiful book.
I hope to have books printed in time for Black History Month in February, but if I run into any hiccups, I’ll keep all backers updated about timeline changes.
Thank you for believing in this book! Let’s show black boys to believe in themselves!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)