How do we unleash young Black learners to challenge the false narratives about Blackness and their potential? We can start by empowering them to shift their inner dialogue and discover the goodness and greatness within them. The significance of transforming this inner dialogue is embodied in Derrick Barnes’ I Am Every Good Thing. The story’s young Black narrator learns during his adventures, through trying, failing, and facing fear (including the fear of being misunderstood and underestimated), that he is “creative, smart, intelligent,” and powerful. This is a great resource for learner-centered educators committed to showing young people that Black excellence is something to be normalized and uplifted.
All Because You Matter
Tami Charles, Bryan Collier (Illustrator)
What if the catalyst to a young person fulfilling their unique potential began with two simple words: you matter? How might hearing that wake them up to seeing the world in a new way. And, empower them to play a role in shaping it. In All Because You Matter, Tami Charles and Bryan Collier use visual and written storytelling to construct a poetic “ode to Black and Brown children everywhere that is full of hope, assurance, and love.” This imaginative picture book/love letter fusion reminds Black and Brown youth that they do (and always have) mattered—a message all young need to hear if they are to move past their internalized, self-limiting narratives.
Brown Girl Dreaming
Empowering a young person to follow a creative interest can become a literal act of liberation. For distinguished author Jacqueline Woodson, writing (which helped her cope with her reading struggles) was the vehicle through which she discovered her own voice. In Brown Girl Dreaming, Woodson uses emotional poetry to retrace her experiences as a young Black girl growing up in the 60s and 70s (in both New York and South Carolina) during the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. From her words arises a power that may have forever remained dormant if exploring her interest had been denied. As you immerse yourself in her stories and feel the strength in her writing, imagine how you’re guiding the young people you serve to harness a passion that sparks joy in them and gives them a sense of purpose.
The Dragons, the Giant, the Woman: A Memoir
What does it mean to create a future of learning where the individual and the community are interconnected? For one, it means allowing young people to feel more rooted in their community and to feel a greater sense of place and belonging—especially if they recently migrated to a country and their identity feels displaced. Wayétu Moore investigates this idea in The Dragons, the Giant, the Woman—a retelling of her turbulent childhood, which included fleeing war in Liberia and eventually finding a new home in Texas. Her narrative calls attention to the experiences of many migrants and underscores why building community that transcends culture and identity is an essential component to a reimagined future of education.
Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham
Thanks to the digital age we live in, Black youth are being exposed to diverse possibilities for their futures that were once invisible. A big catalyst in this awakening are the stories of Black creators being amplified by authors like Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham. Their visionary book, Black Futures, “tells the story of the radical, imaginative, provocative, and gorgeous world that Black creators are bringing forth today.” Drew and Wortham feature a kaleidoscope of works that, when taken as a whole, reveal an awe-inspiring portrait of possibilities. Through the images, essays, memes, dialogues, recipes, tweets, poetry, and other creative products the authors feature, they deliver a compelling message to Black youth: their future is theirs to create.