In Young, Gifted, and Black we are introduced to fifty-two icons of colour from the past and present. It is a celebration of Black culture — curated by Jamia Wilson (and lovingly brought to life by the exciting illustrations of Andrea Pippins) to include a wide spectrum of achievements in science, the arts, politics, and sport. It is a book designed to inspire and empower.
I don’t think it is a mistake that this book was published this year. It directly taps into the zeitgeist — the feeling that now is a time to believe in something, and stand up for that something (or kneel, as the case may be), and be heard. So, I asked author Jamia Wilson, “Why now?” This is her reply:
JW: All children deserve to live in a world where they can see themselves positively reflected in culture, achieve their fullest potential, and have their lineage and dignity recognized and celebrated. That’s why we brought Young, Gifted, and Black, a love-letter to the next-generation of change-makers to life. We created it to lift up the work of black luminaries across genres and borders.
Our book is both a text and a mirror where children can see elements of themselves in the lives and works of 52 catalysts. Each of the heroes we profiled grew up with triumphs and challenges that led them to make an impact. We’re sending kids a message that they too are worthy, and that their strengths and the struggles they have overcome can help them follow their dreams. Moreover, we’re also showing them that they can use their unique talents to create resources their community needs like Andrea and I did when we teamed up on this project.
In a children’s literary publishing landscape that is 80% white, books created by women of colour, that focus on the lives and work of people of colour are few and far between. This reality can impact how children of colour perceive themselves and what is possible for them to achieve. The lack of diversity also limits white children from understanding that people of colour historically and presently lead, build, create and transform in ways that are often left out of our public conversation. As the rise of authoritarianism, racism, and attacks on free expression threaten progress across the globe, we need books like ours more than ever — because books build bridges and break down walls.
JAMIA WILSON is the executive director and publisher of the Feminist Press. She is a leading voice on feminist and gender justice issues whose words have appeared in and on the New York Times, The Guardian, BBC News, The Today Show, CNN, The Washington Post, Elle, Teen Vogue and more. She’s a columnist for Rookie Magazine and has contributed to several books, including Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution. Jamia is an adjunct professor at the John Jay School for Criminal Justice and travels across the U.S. – and beyond – to talk about race, feminism, leadership and so much more.
ANDREA PIPPINS is an illustrator, designer, and author who has a passion for creating images that reflect what she wants to see in art, media, and pop culture. Her vision is to empower people of colour with tools and inspiration to create and tell their own stories. She is the best-selling creator of the colouring book I Love My Hair and the interactive journal Becoming Me. Her clients include O: The Oprah Magazine, Scoop Magazine, Family Circle, The Huffington Post, Bustle, Free People, Lincoln Center and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Andrea is based in Stockholm, Sweden. Follow @andreapippins on Instagram and visit her website at andreapippins.com.