There’s an oft repeated African proverb which so profoundly states that it takes a village to raise a child. In some way, it can be said that we are all composites of contributions from various individuals along the course of our spectacular journey. The stories we read, the lessons we’re taught, the nurturing we receive. From childhood, how we absorb all these things and more along that aforementioned journey shapes our world view, informs our abilities and enables us to imagine possibilities. Yet even in the booming multi-billion dollar children’s book market, with sales up almost 13% in 2015, only roughly 10% of all children’s books over the past two decades contain multicultural content. And with African-American spending power estimated at $1.1 trillion dollars, conventional logic dictates that Black children are an undeserved demographic in this realm – a reality that stands to have a devastating impact over time.
With this noticeable diversity gap in the children’s publishing industry, the sizable lack of affirming messaging and positive imagery aimed at African-American children in books has not gone unnoticed. To this effect, PaperUp Publishing, (imprint of Dreamtitle Publishing, publishers of the wildly successful I’m A Pretty Little Black Girl!) presents I’m A Brilliant Little Black Boy! – a new book that is poised to fill a void in a unique way that will have a lasting impact on the genre at large. With praise from celebrities such as esteemed Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington, indomitable actor Samuel L. Jackson and film director John Singleton, I’m A Brilliant Little Black Boy! is a breath of fresh air with the potential to positively impact and shape the impressionable minds of an entire generation of young Black boys. I’m A Brilliant Little Black Boy! is the first book by Bynum’s 19-year-old son Joshua B. Drummond, and launching PaperUp Publishing, an imprint for this title series, graphic novels and sci-fi genre literature.
Launching the I’m a Brilliant Little Black Boy! book campaign, is a the first of it’s kind star-studded, cell phone selfie-video with Black male celebrities voicing the hashtag: #Bbrilliant, a social media campaign featuring Vin Diesel, Samuel Jackson, Omari Hardwick, Michael Ealy, Blair Underwood, Malik Yusef, Drumma Boy and more to introduce I’m a Brilliant Little Black Boy! and plant the idea of success in the minds of boys and all readers.
Bynum says this book was an answer to a huge call. “After the I’m A Pretty Little Black Girl! books started to rapidly sell out, I got so many emails and social media requests with folks saying, “Hey, do a book for our boys!”.I told Joshua of the dozens of requests for a boys’ book. And he said, “Mom, I’ll help you write it.” And since he’s been writing since the age of 2 years old and I have taught him to write screenplays on Final Draft since he was 14, I said, ‘Do it! You’re hired! We need great books for our Black boys. There is a huge void on the shelves for books without Black boys at the center of the story. And that truly matters, that they see themselves in a happy, joyful a colorful way. They will believe what they see. Black books matter, and they matter to our society and world, as a whole.”
The book’s storyline stems from Joshua’s own reflections on cartoons from his childhood and the dearth of Black characters. “I would watch Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon,” Joshua recalls. “Every once in a while there would be that one Black character within the friend group. But for my age, there was never a whole group of just boys, like cool Black kids for the cartoons in particular. As a Black teenager, I’m aware of how race and inequality has reemerged as part of the national conversation. And I wanted to bring some positivity to the table and some light to the world.”
It wasn’t long before a sociopolitical wave of unrest and awakening had begun to dominate national conversation, further motivating Joshua to contribute to the conversation with an inspiring message for younger generations of Black boys. The result is I’m A Brilliant Little Black Boy!, a wondrous story of self-discovery and sense of purpose featuring vibrant illustrations by accomplished illustrator Brian McGee (Disney, Cartoon Network). With a wealth of industry experience under his belt, including his role as storyboard artist for the Emmy Award winning television series The Walking Dead, McGee’s childhood experience wasn’t too far removed from Joshua’s. McGee’s illustrious images compliment the Mom and son co-author’s whimsical yet purposeful storyline with an incomparable ease and dexterity – enabling the book to flow effortlessly from one page to the next. The creative team members involved knew that entertainment was the golden needle and luminous thread of the project, the fabric of their rich tapestry consisted of an overarching set of goals: bolstering self esteem, instilling moral values and encouraging Black boys to explore interests and discover their hidden capabilities.
Animator and illustrator Lawrence Christmas, creative consultant for I’m A Brilliant Little Black Boy, feels that the book will not only offer support and encouragement but will also present the importance of Black achievement with a sense of lightheartedness. Known for his signature work with companies such as Nickelodeon and Jim Henson Productions, Christmas sees the book as a colorful tool for modeling constructive behavior while normalizing academic interest and cooperative action. Joshua is resolute in his claim that I’m A Brilliant Little Black Boy! will instill confidence and encourage little Black boys nationwide to explore their hidden talents – both creative and academic.
In 2012, Betty K. Bynum released “I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl!” filled with radiant colors, captivating characters, and age-appropriate affirmations woven into a unique tale, the NAACP nominated children’s book became the #1 top seller in Amazon’s African-American children’s books. The book was praised by the likes of Debbie Allen, Chris Rock, Hill Harper, Loretta Devine and Ruby Dee with Essence Magazine saying, “Betty K. Bynum noticed what so many of us do when we visit children’s book section in stores or online: few titles with joyous Black sheroes. So the entrepreneur decided to change the complexion of youth fiction with a multicultural series teaching girls about empowerment, self-love and self acceptance.” In 2014 Bynum released “I’m a Lovely Little Latina” dedicated to girls of Latin American descent.
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