By: Priscilla Wiredu
When it comes to literature, it is important to provide Black boys with a space to express their perspectives. Providing Black boys with an equal voice will allow publishing companies to recognize that these unique stories can offer meaningful insight on different topics and positively influence acceptance within society.
A thought provoking question readers should challenge is whether Black boys have ever felt “safe” in American society.
This question is daunting because when we reflect on literature many Black boys are underrepresented. Examples can include Emmett Till, the Central Park Five, Trayvon Martin, and Ralph Yarl. Black boys are deemed as the ‘criminal body’ of Western tradition and culture, yet constantly face traumatic experiences.
North America has to recognize that Black boys are equal humans with rights that must be accounted for. The lives of Black boys, their talents, their vulnerable experiences, and their feelings are worth being heard. Black boys deserve recognition and should be offered avenues to success in order to grow as an avid thinker and speaker.
Sharing the stories offered by Black boys provides a connection to like-minded individuals that experience similar situations, which can lead to modes of solidarity, enhanced collective action, and acceptance within society.
Outlined below are five books for Black boys that offer insightful life lessons.
A classic in Black literature, Bud, not Buddy illustrates the story of Bud Caldwell, a 10-year old boy living in 1930’s Michigan. Bud is depicted as an orphan of four years who develops resentment towards his atrocious foster homes and seeks out to find his biological father. With foreshadowing and clues, Bud concludes that the infamous Herman E. Calloway is his biological father. He makes efforts to find him in hopes to join his band. Instead, Bud finds a home, and closure for his mother’s death. A classic tale of perseverance and strength at a young age,Bud, not Buddy, is an optimal story for Black boys to learn about history, family, and passion.
An entertaining children’s story about bravery, Jabari Jumps has readers rooting for the protagonist, Jabari, a young Black boy, who is determined to jump off the diving board at his community pool after completing his swimming lessons and passing the swim test. His determination to perfect his jump into the water teaches others that hard work pays off. It also inspires readers to not give up on their goals because their accolades will be recognized. Jabari Jumps is a tale that illustrates key lessons surrounding overcoming fears, forming a strong bond between father and son, and to believe in yourself.
Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History is an anthology that delves deep into Black men and their historical accolades. Along with the written biographies, readers will learn about artists, aviators, politicians, athletes and activists. The book features famous Black men such as James Baldwin, Aaron Douglas, Bass Reeves, John Lewis, and Prince. This book illuminates strength and includes beautiful pictures that incorporate colour stories that exhibit Black heritage and culture. These stories create hope for many Black generations ahead when achieving success in all facets of life.
Ghost Boys is a heartbreaking novel that tells the story of a 12-year old Black boy named Jerome. He was fatally shot by the police after his toy gun was mistaken for a real weapon. His character is now illustrated as a ghost, and Jerome is confronted with the aftermath of his death, and the negative repercussions of his actions in witnessing his family and community deal with the loss from the backlash received by the police.
Later on, Jerome meets another ghost named Emmett Till, a boy who died from a similar situation, but in a different time frame. Emmett befriends Jerome and helps him process the situation. He also provides Jerome with guidance to confront issues of racial injustice in the criminal justice system to help him understand why Jerome was wrongfully shot.
Ghost Boys provides readers with a clever plot that highlights both historical and socio-political views. It depicts the complexities of race and racism in modern society, and the injustice aimed at Black boys. This book and the author’s thoughts were once banned; however, the book’s message remains an integral part of the unfair world we live in that can be related to the recent news of George Floyd.
Ron’s Big Mission illustrates a true story about peaceful resistance against discrimination. In the story, Ron McNair, who at the time was nine years old, was fond of his local library for keeping books that offered unique topics on airplanes and flights.
However, when he asked to check out a book he was unable to due to the segregation laws enacted in South Carolina during the 1950’s. Ron’s fight to obtain a library card is not only a right of passage but his first challenge at achieving acceptance. Inspiring and touching, this book illustrates how one Black boy’s oppression enabled him to become a future scientist and astronaut given the barriers to access an education through books.
Books hold an immense amount of knowledge that can transform someone’s life. The story about Ron can provide a sense of direction for the Black community. It encourages Black people to use the resources that are readily available to them following segregation.
These stories provide Black boys with an in-depth understanding of how they achieved success despite suffering from restrictive laws. With diverse books available at one’s fingertips catering to Black boys, it becomes a literary awakening for society to normalize and accept inclusion in both academic institutions and libraries.
Priscilla Wiredu is a writer for this year’s Black Voice project. An alumni of York University, she graduated with Honors where she studied Social Sciences. She then went on to get an Ontario Graduate certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for Writers, and a college certificate in Legal Office Administration at Seneca College. She is currently studying for the LSAT in hopes of going to law school. Her main goal as a Black Voices writer is to ensure Black issues and Black Pride are enunciated through her works.