When I was a teenager, independent and sure of everything, I asked my mother, “Why did you even have kids? You of all people know how awful people can be and how tough life is.” My mother, raised in the backwoods of segregated Virginia, gave birth to and raised three daughters.
I’m sure my hand was on my hip as I asked her. I directed my frustration—with racism, with sexism, with classism, with the whole world—at her. After all, she brought me into such a crazy world. She deserved some sass!
At the time, I was sure I wouldn’t ever become a parent myself; I was just waking up, becoming aware of politics and history, the many wrongs committed through the years. “Why didn’t you chose not to?” I asked.
Her response was simple. “Because then they would’ve won.”
Now I am a mother, a mother to a daughter, who is so full of happiness and curiosity. And now the world feels even crazier than it did that day with my mother.
Despite the anguish and fear and outrage, we are witnessing an international uprising, demanding justice and working for a new, more equitable world.
The most inspiring faces in those crowds are the young people who know nothing but a world with frequent videos of graphic, state-sanctioned violence. And yet they march.
This week at the Oakland Public Library, we celebrate diversity and focus on the idea of Black Joy. “Blackness is an immense and defiant joy,” writes Professor Imani Perry for The Atlantic. You can hear it in our music, you can see it in our art, and you can feel it in our poetry, plays and prose.
It is resistance to be happy, proud and united in the face of sorrow. It is also a critical act of self-care, a skill I want our youth in Oakland to master.
So even as we ride the rollercoaster of global protests and a global pandemic, let’s find, create, and capture that Black Joy.
Let’s play with our hair in the morning. Let's cook our favorites through the day. My little one especially loves to dance, so we tune in to a good radio station and crank the volume up at the end of the day.
Our children’s librarians recommend the following resources to tap into Black Joy, into pride in Black heritage, and to celebrate the diversity among Black people. Many of these resources are available digitally, and others can be requested for sidewalk pickup.
Read, watch, listen, and enjoy!
Family & Community
Ana & Andrew (series) by Christine Platt: Ana & Andrew are always on an adventure! They live in Washington, DC with their parents, but with family in Savannah, Georgia and Trinidad, there’s always something exciting and new to learn about African American history and culture. Read it on Hoopla, or check it out at the library.
Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank: Join Baby and his doting mama at a bustling southwest Nigerian marketplace for a bright, bouncy read-aloud offering a gentle introduction to numbers. (Currently my daughter's favorite!) Check it out at the library.
Magnificent Homespun Brown by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita: A joyful young narrator celebrates feeling at home in one's own skin. Watch the animated video on Hoopla, or check out this brand new book at the library.
Black Is A Rainbow Color by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes: A child reflects on the meaning of being Black in this anthem about a people, a culture, a history, and a legacy that lives on. Includes historical and cultural notes, song list, and two poems. Check out this brand new book at the library.
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James: This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair—a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth. Read it on RB Digital, or check it out at the library.
Thirteen Ways of Looking at A Black Boy by Tony Medina & 13 artists: A fresh perspective of young men of color depicting thirteen views of everyday life: young boys dressed in their Sunday best, running to catch a bus, and growing up to be teachers, and much more. Each of Tony Medina's tanka is matched with a different artist including recent Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Award recipients. Check it out at the library.
My People by Langston Hughes, photographs by Charles R. Smith Jr.: Hughes's spare yet eloquent tribute to his people has been cherished for generations. Now, acclaimed photographer Smith interprets this beloved poem in vivid sepia photographs that capture the glory, the beauty, and the soul of being a black American today. Check it out at the library.
I Love My Hair! by Natasha Tarpley, illustrated by E. B. Lewis: A young African American girl describes the different, wonderful ways she can wear her hair. Check it out at the library.
Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney, photographs by Myles Pinkney: Photographs and poetic text celebrate the beauty and diversity of African American children. Check it out at the library.
Art & Expression
Dancing in the Light: The Janet Collins Story: Janet loved to dance, and she especially loved ballet! When the world renowned Ballet Russe came to town holding auditions in 1934, Janet could hardly wait for her moment to shine. This is the inspiring story of the first African American prima ballerina, Janet Collins. Narrated by actor and comedian Chris Rock, this story teaches us that we can be anything we set our minds to. Watch the video on Kanopy.
Trombone Shorty by Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier: A Grammy-nominated headliner for the New Orleans Jazz Fest describes his childhood in Tremé and how he came to be a bandleader by age six. Enjoy the read-along on Hoopla (read by Trombone Shorty himself!), borrow the eBook on Overdrive, or check it out at the library.
A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée: After attending a powerful protest, Shayla starts wearing an armband to school to support the Black Lives Matter movement, but when the school gives her an ultimatum, she is forced to choose between her education and her identity. Borrow the eBook or eAudiobook on Overdrive, borrow the eAudiobook on Hoopla, or check it out at the library.
Freedom Soup by Tami Charles, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara: Every year, Haitians all over the world ring in the new year by eating a special soup, a tradition dating back to the Haitian Revolution. This year, Ti Gran is teaching Belle how to make the soup. Together, they dance and clap as they prepare the holiday feast, and Ti Gran tells Belle about the history of the soup, the history of Belle's family, and the history of Haiti, where Belle's family is from. Enjoy the animated video on Hoopla, or check the book out at the library.
The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem's Greatest Bookstore by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie: In the 1930s, Lewis's dad had an itch he needed to scratch—a book itch. How to scratch it? He started a bookstore in Harlem and named it the National Memorial African Bookstore. And as far as Lewis could tell, his father's bookstore was one of a kind. People from all over came to visit the store, even famous people—Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, and Langston Hughes, to name a few. People not only bought and read books here, and they also learned from each other. Read this on Overdrive or Hoopla, or check it out at the library.
If you want more recommendations, submit a request through Book Me!, or email us with other questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also leave a voicemail with your full name and details at 510-238-3134. And for e-books, streaming video, and more digital content, browse Overdrive, Hoopla, Tumblebook, RB Digital, and all of our other online resources.