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Little Justice Leaders Blog

“ABCs of Black History” by Rio Cortez

by Tyree McMillan, an LJL content creator

In February’s box, there was a book titled, “ABC’s of Black History” by Rio Cortez. This book is primarily made for children, however, when I first read the book as a high school student, I realized that I had learned more from this book than I have from many other books in my seventeen years of life. School children are all at ages where the brain is still developing, and even though aspects of personality become concrete as you get older, how you treat other people and human decency can always be learned and corrected. This book is great for children of all ages. The amount of information given in this book is easily understood for younger kids and advanced enough to trigger the interest of older kids. We read picture books because they are simple ways of teaching people how to be decent, and the information is easily understood. 

Diaspora and Folklore

While reading ABC’s of Black History, I learned about the meaning of the diaspora. Right after I read that part of the book, I talked to my mother about it and asked her if I was considered part of it. We concluded that my ethnic background is so mixed-up that I feel far removed from it, but I might be if I dig back far enough. Knowing what diaspora means will help Black people learn more about their lineage and more about themselves.

I learned about the connection of folklore to Black history, and what it really meant for Black people. With folklore came freedom and family, and it brought a sense of belonging and acceptance amongst Black people. Reading that page in the book made so much sense. Folklore brought people together because it provided a sense of normality in a world which was very abnormal. It brought them closer to family and friends. They were empowered to make memories they could treasure for years afterwards.

It felt amazing to see my culture be represented in a positive light.

Tyree McMillan

Connection and Memory

However, my favorite part of the book was when I saw the word “J’ouvert”; it’s a street party held as part of Carnival in the Caribbean. I was surprised and excited to see something from my own culture in a book. To me, it showed that people are listening and actually doing research on Black traditions. It felt amazing to see my culture be represented in a positive light. I came to understand how far the diaspora spreads and that we’re all still connected in some way. It demonstrated that Caribbean culture is still Black culture, just a little different.

I also learned about many more people who have made a difference in the Black community, such as Zora Neale Hurston. She was a woman at the forefront of the Harlem Renaissance with her works on Black struggles and even more taboo topics for the time, like hoodoo. I’m planning to read more about each person’s connection to Black history to learn about how they impacted life today.               

Information with Captivation

The artwork in this book also grips the attention of both young children and teens. The pictures captured my eye and engaged my mind in the other content involved. If teachers involved more of these types of books– books that have loads of dense information but use beautiful pictures that can capture your attention– then I could see the lessons being much more successful. To me, that is just the way to go.

In the end, this book is amazing because it helps kids learn about the interconnectedness of Black history as well as Black peoples’ contributions to greater society, which conventional Western history does not address as much. I love this book and my little cousin also loves this book; he reads it every night (though I think he likes the pictures more than comprehending the book)! So in the end, I recommend that you read the book for yourself and also help your children read it. You may find that you both will learn more and expand your knowledge of Black History.

Book Guide Resource

We’ve been lucky to receive this educator’s guide from our friends at Workman Publishing Co. It contains helpful information to guide you in book discussion with your little learners. https://s3.amazonaws.com/workman.cms.uploads/miscellaneous/9781523507498_eg_manualupload.pdf