When Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Vin Diesel, Blair Underwood and more top name celebrities show up and participate in a launch video for one cause, you know it must be a big important deal. But when the White House calls you to invite you to a literary gathering for the White House Initiative for Education Excellence for African Americans, you have captured a certain kind of lightning-bolt need in a book that was long desired and way overdue. Such is the current journey of authors Betty K. Bynum and Joshua B. Drummond of the highly popular and purchased children’s book, I’m a Brilliant Little Black Boy! (available at www.DreamIam.com)
Here what some celebrities are saying about the book:
“I’m a Brilliant Little Black Boy! is a complete and thorough study for children. The story provides positive, constructive tools to assist with self-esteem issues and also aides in building strong examples of identity. The story is easy to follow, holds interest and cleverly follows a lesson plan that is achievable for success.” — Pauletta Washington & Denzel Washington, Academy Award-winning Actor
“This book title is the perfect answer to peer group smart-shaming”! — Samuel L. Jackson, Actor
“The beautiful thing about what Joshua and Betty have done is that they have created a storytelling expression of love that will help young Black boys on the path to being confident men.” — John Singleton, Film Director
“Finally! A beautiful, insightful and fun book that is exactly what our boys will desire to READ — and read it over and over again. And each time, the brilliance tucked inside every little Black boy will shine a bit brighter.” — Alvin Irby, CEO, Barbershop Books
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 underserved demographic in this realm – a reality that stands to have a devastating impact over time.
Filling a void in a unique way
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, 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 actor Samuel L. Jackson, Academy Award winning actor Denzel Washington, and 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. Co-authored by Dreamtitle’s CEO and founder Betty K. Bynum, I’m A Brilliant Little Black Boy is the first book by Bynum’s 20-year-old son Joshua Drummond.
Bynum inspired her son’s first foray into the publishing arena as a way to both further develop his innate creative knack and entrepreneurial skills. Bynum also oversaw the art direction, production, and development of the project. The book’s storyline stems from Joshua’s reflections on cartoons from his childhood and the dearth of Black characters. “I would watch Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon,” he recalls. “Every once in a while there would be that one Black character within the friend group. But there was never a whole group of young Black kids for the cartoons in particular.” 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. “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.” 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 long running 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. “I didn’t really see a lot of myself in the kinds of media that I was consuming growing up,” he recalls. “The fact of that didn’t really hit me until much later in life. And I started to see the impact that a positive Black image has on a young mind, even if the child isn’t aware of it.” As he advanced in his career, he made it a point to address this imbalance when creative opportunities arose. McGee saw I’m A Brilliant Little Black Boy as rare opportunity to address the issue utilizing his superb talent, aligning himself with the project without hesitation. “I thought it was definitely in line with my thinking,” says McGee. “There was a time when being the best artist was the most important thing to me. But I had an epiphany at a certain point when I realized how rare it is for Black people in general to control their own images in the media.”
McGee’s illustrious images compliment Joshua’s whimsical yet purposeful storyline with an incomparable ease and dexterity – enabling the book to flow effortlessly from one page to the next. While McGee and Joshua 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. “They’re going to see these smiling boys interacting with one another, being productive with one another, working together, being positive,” says McGee. “These are images that stay in the mind and the subconscious. Even if you don’t know what you’re seeing. Even if your conscious mind is not aware of what you’re seeing, your conscious mind is absorbing everything. This book is a gift to the world.”
I’m A Brilliant Little Black Boy follows the story of Joshua, a curious little boy who magically taps into his budding intellectual aptitude and innate creativity through a series of epiphanies and the help of community members. “He wants to do a lot of things,” explains Joshua. “At first, he’s not very confident with himself. But throughout the course of the book, he starts to discover different talents he never knew he had and do all kinds of amazing things.” Joshua, a college freshman and theater acting major, crafted the story line between studies with the intent of activating dormant talents in young Black boys who may be in need of some encouragement. “Many brilliant Black boys were never encouraged as children,” he says. “If they never had that support growing up, never had someone by their side in their growth process, it has a direct effect on their self esteem and what they feel they can achieve.”
Joshua’s choice to begin the book with the main character as reticent and reluctant serves the purpose of building a magnificently triumphant storyline trajectory. “He’s not trying out new experiences,” he says. “At the beginning of the book, he doesn’t know his true self. But as the story progresses, he starts to try different things that builds confidence in his abilities.” Little Joshua soon starts to blossom with the help of his community, expressing interest in painting, astrology, and even hip hop. The book also does an impressive job with character building, presenting Joshua with light moral dilemmas. “It’s really the beginning of his journey in becoming a successful young Black man,” says Joshua. “So there are instances where he’s in certain situations that require him to think about whether its for the greater good or for selfish reasons. The other characters in the story – his teachers, parents, friends, people in his community – all play an important role in that process. He wouldn’t be able to reach his goals without the support that he gets from his community.”
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. “This particular book has a message, but it’s also fun,” says Christmas. “It’s all about pride, but it’s done in an entertaining way that isn’t heavy handed.” Known for his signature work with companies such as Nickelodeon and Jim Henson Productions, Christmas designed the 18” vinyl doll for the main character of Dreamtitle’s inaugural children’s title I’m A Pretty Little Black Girl. He sees the book as a colorful tool for modeling constructive behavior while normalizing academic interest and cooperative action. “At its core, the story is about a normal group of kids,” he says. “The things that they’re involved in – math, science, sports – just reinforces positivity in general and counter balances all of the other images and messages they’re seeing and hearing in the media.”
With various traditional and non traditional marketing and promotional plans for the book – including book tours, barbershops, accessory and clothing lines – Christmas sees unlimited potential for the book and its ability to reach new audiences and touch lives. “When you look at it, you can tell that it’s ready to be an animated series,” he proclaims. “You can just look at it the illustrations and see it moving. I love the project and can’t wait for people to see it.” 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. “This book will teach them to believe in themselves,” says Joshua. “Believing in yourself is going to take you places you’ve never dreamed of. I would love for young Black boys to pick up the book and feel motivated to do anything their hearts desire after reading it. I hope it inspires them to do better things and think outside the box. It’s something that is needed to uplift and inspire. Especially for Black culture. This is my contribution.”
For more details and/or to purchase the book, visit www.DreamIam.com