During the racial climate we live in today, sometimes it's hard to keep our young black boys motivated and unafraid. Most times, we lack the words to express to our boys that success is limitless and there also are no limits to how far one can go. Society can tell them that they're only cut out for certain careers, but we must let them know that success doesn't come in one size fits all. We must take the time each, and remind our black boys daily that they are Phenomenal, Prodigious, and Unique. Francesca Andre's book, "I am a Phenomenal Black Boy" does exactly that. It instills a sense of pride into our black boys, at young age. They learn that they are kings, should treat their bodies with self respect, and they can achieve whatever their mind takes them; among many other lessons. Being a Mother of a boy myself, I find value in this book; moreso, because it not only provides the words that a mother may attempt to express, but also fun visuals that allows the child to engage and enjoy while learning at the same time.
About “I am a Phenomenal Black Boy”
This is a book that allows parents to take back control of the narrative that surrounds black boys; by reminding them of their true identity and purpose in this world.
Phenomenal black boy is a poem, positive affirmation, and a work of activism against the many negative stereotypes that this world has set for young black boys. It asserts that black boys are filled with limitless potential and have the right to express the full range of human emotions.
“I am a Phenomenal Black Boy” is a powerful children’s book that calls for young Black boys to be unapologetic about their identity, magic, history, and brilliance. Through personal reflections and illustrations of how powerful Black male and female figures have contributed to humanity, the book centers black boys as heroes of their own stories. Phenomenal Black Boy defies the societal stereotypes often set for young black boys, serving as a guiding light and encouraging them to remain true to themselves by remaining phenomenal- Francesca Andre
Why was writing a children’s book about uplifting and encouraging our black boys important to you?
Great question! As a mom, a black mom, I know it’s my duty, my responsibility to do the work! and the work starts before our children are even conceived. There are forces, agents, institutions, people who have contributed and continue to contribute to our demise. That energy is real- you can take a look at history, you can look at current events as well. So many negative stereotypes, narratives, beliefs, attitudes towards black folks and black children are not spared. The first book was solely written for my son and it’s not published, that’s his personal story. I want him and all black children to know their history, love who they are and want to become. Positive affirmations that teach them to honor their mind, bodies. Narratives that acknowledge their existence and celebrate their brilliance.
Why do you think it is important to let black boys know that being successful goes beyond the stereotype of being an athlete or many of the other limited choices they believe they have to choose from?
Stereotypes are dangerous even “positive stereotypes” It saddens me when I see the people that the world likes to glorify. Sports and arts are important so is science and other fields. Imagine if young black boys were able to name their favorite scientists , educators, writers in the same sentence as their favorite athletes. That’s the time of influence I am referring to. I made sure in the book, there was inclusion and diversity in terms of career options, roles models, hair types, skin tones. Here’s an example of an illustration in the book. I conceptualized every single illustration for each line.
How important is for black children to know their history, to know not only about enslavement of black people but to also know that we come from a long line of kings and queens?
Listen ...I was an adult when I learned that my story didn’t start with slavery and that knowledge played a big role in my personal emancipation and healing. If our children get to learn that from the first time they bless this earth, imagine what they will be able to accomplish. There’s a reason why so many parts of our history as a people were left out in school curriculum. It’s not a coincidence that certain narratives, especially slave narratives and negative narratives are being pushed in film and television. That’s why positive storytelling about us, for us and by us is essential.
You mention the wellness of black boys and like adults, children also need a piece of mind. Why do you think many adults forget that children have feelings too?
I am going back to doing the work which requires a lot of unlearning. When I look at my son, my powerful being of light...I have to stop myself from thinking or acting like he belongs to me. Although he is a part of me, he doesn't belong to me in that sense. He’s his own person and his person hood matters even when I am assigned, chosen to be one of his earthly guides. As parents/adults, we need to always keep that in mind and encourage them to speak their minds, respect their ideas and some of their choices and that’s healthy. I say some of their choices because if my son is putting plastic in his mouth, that ain’t gonna happen! I am just saying lol. The idea/intention is to empower them and that starts at home.
Can we anticipate any more Children’s books coming from you; maybe for older children and for young girls?
Yes! Mwen chaje nan Djakout mwen ( I have more in store/mind coming soon).
Where can we purchase “I am a Phenomenal Black Boy”?
It can be purchased on Amazon.
Learn more about Francesca Andre
Award-winning filmmaker and Photographer Francesca Andre is known for creating rich and opulent work, tackling the complexities of life. Through a beautiful lens she invites you to a world of color, full of passion and triumph. In 2018, Francesca Andre made the 40 under 40 list of high achievers by Connecticut Magazine. She is now the co-founder, creative director and producer at Optik 21, a photo and video company. Her photography work has circulated in publications such as the New York Post, New York Daily News, Forbes, News Day, Connecticut Post, Daily Mail, Black Enterprise,Ellements Magazine, Fairfield Living Magazine, Westport Magazine, Sheen Magazine, Ebony Magazine, Afropunk, Global Voices and Heed magazine to name a few. Her award winning short film, Charcoal has been screened at several US and International film festivals and reviewed by The New York Daily News, Essence Magazine,Think Progress, Shadow and ACT, the Daily Voice, Ebony Magazine and Connecticut Post to name a few. The film captures the stories of two black women, as they embark on a lifelong journey to overcome internalized colorism, find self-acceptance, and ultimately redemption. Francesca has a masters in film and television from Sacred Heart University and currently resides in Connecticut and Jersey City with her husband/creative partner, Gustavo Azael Torres and their lovely dog Soley July Torres. - Courtesy of: https://www.francescaandrephotography.com/