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‘Black girl joy’ is at the heart of this new children’s picture book

Black Women in Education

‘Black girl joy’ is at the heart of this new children’s picture book


Breanna J. McDaniel hopes black girls will recognize themselves in her debut picture book Hands Up!. Even before they flip to the first page, they’ll see a smiling black girl jumping on the cover.

“Unfortunately, you still don’t see a ton of that. And not just black girls. Girls of color, period,” says McDaniel.

McDaniel’s story is about Viv, a lively, responsible, and talented black girl. As readers flip through the vibrant illustrations, Viv grows older and raises her hands in different contexts. She plays peek-a-boo with her parents, participates in class, and practices fifth position, like her favorite ballerina Misty Copeland.

The examples are common, joyful, and in sharp contrast to the violent, painful images typically associated with the title phrase. “Hands up, don’t shoot” became a rallying cry at the Ferguson protests, which started after a white police officer killed Michael Brown, an unarmed, 18-year-old black teenager. McDaniel drew inspiration from Black Lives Matter, a movement to end violence against black people, and wrote the first draft of her book ..

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I am a future butterfly at the stage of growth when I am turning into an adult. I am enclosed in a hard case shell formed by love, family, and friends. It is the hardest stage of becoming a black butterfly. You will encounter many hardships only to come out stronger and better than what you went in. At this stage, you are finding out who you truly are and how to love yourself.

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What Does It Mean To Be “Black Butterfly Beautiful”

The image of the butterfly has come to define the many expressions of the feminine black consciousness and for a good reason. The butterfly is the perfect articulation of the exquisite beauty of nature. Whether tiny or large, brightly colored or more subdued, the butterfly’s allure is undeniable. Each one displays its own unique patterns and hues, and no one species outshines any other.

Similarly, there is no one ideal image of a black woman -- each is gorgeous in her right. All African-Americans share a glorious history of struggle and perseverance that has funneled into the modern black renaissance. And, like the graceful butterfly, the awakened black woman exemplifies the dazzling beauty of that cultural evolution.

Flying High

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