These words, coupled with illustrations on award-winning author Derrick Barnes' Instagram page, caught the attention of Lindsay Sullivan, student transition technician in Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS), back in September.
"I thought, 'Wow, this is such an, inspiring, uplifting, positive celebration of Black boyhood.' So I reached out to Barnes and told him about our JCCS programs and asked if he would be available to do a Zoom event," Sullivan said.
When Sullivan reached out, she sent Barnes a photo taken at the beach that included his book, I Am Every Good Thing, opened to an illustration of a child on the beach. This caught the author's eye. They kept in touch over the next six months and coordinated an opportunity for students to meet with Barnes virtually to ask questions about his career and influences for his book, which features illustrations and statements empowering Black youth.
In advance of the virtual meeting, JCCS Executive Director Tracy Thompson, several JCCS staff members, and students read pages from the book for a recording that was shared with Barnes as a surprise. Thompson also served as moderator during the virtual event (pictured to the right with Barnes on top and Thompson below).
"The page from the book that I read meant a lot to me as a Black teen who often gets judged by my appearance," said Amarii, a student at La Mesa Community School. "Like the saying, 'Don't judge a book by its cover,' his writing has a powerful message about respecting people and getting to know them, instead of judging people by how they look."
Nick, a student at 37ECB, was surprised that a children's book could have such a powerful and inspiring message that resonated with teens and adults.
"The last page of the book was very deep because for Black youth the author encouraged us to believe that we are worthy of love or respect. We don't always hear or see that message as Black youth, so that was very powerful for me," Nick said. "Being part of the book recording also made me feel inspired to open myself up again to others and new experiences."