We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, edited by Wade Hudson & Cheryl Willis Hudson, foreword by Ashley Bryan, 96 pp, RL 4
We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices
foreword by Ashley Bryan
Purchased with grant funding for my school library
Thirty years ago, Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson were parents seeking books that reflected the diversity of Black history, heritage and experiences. Unable to find any, they started Just Us Books, now a leader in multicultural publishing and one of the few Black-owned publishers in the U.S. In their introduction to We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, the write about growing up in the segregated South among the discrimination, prejudice and hatred against African Americans that made their life difficult and often dangerous. They also write,
The segregated but unequal system we were forced to endure was extremely trying and often frightening. Yet, in our all-Black communities, we were embraced by accepting arms, motivated by encouraging words, and sheltered by watchful eyes that probed for signs of lurking dangers seeking to engulf us. We were loved! We knew it! We could feel it!
This protective, encouraging, inspiring embrace resonates off every page of this magnificent anthology the Hudsons have created. We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices is truly a gift to all Black, Indigenous and Children of Color. As a white woman, I am deeply grateful for the window that it opens and the opportunity for deepening empathy and compassion this book has given me.
Renowned artist, writer, storyteller and humanitarian Ashley Bryan begins by telling readers that this book will, "lift your spirits. If you flip through all the creative gems put into your hands and hearts by the gifts of people of color, we will hear your voices chanting praises. Then, as you read, you will realize this is not a onetime read but a resource for rescue from the pitfalls of the day." While every poem, song, story, essay, and letter in this book encourages readers to remember and learn from their history and to choose kindness in the face of hatred, oppression and racism, as an adult, a parent and someone who works with children of color, it is also heartbreaking to think that we still live in a country, a world, where children have to grow up fighting for equality and justice, and fearing for their safety because of the color of their skin.
|Illustration by Javaka Steptoe|
The Hudsons share that their great-niece inspired this book. Seven years old at the time of the 2016 presidential election, Jordyn heard the hateful language "spewed at women, those with disabilities, people of different faiths, and people of color" during the election. She heard the talk of "taking our country back" and this language stayed with her. Wade Hudson leads this collection with his poem, "What Shall We Tell You?" where he addresses the "dark and uninviting" world where "hateful words that wound and bully are thrown / like bricks against a wall, shattering into debris?" Almost every contribution to We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices addresses this hatred straight on, at the same time reassuring readers that, in Hudson's words, "We will be there with peace and justice as our weapons and love / as a soothing salve to comfort and embrace."
And, while a "soothing embrace" is the overwhelming message, loss, sadness and fear emanate from the pages at times, as with Tony Medina's story with art by Edel Rodriguez, "One Day My Papí Drove Me to School," where the narrator's father is arrested by ICE while dropping her off at school. She does find a very cool way to confront bullies in MAGA hats, but her story ends with her mother having to find a new job to support her family and work to get her Papí back.
|Illustration by Andrea Pippins|
Kwame Alexander's poem about taking his daughter out for a scoop of bubble gum ice cream is fraught with her fear that he is driving too fast and the police will take him away, and his worry that he should not have had NPR on in the car where she could hear news reports of "this middle passage of murder" that is becoming the norm. Hena Khan tells readers "How to Pass the Test" and educate, starting with the correct pronunciation of the word Muslim. Ellen Oh shares the challenges of growing up Korean American and lesson that anger is "both a powerful tool and a dangerous weapon in her essay "Words Have Power." Evelyn Coleman introduces readers to "The Art of Mindfulness," and Roy Boney Jr. writes of his evolution as an artist creating his own version of modern Cherokee art and his choice not to follow stereotypes, but to express his own story.
There are poems like "A Talkin' To" by Jason Reynolds, "What Songs Will Our Children Sing," by Curtis Hudson, "Where Are the Good People," by Tameka Fryer Brown and "We've Got You," by Pat Cummings that address the "storm coming" as well as the endurance, perseverance of the Black community as "tyrants rise and fall." Then there are the poems, like "a day of small things" by Tonya Bolden, "You Too Can Fly" by Zetta Elliott and "You Can Do It" by Jabari Asim that gently embrace readers and raise them up.
We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices is a gorgeous, bittersweet, much needed collection for our children and ourselves.