Bay Area mother writes 'My Brown Skin' children's book, putting Black boys in spotlight

"We live in a world where little Black boys grow up to be feared as men because of the color of their skin. I wanted to change those narratives."
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- When a new mom in the East Bay couldn't find children's books in stores that featured Black boys on the cover, she picked up her pen and changed that. Now, her debut work, "My Brown Skin" has lead to a line of books, a feature on Netflix, and representation for young Black boys everywhere.

Thomishia Booker, the CEO and Owner of Hey Carter! Incorporated, started writing her first book in 2016 called "My Brown Skin."

She said her goal was then, and still is now, depicting and amplifying Black joy -- especially for young Black boys.

"We live in a world where little Black boys grow up to be feared as men because of the color of their skin. I wanted to change those narratives," said Booker.

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The company and line of books called "Hey Carter! Children's Book Series" is named after her son Carter.

"When I laid eyes on him, it was really a love letter to him and other boys that look just like him--other Black boys," said Booker.

Booker, eager to get her work to the masses, self-published her line of books.

She spoke with ABC7 News Race & Culture Reporter Julian Glover.

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Glover: What were you seeing in other children's books with Black kids as the protagonist that really wasn't satisfying to you, and you thought, I gotta do something different?

Booker: I do remember walking into stores and not being able to find books with Black boys on the front. Simply, they were missing from the shelves and it was a problem for me. You could find books with Black girls on the front, but Black boys were just missing. And if there were books, they were not written by Black authors so our stories weren't told from the perspective of Black joy, which is what we have an abundance. Usually when there was a Black male protagonist, they were in a negative light, they were the bad child or bad character in the book, they weren't doing positive things. And mainly, they weren't leading, they were not on the cover. They were not shining bright in all of their their Black joy and melanated skin, they were just missing.

Glover: How did you start this process? I can only imagine how daunting of a task it might be to start with an idea and for it to blossom into a line of children's books.

Booker: During the time that I was pregnant, it was a very difficult time for me emotionally just thinking about what it meant to be a new mom, so many unknowns. I turned to writing as a positive outlet to just express myself. During that time, when I found out I was having a boy, I was scared, I thought about what it would mean to bring a Black son into the world. I started to write the first book, which is "My Brown Skin," which is all about appreciating the things that we love about the color of brown. And building that positive association with that color brown. You know, many children don't even pull out brown as their favorite color from the Crayon box, and they associate brown with a lot of negative things. But there's so much to love about our melanated skin and so much to love about the color brown.

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Booker currently works in healthcare management, but said her work as a 0-5 therapist, expertise in early childhood mental health, and her doctoral work on colorism and skin color bias with African American women were all seeds planted along the way that lead to her successful line of books.

Glover: What is Black joy, What is Black boy joy to you?

Booker: Black joy is just who we are. It's the shining light that we have. It's the voice within you that is loud and proud and knows who they are. It's the confidence. It's the beautiful part of our history. The reason I use brown instead of black is because children can be very literal. You know, if you tell a Black child, you know, you're you're Black, it's more of an identity that comes a little bit down the line, but the skin is brown. So "Brown Boy Joy" is about that positive self image about having brown skin and being happy about that. And the goodness that is inside of brown boys, which is inside of every brown boy. And lastly, you have "King For a Day" which is a fun bedtime story, because all of our books don't have to be about our issues or our trauma or things that we're working through. We deserve simple stories as well. "King For a Day" is filled with affirmations.

Booker is passionate about diversity and inclusion in children's entertainment. Netflix discovered that passion and selected "Brown Boy Joy" to be featured in the Netflix children's program "Bookmarks: Celebrating Black Voices."

The program highlights Black celebrities and artists reading children's books by Black authors to speak meaningful conversations about empathy, equality, justice, self-love, and anti-racism.

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It has been nominated for a NAACP Images Award for Outstanding Children's Programming.

Glover: What have been some of the responses from the folks who found your work?

Booker: Especially in "Brown Boy Joy," the thing I hear the most is 'my son was able to find himself'. On the cover of "Brown Boy Joy," you will see brown boys in a vast array you will see the whole spectrum of different skin tones and joy illuminating in variety. Parents will say their children are pointing to a boy and say 'that's me!'

Glover: What would you say to a young Black child who hasn't quite found your books yet and hasn't found their place in the world, what would you say to them?

Booker: It wouldn't be something I would say to them, it would be something I would ask them to do. I'd ask them to go to the mirror they can find, look themselves in the face, and repeat this: I am amazing. "I am a Brown Boy. I can do anything." And just continue to repeat those affirmations. I think our joy is inside our hearts. It's inside who we are. And sometimes it just takes a little reminder. But sometimes that needs to come from within.

For more information about Booker's books and how to purchase them, click here.
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