The other morning I was listening to the TJMS when I heard Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the radio. Now, some of you remember Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a legendary Laker known for his dominant basketball skills, particularly his famous sky hook. He’s an icon in basketball and has definitely earned the respect of those whom, like myself, love that era of the NBA. While championship rings adorn his trophy case, he has now added an additional honor to his repertoire as co-author of a wonderful children’s book: What Color is My World?
As a black, female patent attorney who yearns to hear the history of black scientists and/or inventors, of course I immediately put in my order without ever seeing a page. It didn’t matter. Someone was telling a part of our history that was rarely told and put it into a children’s format? I’m in!
And, because I’m “that” mama, this was, of course a Valentine’s Day gift for one of the girls (along with books for the other girls: Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by my favorite illustrator, Kadir Nelson and Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to my Daughters by my favorite president, Barack Obama). I ordered it from Amazon.com and had the books at my door the next afternoon (Prime membership definitely has its benefits!)
From the time I picked up this book, I was immediately drawn in and impressed. First of all, it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful and bright with vivid colors (and of course the cover is basketball orange) And, although it’s a history book, the story is written in such a way that it doesn’t bore it’s young (and young at heart audience) from long drawn out facts and lists of timeline information. Instead, it’s a creative story of young teenage twins, Ella and Herbie who are moving into a new, but not so “brand-new” home. Their handyman, Mr. Mital, takes them through a historical journey of how basic parts of their everyday lives have transformed from the ingenuity of black scientist and inventors. From major inventions like the traffic signal of Garrett Morgan to the potato chip of George Crum (thank you, Mr. Crum! ) and even the future vision of 3-D with the illusion transmitter of Dr. Valerie L. Thomas), the authors really take into consideration an imaginative way to intertwine history with modern-day teenage patience. And, this isn’t just a list of a few names that we should pride in our history; there are several pioneering and modern-day inventions like the Super Soaker that make the entire story fascinating. I also love that “Ella’s Fast Facts” flap onto the edge of each page to give you a detailed but concise insight into a particular scientist/inventor that was just mentioned in the story. What I loved most was that I was able to learn more about my every day world that I either knew nothing about, in terms of origins, or I only knew half the story that may have left out a few proper accolades.
As a former high school science teacher in Watts, California, I required my students to not just take “Black History Month” as a simple passing-by of time but to learn something that would help them grow in knowledge and confidence about their roots. Each year in February, my students were to pick one black scientist/inventor for a paper and presentation assignment. It was a great exercise for them and for me as we both learned a lot about our history and the greatness of Americans, who because of their color, had a story untold. Any student who completed the assignment was awarded an “A” (although they didn’t know this) because what they really received from their research was more than what I could give them on a report card. I just wish I had this book during those years so I could show them a vivid compilation of what I wanted them to learn.
I am truly inspired by this book and will order an extra copy just to keep in my office. I’ll keep it as a conversation piece for those who stop by. Because, that’s where it begins. It begins with a conversation; a positive communication of our history and the intelligence of a people who were written out of history books as such. This isn’t just a story of black history, it is a story of AMERICAN HISTORY. Their story is the foundation of many of America’s staple success stories like Thomas Edison, Glidden Paint and Lay’s potato chips. The scientists in this book are our heroes and she-roes that our children need to discover so that they know that science is a part of their bloodline as much as sports and rap. These are the revolutionist who dared to read, learn, think and dream despite being told that they didn’t know how, they weren’t supposed to or no one believed they could.
I bought this book for my children for Valentine’s Day not just because we love them but because we want them to love themselves. For, “I believe the children are our future, Teach them well and let them lead the way, Show them all the beauty they possess inside, Give them a sense of pride………” (R.I.P. Whitney Houston)
May we all get a sense of pride by understanding the Color of Our World. That’s What’s Up!
*For more information on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar including some of his other great literary works, please click here.*