We’re celebrating Black History Month here at the Mission Viejo Teen Blog! Below you’ll find a curated list of works and profiles of Black voices from our Teen Advisory Board. If you’re interested in reading them, you’ll find links to the catalog with each entry!
Little Leaders/Little Legends by Vashti Harrison
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History and Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History are children’s books that highlight the achievements of Black
men and women. It includes well-known fingers as well as the stories of hidden trailblazers in history. I chose these books because it’s important for children to learn about Black history. These books do a great job of providing simple yet detailed summaries of Black accomplishments.
Native Son by Richard Wright
Native Son tells the story of a young black male growing up in Chicago’s South Side during the 1930s. It’s a story that shows how the Black community were systematically oppressed, and how the system blocked the Black community from climbing the social and economic ladder, as the odds were always against their favor. I found great insight into the relationship between the Black community and the government and society around them, and how that has affected the treatment of the African-American community.
Hidden Figures is the 2017 movie, based on the 2016 nonfiction novel about three incredibly intelligent women who had an influential role in one of NASA’s most extensive launches: sending John Glenn into orbit. Being women of color, the three ladies had to fight against their superiors for representation of their rightful work. They showed that anyone can pave the way in a dominant field, and help rearrange history. The awareness that was called to women of color inspired others to stand their ground, and fight for validation and recognition of their work.
The Hate U Give
The Hate U Give is a 2018 movie based on the 2017 book by Angie Thomas. It tells the story of a young black girl, Starr Carter, who finds herself trapped between the contrasting worlds of her poor, mostly black neighborhood and the wealthy,
mostly white school she attends. When her childhood best friend is shot and killed by a police officer, Starr must find her voice and speak out for the black community. This movie is inspiring and wildly relevant to the current political climate. When I watched this movie, I was laughing, crying, and ultimately came out of the theater with a new perspective on police brutality.
Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784), was the first African American and the second woman to publish a collection of poems. She spent much of her life enslaved after being captured by slave traders and sent to America in 1761, but still managed to learn how to read in sixteen months with the help of the Wheatley family. She began writing poetry at 14 and her first poem was published in 1767. In 1773, Wheatley traveled to London with the Wheatley’s son so she could publish her first book of poems, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. I think it’s really important that people learn about her work and know her name because her poetry advanced both American literature and the abolitionist cause. Her literary skills and art showed that African Americans were just as smart, artistic, creative, and competent, and that they rightfully deserved education.
John Lewis (1940-2020), was a former congressman who represented Georgia’s 5th congressional district. Lewis was a civil rights activist whose actions were inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. along with the Montgomery bus boycott. Lewis demonstrated nonviolent protests and sit-in at the American Baptist Theological Seminary. After devoting his efforts to the civil rights movement he actively participated in the Freedom Ride of 1961. Here he challenged segregated areas but resulted in both arrests and beatings of Lewis. Alongside Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis planned the March on Washington where he gave a speech as the youngest speaker at the event. His efforts resulted in the Civil Rights Act becoming a law. Later on in 1986 John Lewis was elected to the House of Representatives where he fought for healthcare rights, improving education, renewals of voting acts, and joined the fight against poverty as one of the representatives from Georgia.
Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton
This book is set in 1969, as the Apollo 11 mission is getting ready to go to the moon. The main character, Mimi, a half-black, half-Japanese girl, has just moved to a predominantly white Vermont town, where racism and sexism are accepted norms. She struggles to fit in with her classmates, even as she fights for her right to stand out by entering science competitions and joining Shop Class instead of Home Ec. Mimi dreams of being an astronaut, but her aspirations are consistently shot down just because of her race. This book, which is written in prose, offers excruciating insight into the life of a mixed girl as she navigates middle school in the proverbial white suburban town. Watching Mimi fight even when the odds are stacked against her- watching this little girl fight just to be taken seriously, to be treated as a human being was gut wrenching, and it truly opened my eyes to the black experience in America. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to expose themselves to black, Asian, and female marginalization, as it offers details that will simultaneously break your
heart and inspire you like nothing else.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
This story follows a young African-American lawyer named Bryan Stevenson. The story follows Bryan as he defends wrongfully condemned prisoners that can not afford proper representation. These prisoners only have a certain amount of time left, due to them being put on death row. Readers follow Bryan on his journey to save as many innocent prisoners as he can. This book shows the racial injustices of the 1980’s, as well as the flaws in the American law system. This book was also turned into a live action film starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Fox. I have watched the movie and read the book, and I enjoyed both adaptations of Bryan’s story. Just Mercy offers great insight to racial injustices that take place in the United States.