A little about the book:
The boy is teased for looking different than the other kids. His skin is darker, his hair curlier. He tells his mother he wishes he could be more like everyone else. And she helps him to see how beautiful he really, truly is.
For years before they both achieved acclaim in their respective professions, good friends Taye Diggs and Shane W. Evans wanted to collaborate on Chocolate Me!, a book based on experiences of feeling different and trying to fit in as kids. Now, both men are fathers and see more than ever the need for a picture book that encourages all people, especially kids, to love themselves.
Taye credits Tyson Beckford for helping him to be proud of the skin he was born in:
“When I saw Tyson Beckford hailed as this beautiful man by all people, that caused a shift in my being. I remember literally waking up and walking the streets the next day and, because I had a bald head as well, feeling a little bit more proud.”
Why he wrote the book:
The idea to write this book came far before I was a father. I knew that I wanted to be a father, but that had no influence on the actual writing of the book. The inspiration came straight from more of an experience of being a son… my mother’s son. That being said, once we got pregnant, my perspective completely transformed and though the words didn’t change, though the message didn’t change, how I felt about what I was writing changed and I just started to get really excited for the day that I could read my book to my son
On the way kids see skin color:
At five-years-old, none of us knew the can of worms we were opening… the little white kids who were making fun of me, they didn’t know. Their whole questioning was coming from the fact that I was different. None of them ever used the N word or negro. They just knew, “ok, his skin is brown, my skin is white, his skin is white, his skin is white, let’s make fun of him.” It wasn’t even in a nasty way at 5. But I obviously didn’t take it well. And then the older you get, once that understanding came, then that was a whole different issue. Then you have to deal with serious self-reflection. My mother was very fair skin and my dad was dark. And back in my mother’s day, she was seeking out the dark men because she didn’t feel black enough. So it’s a continuing issue. We’ve come a long way, but I don’t think we’re fully over it as a society.
On raising a mixed race child:
Me and my wife, we discuss this and we’re still trying to figure some of this out just with Walker and what he should call himself and how he views himself. When I was growing up if you were half a shade darker than white, the white people would not accept you. You weren’t white. These days, thank God, people are a little bit more accepting and people’s views are broadening and it’s not as accepted to just choose one, how you might have been forced to in the past. I think it depends on the parents’ perspective and how they feel about those issues and how they kind of want to pass that down to their child. As proud as I am of my blackness, I think it’s important to show Walker that he should be just as proud of his Jewish mother and all of the culture that that includes as well.
Photos by FameFlynet
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