Today, we are proud to release I Am Alfonso Jones, a heartbreaking exploration of the Black Lives Matter movement and the impact that police brutality has on families, young people, and communities. Written by Tony Medina and illustrated by Stacey Robinson and John Jennings, this title offers a powerful entry to discussion as well as essential historical context to today’s discussions on police brutality. Below is the powerful foreword by Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy.
We provide no guides, manuals, tutorials, courses, or training to help children of color survive the presumption of guilt and dangerousness with which they are born. Black and brown young people bear an unfair burden in America. They are required to understand a history that is not clearly taught in school, develop survival skills that few teachers impart, and navigate unfounded suspicions no one should confront. Many young people of color must find hope even when they are surrounded by tragedy, trauma, and experiences that constantly reinforce the fact that survival will be hard, success even harder.
The narrative of racial difference in the United States has created a smog that pollutes many communities and marginalizes people of color. It began when white settlers came to this continent and killed millions of Native people, forced them off their land, and declared them to be “savages.” That same narrative of racial difference sustained two centuries of human enslavement where African people were abducted, kidnapped, beaten, abused, sexually exploited, and denied human dignity. The Thirteenth Amendment prohibited involuntary servitude and forced labor, but said nothing about the ideology of white supremacy and the narrative of racial difference that was slavery’s true evil. Slavery didn’t end in 1865; it evolved. For another hundred years our nation witnessed racial terror lynchings, widespread mistreatment and economic exploitation of people of color, segregation, Jim Crow laws, bans on interracial romance, and unaddressed racial bigotry. A heroic civil rights struggle helped move things forward, but the narrative of racial difference endured.
Today, we have mass incarceration and a criminal justice system that treats you better if you’re rich and guilty than if you’re poor and innocent. The Bureau of Justice predicts that one in three black male babies born in this country will spend time in jail or prison; this was not true throughout most of the twentieth century. An epidemic of police violence claims the lives of people of color, who are frequently menaced, targeted, and harassed. In schools, on streets, and frequently in media and popular culture, black children are presumed criminal and must do exceptional things to enjoy the opportunities other people are freely given. We are Alfonso Jones.
There is hope. Black and brown people in the United States have created a remarkable history of survival, achievement, and progress even in the face of extraordinary obstacles. We shall overcome.
It is tragic that we need a book like I Am Alfonso Jones today, but we do need it. For many, this is required reading. Like the gifted creators of this amazing book, we need to tell the truth about our history. We need the wisdom of generations before us who have endured the pain of racial inequality. We need the hope of our courageous ancestors to overcome the injustice that defines too many communities.
Hopelessness is the enemy of justice. Silence, fear, and anger are the elements that sustain inequality. I Am Alfonso Jones makes an important statement about ending the silence, confronting the fear and anger, and ultimately building a new way forward. This is a powerful story, with a powerful message that we all need to learn: Justice is a constant struggle. Join the struggle.
Here’s what reviewers had to say about I Am Alfonso Jones:
“A brutally honest and bleak but necessary selection for all graphic novel collections.”
—School Library Journal, starred review
“Medina, Robinson, and Jennings do for us what the ghosts do for Alfonso in their story. They help us to see. They help us to remember. They help us to understand.”
—Gene Luen Yang, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and author of American Born Chinese and Boxers and Saints
“I can’t say enough how important, beautiful, heartbreaking, and tremendous a book this is… I Am Alfonso Jones is a crucial part of the conversation, and I demands to be heard.”
—Daniel José Older, author of Shadowshaper and Shadowhouse Fall
“Alfonso’s story powerfully illustrates the value inherent in every human life and the tragedy of loss suffered by all who are impacted.”
—LeVar Burton, Actor, Director, Author, and Reading Activist
Watch the book trailer here:
You can find discussion questions for I Am Alfonso Jones here.
You can purchase a copy here.