What We Believe: A Black Lives Matter Principles Activity Book

What We BelieveLee & Low Books is proud to announce the forthcoming publication of What We Believe: A Black Lives Matter Principles Activity Book, written by Laleña Garcia and illustrated by Caryn Davidson. Created by two teachers with more than thirty-five years of educational experience between them, the book presents the underlying ideas of Black Lives Matter in down-to-earth, child-friendly language, with writing prompts and artistic activities accompanying each principle. Supporting materials guide adults in talking about the movement with children and encourage kids to dream big and take action within their communities.

What We Believe will be published in paperback and e-book on October 27, 2020, and is now available for preorder at all retailers (PB ISBN 9781643794778; e-book ISBN 9781643794785). Lee & Low Books will donate a portion of its proceeds from the book to the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc.

When the Black Lives Matter movement began in 2013, the three founders—Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi—anchored its work in a list of guiding principles, developed through conversation with other activists. These principles committed the movement to empathy, loving engagement, and just action among its participants; affirmed the importance of Black women, families, elders, and LGBTQ folk; and celebrated the strength and diversity of Black people in their communities and around the globe. Now young people can explore these powerful principles in What We Believe.

The book was originally self-published as a collaboration between Garcia, a kindergarten teacher, and Davidson, a high school art educator, as part of their work with the Black Lives Matter @ Schools organization. Davidson observes, “Many people do not know that the BLM Global Network is rooted in the guiding principles that we explain and illustrate in this book—even people who have been actively supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. As children use this book, they are invited to share with their teachers, parents, and other adults how they experience and understand these principles according to their own lived realities.” In adapting the principles for a child audience, Garcia says, “I thought about the developmental needs of young children, the ways in which many of the principles mirrored the environments created in early childhood classrooms, and the support teachers might need in talking about a movement that some people saw as ‘controversial’ or ‘political.’”

Both creators agree these principles are visionary in nature—not reactionary. “They construct a vision for a world in which Black lives unapologetically matter, a world in which saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ is a given and never a threat; a world in which collective life is organized to restore and uplift rather than deplete Black women, Black families, queer and trans folks—and ultimately, they envision a racially just world in which white and BIPOC people are healed from the impacts of white supremacy.”

The earlier edition of the book was widely adopted by educators across the nation, and this extensively revised version has been informed by Garcia’s experience in sharing the principles with her own students and the feedback she received from other readers. “I keep hearing from teachers of high school and middle school students that the language I use, while very simple, is helpful for them in beginning to have conversations with students who have never talked about race,” she says. “I realize this is because in this country, we are all about five years old when it comes to talking about race: it’s not encouraged, so we don’t do it, which means we don’t get any practice, and so we’re not very good at it. While I wish this weren’t the case, I feel proud to have made a contribution that supports educators from pre-K to grade 12.”

What We Believe Spread

Several prominent educators have spoken glowingly of the new edition of the book:

What We Believe is simply beautiful. Garcia and Davidson have created a visual, loving example of freedom and the possibilities of using art to create a new world. Each image is drawn with so much love, care, and commitment to the principles of Black Lives Matter, while Garcia’s words are inviting, informative, and truth telling. Well done!” — Bettina Love, author of We Want To Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom

“What We Believe: A Black Lives Matter Activity Book is a fabulous way for educators, parents, and children to live the principles of the movement. Often, it’s hard to understand how the principles impact our everyday lives, but this thoughtful book outlines the many parts of Black Lives Matter and invites conversations and actions that children and their grown ups can undertake together. After working through this text, which connects history to the present moment through an inclusive range of activists, organizers, and everyday folx, readers will understand the movement beyond the slogan and will be prepared to make changes wherever they are, in whatever way they can, for us all to get free.” — Kim Parker, Shady Hill School and #disrupttexts co-founder

“This book is perfect for anyone who wants to take young children seriously as actors in the world. It is both informative and open to the creativity and imagination required to lead us forward.” — Thomas Nikundiwe, director of the Education for Liberation Network

“I can’t wait to see how children fill these pages with ideas, color, stories, and freedom dreams. Those who recognize the uniquely powerful role that young children play in the movement for Black Lives will treasure this rare resource.” — Carla Shalaby, co-editor of Planning to Change the World: A Plan Book for Social Justice Educators

What We Believe: A Black Lives Matter Principles Activity Book is one of the best tools available to engage students in the Black Lives Matter at School movement! The stunning artwork coupled with insightful connections between students’ intersectional identities and the principles of the BLM Global Network make this book essential for every educator.” — Jesse Hagopian, Ethnic Studies teacher and co-editor of Teaching for Black Lives

An essential resource for anyone discussing racial equity with young people, What We Believe offers a beautiful and inspiring lens on the most important social justice movement of our time.

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