As the mom of two African American sons (both towering above 6 ft), “The Talk” has been given in our home multiple times over the years. In the black community, this conversation is not about the birds and the bees, but rather how to respond if approached by law enforcement. In essence, how to come home ALIVE.
Initially, it was one of the most difficult conversations my husband and I had to have with our boys; but as time went on and as we continued to be devastated by real life events, we knew we were doing the right thing.
The idea for the book, "Momma, Did You Hear the News?", actually came to me in my prayer closet, but I was hesitant at first and didn’t tell anyone. Then, just days later, another unarmed black man was killed by police. This time in my city of residence, Tulsa, Oklahoma. I knew this event would propel many families to have this conversation with their children. And I even found myself once again having “The Talk” with our sons. It just confirmed for me, that the book must be written.
At first I really struggled with how I would take this very serious subject and make it not only easy for children to digest, but also memorable. I debated and contemplated. I wrote and rewrote. I cried at just the thought that it was truly needed.
As a mom, the theme that continued to resonate was at the end of the day I just want my boys to come home ALIVE! So I took that word (Alive) and wrote a catchy chant that parents could teach their kids. A to the L to the I-V-E....come home ALIVE...that is the key!
The text in the book reads: Each letter stands for something. Repeat them in your head. So if you get pulled over, you’ll remember what we’ve said.
A-ALWAYS Use Your Manners
L-LISTEN and Comply
I-IN Control of your Emotions
V-VISIBLE Hands Always
E-EXPLAIN any Movement
It was also very important for me to not give the impression that all police are bad. So a section of the book shows officers as family members who want to get home ALIVE as well. The reader is reminded that officers are “moms and dads too” and “we pray for those in blue”. Please understand this book is not anti-police, but it is anti-police brutality.
When sharing with groups, I am often approached by hesitant parents who feel “The Talk” is useless because we have witnessed so many tragedies where victims seemingly did everything right. To this I use my “seatbelt analogy”. Just as a seatbelt cannot guarantee your survival in a car accident, it greatly increases your chances of walking away. So while my book cannot promise a positive encounter with police, equipping your loved ones with this knowledge can definitely increase their chances of coming home ALIVE. And as a mom, I will control everything I can and that includes educating my kids to the best of my ability on tough subjects.
In a starred review, The School Library Journal says the book is, “essential both for its counsel and for its representation of a family confronting police brutality”. However, I think Kirkus Reviews described the book best as “a heartbreakingly necessary work”.