Hey Black Child
by Useni Eugene Perkins
Illustrated by: Bryan Collier
Grade Level: Pre-K to Grade 3
Buy It Here!
Have students watch some recitations performed by children
4th Grade Presentation with Comments by Michelle Obama
This book adaption of Useni Euguene Perkin's 1974 poem of the same name brings this motivational piece to life for today's child. To accompany the renowned poem, Bryan Collier provides moving collages of present-day children, beautifully depicting a blend of their rich legacy and potential. His layered imagery brilliantly complements the repetition and pure rhythm of Perkin's words. The text is easy to read, repetitious and powerful in its simplicity. Readers will develop a sense of self esteem and pride in their people and history. Perkin's inspirational message of pride juxtaposed with Collier's empowering imagery lays a perfect groundwork for the work of self love to happen.
Element 1: Self Love and Knowledge Hey Black Child keeps self-love at the
forefront of the poem and images and avoids a deficit lens. Useni Eugene Perkin’s
words coupled with Bryan Collier’s powerful collages encourage pride in the
rich history of black children as well as confidence and empowerment towards
a bright future. Educators looking to facilitate the work of self-love and
knowledge in the classroom can use this powerful poem and imagery symbolizing
the rich history,present and potential of black children to help readers develop
that sense of self-esteem and self-love through a beautiful understanding of their
own legacy and potential.
An ELA class using Hey Black Child as an anchor text can examine the powerful tool of repetition as a literary, rhetorical and poetic device. Students can begin by underlining/highlighting repeating words and phrases during independent or whole group instruction and discussing the purpose and effectiveness of repetition. Videos of other children performing recitations of the poem can be used to provide examples of the power of repetition and rhythm as a rhetorical device.
There is a lovely interview with illustrator Bryan Collier in which he walks through the process and purpose of collage-making in his books. This interview would serve as a great supplement to a lesson which includes this book. Students can watch the video here and then create collages which reflect the uniqueness and beauty of themselves with this poem (or one of their own writing). Students can also prepare their own rehearsed recitation of those poems for the class or other assembly.