Hot. Ugly. Dry. Dirty. Dusty. These were the words my second grade students used as we kicked off a unit of study with the question, “What do you already know about Sudan?”
I searched for a picture book filled with images that could inspire pride and joy in Sudan, the Sudanese people and the Sudanese Arabic. But there weren’t any. There were a few picture books about Sudan, but almost all of them focused on war and famine. Even atlases included little to no information about the country we called home.
Inspired by a visit from Christopher Myers and
by his book Black Cat, with the help of photographs from my students’ families,
using artwork and text researched and created by the second graders themselves,
we made a book called KADISA.
Community members translated the text into multiple languages, and it was
shared widely throughout the school and added to our school library.
A few years later, I realized that I wanted KADISA to be more widely available, that every child could see Sudan, in all its beauty and wonder, reflected from the pages of a book. What started with a freedom dream, became KADISA كديسة, a book that has brought joy, pride, and information to children and grownups all over the world.
Historian Robin D. G. Kelley coined the term freedom dreaming to describe the power of imagination as a strategy for collective liberation - imagining the world as it should be so we can make it so.
Powerful nonfiction writing at its best stems from freedom dreams. KADISA كديسة originated in a freedom dream that children could love their homeland. My second book, HOW TO BIRD was inspired by the dream that Black and brown children would know that birding, and the public natural spaces where we find birds, belong to them as much as anyone else. My next nonfiction title, ETERNALLY AUTISTIC, is a freedom dream that autistic children and their grownups will know that being autistic is just who we are, and who we will always be.
Here are a few other impactful nonfiction titles that I imagine started with an author’s freedom dreams: THE WEDDING PORTRAIT by Innosanto Nagara; SOMETIMES PEOPLE MARCH by Tessa Allen; WANGARI'S TREES OF PEACE by Jeannette Winter; and WE ARE PALESTINIAN by Reem Kassis
What is your freedom dream for the world? Take a moment. Visualize it. What kind of world do you want for our children? What information, what images, what words are needed to make that dream a reality?
Let that freedom dream inspire your next