It was this innocent question last year from Kenneth Braswell’s then-6-year-old son that acted as a catalyst for the community activist to write a children’s book.
“I had an adult answer for that, but I did not have a 6-year-old answer,” Braswell told The Root. “And I fumbled with trying to explain to him what protest meant, why people were protesting and what they were protesting.”
Braswell is the founder and executive director of Fathers Incorporated, an Atlanta-based organization that does a lot of work around responsible fatherhood and black male achievement across the country. Shortly before his son asked the question that opened the proverbial Pandora’s box, Braswell had been in Baltimore for another event that just so happened to coincide with the indictments of officers charged in Freddie Gray’s death.
Naturally, his son became curious about what was going on after learning where his father was. And eventually, after the initial fumble, Braswell came back with a proper answer.
It was only after talking with several other parents and friends, however, that Braswell realized that his conundrum was a common one. Several people he spoke to didn’t know how to address the question he described, and one friend, also an author of children’s books, recommended that he write one about the issue.
And so Braswell wrote Daddy, There’s a Noise Outside, which was fully released to the public, most fittingly, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“I wanted to begin to create a narrative that would allow both parents and teachers to have conversations with young kids, particularly in this case between the grades of one [and] four, about what’s taking place in our communities,” he said.
The beautifully illustrated book features a black mother and father trying to explain the concept of protesting and the different types of protests to their two children, using examples such as MLK’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech as well as the Million Man March. In the end the children understand and jokingly ask whether they can protest school.
To Braswell, books like his are important because it is a conversation that kids and parents need to have, and a conversation that he now hopes to facilitate.
After all, he pointed out, children have historically been involved in protests.