Writing Black

Family, Politics and a Kids Book, That’s Political Powerhouse Bakari Sellers Life

Episode 12

Maiysha talks with political powerhouse Bakari Sellers about his new children’s book, mixing activism and politics, balancing family and work and more. 

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 01: Bakari Sellers attends the Los Angeles premiere of PBS Documentary Film “Downing Of A Flag” at The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images)

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Maiysha Kai [00:00:04] Welcome to Writing Black. We are so thrilled this week to have a history maker in our midst, and that is Bakari Sellers, who, in addition to being a political powerhouse in this country and a very, very well-known attorney, is also an author. And I’m really I’m fascinated by this. You know, I think a lot of us, you know, got to know your story through your bestseller, My Vanishing Country. You came back this year with something maybe a little less expected. I know a lot has happened in the intervening years since that bestseller, among other things. And you wrote this awesome children’s book, Who Are Your People? And I got to say, just right off the bat, I love the title of this book because I think, you know, obviously, it speaks so much to who we are as a people and how we speak to each other. But what was the genesis of this book? Why did you want to delve into children’s work this time around? 

Bakari Sellers [00:01:01] Well, first, thank you for having me. This is our pleasure, Trinity. And, you know, it’s not a lot of Black male children’s book authors. And so whenever we get that space, opportunity and platform, I’m extremely grateful for. You know, you hit the nail on the head, my twins were the reason that “Who Are Your People?” came into fruition, because respectfully, I was tired of my, you know, when you go when you when you first have babies, you go look for books and cartoons, etcetera. And I was tired of blue and purple people. I wanted them to be able to have something where they could experience the richness of their history, learn as much as possible, and see themselves in the imagery. And it just happens. So happens that because their dad is the author, they literally get a chance to see themselves on the pages of the book. And so, you know, it was a very difficult genre to break into. I oftentimes joke,  but there is a great deal of honesty in that joke that I had to become a New York Times bestselling author before I was allowed to write a children’s book. But I’m I’m excited about it and look forward to the next one. 

Who Are Your People? Excerpt [00:02:10] When they ask you, where are you from? You’re from a land where the soil is dark in matches the richness of your skin, where cotton and sugarcane were strongly rooted in match your strength and determination. 

Maiysha Kai [00:02:24] You know, I love that you actually touched on that because I think there is kind of a general misconception that somehow writing a children’s book is easier or that breaking into that market is easier. You know, I spoke to Jason Reynolds once about this, well-known Black Y.A. author, and his stance is that, you know, he chooses to write for children because he’s like they’re the best audience to write for. But there is this look, why do you think people think that’s so easy? I think you know, I think they see this, you know, thin little volume and they see the pictures and they’re like, oh, this should be so easy. But I there is a lot of in addition to the gatekeeping of just publishing itself. It is a very specific genre. So do you mind like sharing a little bit about exactly how challenging it was? I mean, you know, you’re a nationally known name. You would think people would be, you know, clamoring to have your name on these books. 

Bakari Sellers [00:03:17] So first, it’s it’s it’s not an easy book to write. I know people are like, it’s 32 pages. I don’t know how many words, but it ain’t that many words by comparison. And you know everything from picking an illustrator because you want to have an illustrator whose vision matches yours. You know, the book because of the history that I’m talking about, the type of book it is, I tried to write it rhythm with a rhythm. And then you have to remember that, you know, you got to leave all your degrees at the front door because you want to speak like you’re educated to young folk. You don’t want to dumb it down, but you also have to remember your audience is 4 to 8 year olds, and so it becomes somewhat difficult and challenging. And then the illustration process takes eight months to crank out. And you go back and forth about what those pages mean, what your words mean, and try to bring them true to life. There aren’t many Black illustrators there. There aren’t many Black male illustrators. There aren’t many Black authors, children’s book author. There aren’t many Black male children’s book authors. And so I was just thankful that Harper Kids reached out to me while we were having success on My Vanishing Country and asked that I have an interest in this. And of course, I was like, I’ve been trying to do this. I really want to do this. And then you just begin the process of of going out. And, you know, the similarities are like My Vanishing Country. That book had to do well so that other Black authors would get a chance. And I’m grateful that Who Are Your People? did well so that other Black authors would get a chance. 

Maiysha Kai [00:04:44] Yeah. And we do want to shout out your illustrator, Reggie Brown, because this is it’s beautiful. It is a beautiful book. It’s a really lovely, lush, warm and friendly book to look at. And I think, you know, it gives it really illustrators don’t get enough props in this industry either. I love that you drew that parallel. You drew it in terms of publishing, you know, the process of my vanishing country. But there’s also, at least to me, some parallels here in the messaging because, you know, my vanishing country retracing your own steps, you know, as a South Carolina native, your own legacy, your the history of activism that runs in your family. And this and again, it kind of also answers that question who are your people? And did you see it as a as a as a kind of through line? Or was this were you approaching this totally fresh and new? 

Bakari Sellers [00:05:40] I actually took themes and ideas from my vanishing country. And and it is who are you people? I mean, when the like. Like I say, when you’re in the South, I mean, that’s the first question you ask somebody like you. Are you people right? And where you from? 

Who Are Your People? Excerpt [00:05:53] When you meet someone for the first time, they might ask, who are your people and where are you from? 

Bakari Sellers [00:05:59] But also one of the overarching themes and and who are your people is that, you know, we are product of the proverb. It takes a village to raise a child and trying to rekindle that village, you know, it’s just that direct through lines between each book, piggybacking off of one another. And if if someone was able to get something out of My Vanishing Country, I’m hopeful their children or young people in their village will be able to get something out of Who Are Your People? 

Maiysha Kai [00:06:30] I mean, I don’t I don’t see how they could not. And by the way, you know, I love that you said that is the first thing you say down here down in the south. I don’t live in the south. I live in Chicago. But we consider ourselves up south because of all the migration. 

Bakari Sellers [00:06:41] Migration, yes. 

Maiysha Kai [00:06:43] From Mississippi. That’s the first thing we say to you people. Where are you going? Where are you going? To high school, you know, and you’re really you know, obviously, this this is an interesting, it’s a critical time, obviously, to be encouraging our children, in particular, to be proud of their their history, to claim their history, to know their history. We’re in a moment politically. And I know that this you know, given your political background as well, I’m sure you you can speak on this far better than I can in terms of this suppression of just facts. Right. Just facts about our existence in America. As painful as some of that history, a lot of that history has been and continues to be. Why and how, you know, knowing that, you know, the battle against educating children on these matters is is raging as we speak. Did that inform how you wrote this book? Did it become even more crucial that you get this story across? 

Bakari Sellers [00:07:49] I mean, so that’s it. That’s a layered question. 

Maiysha Kai [00:07:52] Yes, it is. 

Bakari Sellers [00:07:54] So it was important for me to have something for young people to consume to help educate them and the readers thereof. So even their parents. But I was not a prisoner of the moment in writing the book. I wanted to explore the richness of who we are, not just the richness of who we are in this moment and having to be, you know, so grounded that we don’t get caught up in the kind of violence that is consuming our communities, whether or not it’s mass shootings or whether or not it’s race based violence or whether or not it’s just the violent way that we miss educate our children in this country. Now, I didn’t want to get caught up in that. I wanted instead to give a refreshing, exciting view about how far we’ve come and leave the next question on where do we go from here? For us to be able to dream about an answer as we go forward. 

Who Are Your People? Excerpt [00:08:58] You’re people were trailblazers who changed laws and broke records. Today we stand on their shoulders. 

Maiysha Kai [00:09:06] I love that phrase a prisoner of the moment, because, yeah, moments like these do kind of force us into these boxes for say, I assume you are not afraid of your book being banned because it’s teaching, I don’t know, Critical Race Theory. That’s a joke. 

Bakari Sellers [00:09:25] Certain people considered it to be CRT or Critical Race Theory which is of course is not. 

Maiysha Kai [00:09:32] Right. 

Bakari Sellers [00:09:32] You know, I would always journey and tell folks that the best books are the ones that are banned. That’s where you need to go to get the richness. 

Maiysha Kai [00:09:39] You know, you’re right. Yeah. 

Bakari Sellers [00:09:42] Absolutely. You know, we were prepared for anything and they had discussions about, you know, whether or not this book for 4 to 8 year olds would be allowed to be read. And, you know, you just kind of brush some of those things off. 

Maiysha Kai [00:09:55] That’s fascinating to me. The idea of allowing a child to read a story that asks who your people are? Like that to me, like cuts to the quick of so much of what this this inane debate is about, which is a genuine desire to stifle that sense of pride, that sense of self-awareness. We’re going to take a break, but stay tuned for more Writing Black. 

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Maiysha Kai [00:10:37] All right. Let’s dig back into it. Welcome back to Writing Black. You know, I do want to delve back into your earlier writings because, you know, this is a podcast, not just about books, but about writing in general. And you have I mean, what you’ve done with your writing, I think is is really I think. Let’s put it this way. Not everybody’s a writer, right? Like, not every there’s some brilliant politicians out there who have written some brilliant books or some brilliant attorneys who’ve been some brilliant books. Not everybody’s a writer. What gave you the confidence to kind of pursue this as another outlet, another way of communicating your truth, your family’s truths, our truths? 

Bakari Sellers [00:11:21] I didn’t have that confidence, especially throughout the process, because I was turned down to write My Vanishing Country some 30 times, you know, different publishing. A lot of it was, you know, the type of work I was trying to write, if we’re going to keep it 100. I was trying to write a book about being a Black Southern progressive in the age of Donald Trump. And nobody wanted that book. Which in hindsight, you see that why would you, if you were a publishing house, why would you buy a Bakari Sellers book when you can actually have an an author who was somebody right there in the White House who can tell you their first person accounts, etc.? And so I get it. I don’t agree with it, but I get it. And then what gave me the confidence was a young lady named Tracy Sharratt, who was the head of Amistad Publishing, who sat me down for breakfast in New York for a couple of hours and encouraged me to write a memoir, which I questioned her about, which I should not have, of course, like why would somebody want to buy a memoir from somebody who’s, you know, 30 some odd years old and, you know, it’s it’s wild because when you write it, you have to put a period at the end of the sentence, you have to stop writing and turn it in. And there’s so many things that are going on in the way that you’re reacting to it around it. But, you know, God works in mysterious ways. It came out on May 19, which was actually Malcolm X’s birthday. 

Maiysha Kai [00:12:46] Yeah. 

Bakari Sellers [00:12:47] And then May 25th and George Floyd was murdered and it transformed this country. And the globe in My Vanishing Country was there for people to consume. 

Maiysha Kai [00:12:58] You know, that was a very interesting year, I would say, in general for Black writers. And, you know, we saw a lot of things happen that you’re not only people like yourself who I think it almost felt and maybe maybe this is just a quality that Black people who, you know, we have observed and absorbed so much. But one of the things that was so striking to me about that year, one of the reasons this podcast even exists is because that was a moment where all of a sudden there was this tremendous interest. Right. And what we had to say, you know, all these people who had been speaking all this time and we saw books that had been out for years all of a sudden become national bestsellers. And it was really fascinating. I know from my part, you know, wanting to promote those voices, you know, it’s been about keeping that momentum going, keeping that conversation going and making sure that it’s not, you know, just as you said, that we’re not being held prisoner to that particular moment, because that moment for us has been going on for since we arrived here. Right. And you you know, you come from not not just the South, but an incredibly active family. And, you know, we live in a country where we’ve seen these, you know, political dynasties. You know, you’ve got your Roosevelts, your Kennedys, whoever, whoever, whatever. For us, it manifests a little bit differently most of the time. And you come from a history of activism and activism. The politics are always going along. So, you know, but when they do, I mean, you know, it’s magical. So, you know, as you hopefully continue your your writing career, I don’t know if you’re planning on, you know, reentering politics, how are you allowing your upbringing to inform that? 

Bakari Sellers [00:14:53] Oh, well, I’m a child of the movement. And so it is everything. It’s it’s my prism. It’s you see it in Who are you people? You see in my vanishing country, it informs all of those things. And I, you know, I think and I when I talk to young people in particular, they literally every every college campus asks me about, you know, whether or not they should be that activist who kind of, you know, informs the outside of the chambers or whether or not they should be that politician and try to inform inside the chambers. And I think they’re both necessaries like macaroni and cheese and sweet potatoes. I mean, you want I like my sweet potatoes to touch my macaroni and it makes it just takes that much better. And, you know, it’s a perfect meal. And I think that when those two things coincide, the necessity is there. I mean, you need a NAACP, you need a BLM, you need a Julian Bond, you need a Barack Obama. You need all of these individuals to play their particular role where they’re not you’re throwing rocks from the outside or you’re lighting in on fire, figuratively inside with your words and your policies. So I want to be able to find that that cadence or that sound or that rhythm in my writing, and hopefully it shines through y’all. 

Maiysha Kai [00:16:05] We’re going to take a break, but stay tuned for more Writing Black. 

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Maiysha Kai [00:16:38] Okay. We are back with more Writing Black. Can we talk very like brass tacks about how you get it done? You know, people ask those questions all the time. They love to ask those questions of women. How do you get it all done? But you are not. You know, this is not all you do all day. Obviously, you are raising a family. You are practicing law. You are speaking to people, and now you’re writing more books. How is that process for you? Like craft wise, like what does it take for you? How do you how do you get it done? How do you allocate the time organizationally? How does it work? Give us a little a little of the grind there. 

Bakari Sellers [00:17:15] Or the ground is real. I mean, just I’ll answer the question by one. Just first describing the grind. Just last week I was in I was in Scottsdale, Phenix area on Sunday and Monday working with a young man named Jevon Hodge, who is running for Congress. And I was campaigning with him, shaking hands and pressing flesh and, you know, trying to change the contours of the the country politically. On Tuesday night, I was back in Richland County, South Carolina, near home, giving a speech on conversations about race with my father. And it was just a unique opportunity to be able to have that conversation. It was a speaking gig. It just happened to be at home. But I left on 830 that evening, which is Tuesday night, and flew to Orlando. And Wednesday morning I gave a speech to about 4000 teachers. Thursday morning I was on a CBC panel with Shantel Brown and Congressman Troy Carter and many others caught a flight on Thursday and Friday. I was in New York doing TV Thursday night and Friday night, and then I came home for a while and then Saturday night went back to D.C. to do TV on Sunday morning. 

Bakari Sellers [00:18:22] And so the answer to your question is prioritizing, because my wife and my children come first in that order. I think that’s important, making sure that you give as much time to your wife as you possibly can. She’s the partner. She’s the strength. She’s the person who allows you to do these other things and loving on your kids as much as possible. And I have a 17 year old and I have three year old twins. You know, therapy is always good because of the way that the world can, you know, can be filled with pressure and angst and anxiety. And I have anxiety, really bad anxiety. So being able to find somebody who can help you navigate those things and it’s not the worry of performance. I love, I mean, speaking in front of a crowd or on TV, isn’t that. But, you know, it’s the fear of death and the fear of failure and those two things. You don’t want to die before you can be considered a success. Those two things kind of coincide. And when you are doing projects like this, the the kind of the the the underlying way in which the product is processed is through discipline. And so the, the children’s book, I find the rhythm that I want to be in, usually listening to an outcast or something quite similar, J. Cole. And it puts me in that rhythm. But with the adult book, I sit down for 15 minutes a day, either, you know, dictating my thoughts or writing some thoughts. Sometimes no thoughts come out. Sometimes that 15 minutes turns into 2 hours, sometimes it’s 15 minutes and 1 second and I got to get up. But it’s that discipline and dedication to the process. And then at the end of the day, you just pray that your product is received. Well. 

Maiysha Kai [00:19:55] Y’all, we’re going to take a break, but stay tuned for more Writing Black. 

[00:20:00] Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Bring your friends for the shenanigans and stay for the edutainment. As Panama Debates Culture Wars, Janet Jackson versus Michael, Blackfessions, Blackmendations and everything Black. Listen today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture conversations you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard. 

Maiysha Kai [00:20:29] All right. Let’s dig back into it. Welcome back to Writing Black. You know, I have to thank you for I mean, you’ve been transparent about this before, but thank you for mentioning the anxiety piece. I think sometimes when people see someone like you, someone like me, even, you know, when you’re out there, you’re you have a public face or platform or many platforms. In your case, they don’t necessarily associate that with anxiety. You know, they don’t they don’t necessarily think that you struggle in that way or that that kind of that kind of doubt that I know as well. Because I also I also suffering, I guess I suffer from anxiety. I experience anxiety. I am treated for anxiety. So I have profound empathy for that. And I really appreciate you bringing it up. And especially I think as writers, it’s one of those things. I mean, the phrase writer’s block exists for a reason. And I know for myself it’s generally weighted down by some sort of crippling doubt or insecurity about what am I saying, what do I putting out? How am I going to get it out? Do you think that would you say that that the discipline itself is the coping mechanism errors or another coping mechanism that you use in those moments? 

Bakari Sellers [00:21:41] Well, I mean, therapy and meditation are always and music, you know, and food kind of gets you through. But it’s the discipline is the key because it allows you to realize that there’s tomorrow. So yeah, it alleviates until there’s no tomorrow. And so the publishes like it’s due tomorrow and you got a whole nother thing. 

Maiysha Kai [00:22:01] Been there. 

Bakari Sellers [00:22:03] Throughout the process. You can sit down and say, you know, I just don’t have it today. I ain’t in the mood. But you sit. Maybe you use that 15 minutes to think about something else and then it it clicked. It always does. I mean, you’re if you are gifted enough to be an author and somebody give you that chance and opportunity, and it always comes through. 

Maiysha Kai [00:22:22] I also love that you you talk about this one time writing in 15 minutes, you know, because I think that’s the other thing that, you know, can feed the anxiety beast. You know, this idea that you have to sit down and, like, pour all your thoughts out and come up with, like, you know, some 300 page something, you know, in one fell swoop and that’s digestible chunks thing, right? Yeah. 

Bakari Sellers [00:22:42] I mean, you know, I always tell folk that and that’s partly my anxiety because, you know, I don’t live in five year increments. I live one day at a time. Right. And so I always tell folk, I just try to win today. And so I do really good in this moment. And if I tell somebody I need them to go work out 60 Minutes every day, they’re going be like, Man, you are insane. But if I tell you to walk for 15 minutes a day, that is something that we can all do, right? That is a way that we can get to our goal. That is a way that we can eat a whole elephant, one bite at a time. And it’s the same way with writing, and it’s that discipline that’s necessary to get to the end result. If you’re undisciplined, then maybe you have, you know, you’re maybe that one maybe that 1% of individual who has an amazing skill set. You might find yourself being somebody who doesn’t have to practice, who doesn’t have to have discipline. But if you the other 99.5% of us, you’ve got to have discipline to enter this process. 

Maiysha Kai [00:23:36] Yeah, well, we’re going to take a break, but stay tuned for more Writing Black. 

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Maiysha Kai [00:23:55] All right. Let’s dig back into it. Welcome back to Writing Black. Kind of pulling out to the wide shot here. You know, obviously, we hear in this juncture, in this in this moment in history are finding ourselves, I think, grappling with that same kind of energy, like how do we keep our momentum? You know, I mean, and I think that’s that’s always been kind of part of the narrative of Black history in America. When you’re out speaking to people, when you are advising young people, talking to other politicians, etc., etc., how do you suggest we kind of keep this focus and our momentum and, you know, on on the the bigger goal, you know, because we know it’s more than just equal rights, right? 

Bakari Sellers [00:24:43] It’s been another big question. Thank you, Don Lemon, for asking me these big questions. And to have a producer and be like, “all right, wrap, wrap.” First, there’s a there’s a great deal of faith that I have in young folks that, you know, every every ounce of change we’ve ever had in this country has been because of young people. And I have that faith also give them the grace that they deserve. Get myself that grace as well. Try not to be too hard on this generation of leaders that is present today, right? They’re not the leaders of tomorrow. They’re the leaders of today. It’s it’s understanding what our struggle looks like is understanding. That is not when somebody calls you, because that happens every day. But it’s about the systemic ills that this country faces. And they. And this is where sometimes I diverge from some of my friends who are in the movement with me or in the struggle together, because I don’t I don’t believe there’s anything irredeemable about this country. And I think we have to re-imagine what she looks like. And so for me, it’s about deconstructing these systems and reimagining these systems. And there are people who disagree with that, and that’s fine, but that’s healthy discourse. I do believe. And I think when you approach it in a way as such, I mean, like I told Trevor Noah, I mean, I just try to have faith in tomorrow. Let let me not be so jaded by reality that I can still have faith in tomorrow. 

Maiysha Kai [00:26:04] Yes. All I can say to that is yes. I also want to, you know, thank you. One of the things you did here with who are your people? And when we talk about young minds and book burnings and all that craziness, but, you know, you do some you’ve done some subtle things here with your illustrator in terms of inclusion. You know, we see same sex couples here. We see you know, we see a broad scope of ages and energies. And I think that one of the messages that. I hope is leaking through more in contemporary discourse, I think it is. But what we know is that, you know, there’s obviously a huge push against it is this idea that I think a lot of us fundamentally know that a divided house cannot stand. You know what I mean? Like, we collectively have to be on the same page in terms of making sure that we’re bringing everyone along with us. I assume that, you know, that was a very deliberate inclusion in your book, but. 

Bakari Sellers [00:27:12] Not many people picked it up. I’m surprised you even asked me about it. 

Maiysha Kai [00:27:16] My producer and I both picked  it up. 

Bakari Sellers [00:27:19] The reason you picked it, that’s pretty cool. Nobody’s ever asked me about it. Nobody’s picked it up except people who hate the book. And maybe that’s because, like I’ve had people, if you go like to Amazon, I believe there’s one of the first comments is talking about that. And I was like, that is kind of unique that you are so offended by that notion that of all the things in the book that jumped out to you the most and I’m glad that you all recognize it as such, that inclusivity, that who we are as a community, the bringing in all elements of our community is so important, you know? 

Maiysha Kai [00:27:52] Yeah. I mean, I think also it struck out. It struck me because with this idea of who are your people, maybe it’s because I was engaging with this, I guess, during Pride Month. And so this is maybe top of mind for me, but I was thinking to myself, like, you know, when I think about a lot of my, you know, LGBTQ fam, you know, it’s like chosen family. Those are your people, you know, like your people are who not just the people you were born to, the people who you choose and who choose you. Right. I just thought that was a really nice, subtle statement. 

Bakari Sellers [00:28:22] And one of the things, and Reggie’s brilliant anyway, the illustrator. But, you know, the greatest the greatest Black writer of all times is James Baldwin. I don’t agree with that then fight your momma. Right. Right. That’s that’s that’s some family stuff you need to deal with. And, you know, I just wanted to I want it to be diverse. I want it to be inclusive. I want it to be real. And when you have family gatherings, like in the picture of the picnic and people dancing, then you’re going to have your uncles there. And it’s fine, you know, you gone have all of us. And many times they are the backbone and strength and brilliance of our community, i.e., James Baldwin. So. 

Maiysha Kai [00:29:02] Mm hmm. 

Bakari Sellers [00:29:02] I want it to be that beacon. And if and maybe and, you know, it’s also a message to the young people to not be afraid. 

Maiysha Kai [00:29:10] Right. 

Bakari Sellers [00:29:11] And to love. And those are those are messages. I definitely want to get out. 

Maiysha Kai [00:29:16] Right. I loved it. I thought it was great. Not to mention, I don’t know about you all, but my uncles are always the most fun at the family reunion and picnic. Y’all, we’re going to take a break, but stay tuned for more Writing Black. 

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Maiysha Kai [00:29:58] All right, let’s dig back into it. Welcome back to Writing Black. Okay. So you’ve mentioned you are working on other children’s book and another adult book. Are you willing to give us a bit of a tease of what we can expect next from you? 

Bakari Sellers [00:30:10] Well, the the the adult book is is more of a is not it, it’s somewhat of a memoir book. It talks about my experiences. I’m always very honest, but it’s more of a political diagnoses and an analysis than anything from the perspective of who I am in the light and the my background and the light that I see it through. And so you’ll you’ll feel a lot of my father in it. You’ll feel Marion Barry in it. You’ll feel, you know, Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer in it as we talk about how we get out of this rut of where we are. And the children’s book is a continuation of what we try to do is continue. My favorite my favorite page is the last page in the book in which Sadie is president of the United States and Stokely is on Mars. 

Maiysha Kai [00:30:53] I love those names, by the way. Sadie and Stokely. 

Bakari Sellers [00:30:55] Yes. Sadie Mays. The wife of Benjamin Elijah Mays and Stokely, of course, after Stokely Carmichael. And so, you know, we’ll flesh those things out and see where it leads us. 

Maiysha Kai [00:31:06] All right. Well, we know you’re a big James Baldwin fan. Who else would you recommend? This is a question we ask all of our writers on the show. Who else would you recommend reading? They don’t have to be book authors. They can be speech makers. They can be playwrights. 

Bakari Sellers [00:31:20] You know, I would I would say that the best book I’ve read in the last three years or so was Cicely Tyson’s autobiography. The History, and then when you when you when you hear Cicely in your ear, in your head, like when you know her how like she is Black Girl Magic. She’s Black Excellence, she’s all of those things. And then you see the words on the page and you you reminisce about her and Miles Davis and you just the history of how she cut all her hair off and was like she just showed up to set one day and was in became the natural hair Black actress, all because she just cut her hair off and said, ya’ll going to deal with me anyway. I mean, it’s just her book was just fascinating. I read a lot of individuals like the new dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, Jelani Cobb. 

Maiysha Kai [00:32:10] Yeah. 

Bakari Sellers [00:32:11] Brilliant, brilliant brother. 

Maiysha Kai [00:32:13] Absolutely. 

Bakari Sellers [00:32:14] You know, I think Ibram is one of the greatest writers of our time. I like to say that I read Michael Eric Dyson, but I tell him all the time I need a thesaurus. He puts out a book, that man puts out more books than Cash Money put out albums. 

Maiysha Kai [00:32:33] That is the best comparison I’ve ever heard of Michael Eric Dyson, who is one of the most. He’s really fun to talk to. 

Bakari Sellers [00:32:40] I’m like, man, I can’t even appreciate one book and then another books. Comment on a white rage thing. It reminds me of how Birdman and Slim every other month, had a new Cash Money album come out. So I just try to consume as much as I can and appreciate, but go out and get Cicely’s book. I think people would be thoroughly and I think it would you guys would appreciate it just as much as I do. 

Maiysha Kai [00:33:06] I endorse that as well. Bakari Sellers, thank you so, so, so, so much for joining us on Writing Black and for sharing these amazing books with us. Who are your people? Guys, get this for the little people in your life, and I’m looking forward to what you’ve got coming next. Hopefully you’ll come back and see us. And in the meantime, have a great time writing Black, man. I love that you’re bringing yourself to this work. Thank you so much right now. 

Bakari Sellers [00:33:33] And let me just say thank you for the work that you are doing is so important to us. I appreciate you. 

Maiysha Kai [00:33:37] Thank you so much. Right back at you. Y’all, we’re going to take a break, but stay tuned for more Writing Black. 

[00:33:43] Witty. Honest, Entertaining. Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Listen today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture debates you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard. 

Maiysha Kai [00:33:58] All right. Let’s dig back into it. Welcome back to Writing Black. All right. Well, it’s time for Mai Favorites. That’s right. It’s that time in the episode where I share with you my recommendations, typically based on the guests we’ve had this week. Not always, but typically. And, you know, I don’t know that a lot of people would have had Bakari Sellers writing a children’s book on their bingo card. But really, aside from being a huge industry. Children’s books have been a major, major draw for some big names. As of late, Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade have written children’s books. Kelly Rowland has children’s books. And another children’s book that I would recommend is Rhiannon Giddens. This is a Grammy Award winning artist. If you’re not familiar with her, she’s kind of works in the bluegrass country realm. She plays banjo. She’s a ridiculous music historian who is working in genres, you know, from ballet to film and back again, as well as, you know, her own recording career. And she’s written this book called Build a House, and it is based on our history here in America. So I think is a companion piece to Who Are Your People? 

Maiysha Kai [00:35:15] This is a really, really great one to share with little people. I’m also a huge fan of this book because this is a podcast about Black writers and really inherently Black readers. I love this book by Tiffany Rose called Dear Reader. You see this? See that? That’s me as a kid, that pretty much book all the time. And that’s why I love this, because it really talks about the world that can be open to children, and particularly children who look like us through the world of books. So as the holiday season approaches and you’re looking for things to share with the littlest readers in your life or those that you hope to encourage read, I’m going to recommend these two among many others out there. There’s so much great content out there now. So, you know, stay tuned to this space and you know, we’ll tell you more people who are writing Black for little, little Black people. As always, thank you for listening to Writing Black. You can listen to us on theGrio app or wherever you find your podcasts. 

[00:36:32] Introducing Dear Culture with Panama Jackson on theGrio Black Podcast Network. Bring your friends for the shenanigans and stay for the edutainment. As Panama Debates Culture Wars. Janet Jackson versus Michael. Blackfessions. Blackmendations and everything Black. Listen today on theGrio mobile app for all the Black culture conversations you don’t want to miss. Also available wherever great podcasts are heard.