Community activist Kenneth Braswell was in Baltimore when six police officers were indicted in the death of a 25-year-old black man in custody.
His wife and then six-year-old son had watched protests over the death of Freddie Gray, 25, who died after suffering a broken neck during a ride in the back of a police van. “Your daddy is there,” she said, pointing at the television screen.
When Braswell, executive director of Fathers Incorporated, returned his son asked him why was he there and what were the people doing in the streets. I said they were protesting, recalled Braswell.
“He wanted to know what is protesting,” said Braswell, 54. “It took me a few minutes because I didn’t know how to answer his question. I didn’t have the six-year-old answer.”
He explained as best he could, but he started to think that if his son had questions, other children probably did as well.
A friend later suggested he write a book. He did just that - on a plane ride from Los Angeles to Atlanta.
The 24-page soft-cover book, “Daddy, There’s a Noise Outside,” is written for first- to third-graders, explaining what is happening in such cities like Baltimore, New York and Chicago when people take to the streets to protest police brutality or a system they want to change.
“In my head I was having a conversation in a way that other families have conversations with their children,” said Braswell, whose nonprofit helps fathers build stronger families.”It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to even think about it.”
In the book, illustrated by Joe Dent and Julie Anderson, two children are awakened by noises in the middle of the night outside the window of their inner-city neighborhood. Their parents spend the next morning explaining to them what was taking place in their community and the nuances of protests.
“Children walk away with an understanding of what is taking place in their surroundings,” he said. It also, he hopes, opens diaglogue between young children and their parents.
The book can be ordered online at the Fathers Incorporated website and on Amazon.