CLEVELAND — On the heels of cases like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020 — with crowds taking to the streets to protest racism and hate and children of every color witnessing it all — something beautiful was created.
Cleveland educator Michael Williams decided to put pen to paper to teach children to find their "color" and soar.
"One word just poured after the other," Williams told us. "My thoughts were thinking about children and what they've seen. I didn't want brown children to feel like they were being hated by the color of their skin."
"The Brown Crayon" is about a child who gets a school assignment that changes his life.
"They all have to pick a crayon out of a bag," Williams explained. "Without looking, he grabs a crayon, and that's the report that you have to write on. He ends up with the color brown. It's not bright, it's not flashy, it's just dull old brown.
"Once he looks it up, he finds out about the richness of the color brown and how many things are actually brown. Then, he gets an epiphany, realizing he is the exact same color as the crayon."
This gives the child a whole new perspective on not only the color brown, but the richness of himself.
"It helped him realize that he wasn't down here, and everybody else was up here," Williams said. "He goes back to class proud to be just like this crayon."
Williams, born and raised in Garfield Heights and an educator with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District for 23 years, tours all over Northeast Ohio reading "The Brown Crayon" to children. Since being published in August of last year, the book has received major attention, and is now offered in libraries all over Greater Cleveland and in big box stores like Target and Walmart.
"It’s growing," Williams admitted. "I'm sitting at home like, 'This cannot be real.' Over 3,000 copies have been sold already. It's a blessing."
Despite the newfound notoriety, Williams remains humble. He hopes his 36-page contribution to children's literature will reach just one child and teach them that their value is more than skin deep.
"I wanted children to look at their dark skin, or whatever skin color, and smile," he said.
Williams is currently Dean of Engagement and Student Support for CMSD, but says he's been bitten by the writing bug and can’t stop! He's now working on his second children's book will be teaching a writing clinic soon.
You can find "The Brown Crayon" audiobook online and in paperback at Barnes & Noble, Target and Walmart.