When we were children, books seemed like a portal to a whole new world. Although children’s books are written beautifully, what really stands out to a child is the images portrayed in each story. This Black History Month, we researched 5 illustrators that have shaped the lives of young black children. Each artist expresses their wonderful passions and incredible social justice knowledge through drawing, I can’t wait to show you their amazing work!
1. Kaylani Juanita
Kaylani is a California-based children’s book illustrator who specializes in inclusivity among BIPOC and Queer children. As a queer person herself, Kaylani enjoys creating art that pertains to the possible struggles children can go through when questioning their identity.
Kaylani’s book Magnificent Homespun Brown, written by Samara Cole Doyon, won the 2021 Coretta Scott King Award specifically for her illustrations. And obviously, we can see why! Her art allows young readers to confront internal struggles with confidence and light. Kaylani’s mission statement is “to support the stories of the underrepresented and create new ways for people to imagine themselves.” We LOVE this artist and everything she stands for.
You can follow Kaylani here: @kaylanijuanita
2. Ekua Holmes
Ekua lives in Boston, MA, and is devoted to sustaining contemporary Black Art traditions. As a previous Boston resident, I can relate to Ekua’s drive to continuously make the city a better place for everyone. Ekua noticed that Boston’s lack of diversity in children’s books was a huge issue that needed to be addressed. She is a part of the Boston Art Commission and serves as Commissioner and Vice-Chair.
Along with this achievement, Holmes has received the Coretta Scott King Award twice. First in 2018 with her book Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, written by Carole Boston Weatherford, and second in 2019 with her book Stuff of Stars, written by Marion Dane Bauer. Outside of books, Euka continues to promote her passion for the city of Boston and its diversity. During her first public art initiative, Euka launched a project called The Roxbury Sunflower Project. Throughout this project, 10,000 sunflower seeds were planted in her hometown of Roxbury, MA. Is there anything this woman can’t do??
You can follow Ekua here: @ekuaholmes
3. Kadir Nelson
A 3-time Coretta Scott King Award winner, there is no doubt in my mind that Kadir Nelson is an amazing BIPOC illustrator you need to follow! Nelson has illustrated a few noteworthy children’s books including Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, and Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom. These books cover some serious content and Nelson portrays each topic with a beautifully illustrated representation.
Nelson is not only a children’s book illustrator, but he dabbled in the act. His paintings have reached new heights and have been placed in various institutions. A few examples include the United States House of Representatives, the Muskegon Museum of Art, The National Baseball Hall of Fame, and the World Trade Center.
It is clear that Kadir Nelson has influenced many people. It is a gift to live among this amazing person and artist.
You can follow Kadir here: @kadirnelson
4. Mechal Renee Roe
We definitely want to honor this creative artist for her illustrated book Superheros are Everywhere, written by, the one and only, Kamala Harris! Roe values self-care and self-love. This passion directed her toward her book series called Happy Hair and Cool Cuts This series focuses on black children and their various hair types. Roe wanted to show young black children that keeping their hair natural is beautiful. Roe is a New York Times bestselling illustrator. With her unique creative style, it’s hard to look past these adorable illustrations! Along with books, Mechal Renee Roe is also a designer, photographer, writer, and entrepreneur.
You can follow Mechal here: @mechalroe
5. Keturah A. Bobo
Keturah was born and raised in Toledo, OH with a family that always exuded creativity and individuality. Bobo became a full-time artist shortly after college in 2006 and went on to become a New York Times bestselling illustrator. Bobo is constantly inspired by her community and the ways she can uplift others, especially those in the black community.
She is known for creating vibrant and eye-catching graphics that promote a sense of confidence in young black children. A few of her books include I Am Enough and I Believe I Can, both written by Grace Byers.
You can follow Keturah here: @keturahariel
As the world continues to evolve and become more diverse, it’s important to include more diverse voices and perspectives in the stories we tell. By following these amazing illustrators, we can help to create a more inclusive and equitable literary landscape that celebrates and reflects the beauty of all cultures and backgrounds. Each one of these illustrators deserves the platform they have received and deserves to be read and appreciated by young children everywhere!
For more articles that honor Black History Month, click here!