I can’t take the credit for coming up with the idea to write a children’s book. My dear friend Dymilah suggested it. One day on the phone from North Carolina she said to me “You should write a book called Justice Loves to Read.” I am always telling her about great books I’ve read to Justice. Books like Goal! by Mina Javaherbin, Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx by Jonah Winter, White Water by Michael Bandy (beautifully illustrated by Shadra Strickland), or the hilarious Don’t Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table by Vanessa Newton or Kitchen Dance by Maurie J. Manning or one we got out of a box of Cheerios, When Dinasours Came With Everything by Elise Broach. During the course of one our conversations she probably heard me lamenting about how it would be at least eighteen years before I’d be able to have the energy or time to write anything again. Her innocent suggestion inspired me. I wrote a draft of Justice Loves to Read and created a PowerPoint document using images of Justice with books over the two years of his life. I got excited! But somewhere during one of countless rewrites, I served Justice scrambled eggs for breakfast and he called it ackee. I was shocked and amused. Yes, ackee (along with saltfish, is the national dish of Jamaica) looks a lot like scrambled eggs. I thought, “Wow, he remembers ackee, that was months ago!”
It wasn’t until Justice greeted Daniel (a Trinidadian who sells delicious roti at the Ashby flea market in Berkeley) that I really took notice. I introduced them and Justice looked directly in his eyes and blurted “The Rasta says yeah mon.” Daniel and I looked at each other perplexed. We laughed. Yes, Daniel is a Rasta (but how could J tell that since his locs were completely covered) and and absolutely yes, some Rastas do say ‘yeah mon!’ I started thinking about what parts and how much of our trips to Jamaica had stuck with him. What did he remember about the people and experiences? It reminded me of how much attention Justice got on our trips. I tell people, “In Jamaica, my son is like a rock star. Everybody loves him!” He gets so much love and affection, it warms my heart. So thinking about all of these things along with the short piece I wrote for blackatlas.com about our first trip, I decided to switch from a book about how he loves books and stories to a book about what being in Jamaica has been like for us. And that is how Justice in Jamaica, now Justice pon di Road was born. The fact that Jamaica was approaching it’s 50th year of independence was further fuel. And so you can guess what my second children’s picture book will be about!