As parents and caregivers striving to instill pride and confidence in our Black children, it is important that we provide them with literature they can identify with. This not only means books with characters that they can relate to and see themselves in, but also books that can help them learn Black history in a fun and easily digestible way. These are some of the reasons HBCU grad Fred Whitaker Jr. decided to create the Come on a Journee With Me book series.
Together with his sister, Courtney E. Whitaker, Fred has penned three books to date in the educational children’s series. He was inspired to do so by his daughter, Journee, and niece, Briley.
“We would visit bookstores like Barnes & Noble and could not find any children’s books with characters that looked like them,” explains Whitaker. “I want to continue to encourage young Black children to think about entrepreneurship, as well as giving them the opportunity to have access to literature that reflects their culture. Many children do not have the chance to travel around the world. The Come on a Journee with Me series allows children to learn about different places as well as Black history.”
Serving as the inspiration behind the books, spunky, witty Journee and responsible, organized Briley are also the main characters in the stories. The cousins and best friends accompany their dad/uncle, Fred, on work trips, enjoying epic adventures and missions in each city. Other characters in the book are based on Fred’s grandmother, the beloved Ms. Chick, and his silly puppy, Oreo.
There are various valuable themes found throughout the series. In addition to travel, entrepreneurship, and the importance of learning Black history and culture, the Come on a Journee with Me books highlight the dynamic between Black fathers and their daughters.
“As an active co-parent, I want to control the narrative of Black fathers, how we are in our kids’ lives, and how it's important to show our kids the world from our eyes and from a cultural perspective,” Whitaker shares. “With this series, I hope to continue highlighting great Black fathers and Black culture that has shaped major cities for children who are less fortunate to experience traveling outside their communities.”
So far, the book series take readers to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta—cities with deep-rooted Black history. Traveling with Fred, the girls visit and learn about important historic sites and memorials like the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in D.C., the Apollo in NYC, and Big Bethel AME Church in Atlanta.
“It is essential to incorporate staples in Black culture, to help educate those of these locations, enticing children and parents to travel to these places in person. What better way to explore, learn, and bond with the ones you love?" continues Whitaker. "If the opportunity isn’t there now, this will be engraved in the minds of children, and I hope they continue to expand their horizons.”