On June 10, 2018, I unexpectedly lost my dear friend and business partner, Shaheerah Khalilah Love Brann. In 2016 we co-founded Decolonizing Education Publishing and co-authored our first children’s book together, The ABCs of the Black Panther Party. Khalilah was a committed educator who fought hard to center the lives of children of the African Diaspora in schools throughout her work as a teacher and, in recent years, as a brilliant social justice consultant. Khalilah truly was in the height of her career delivering one-of-a-kind conscious pedagogical work, such as her popular Woke Cypha curriculum development series and much more!
Khalilah never had biological children of her own, but she mothered hundreds of youth as a high school history teacher. She showed up at their doors when no one else cared to find out why there weren’t in school. She took in teens who had no place to live or were in need of refuge. She accompanied young girls to doctor visits when their families turned them away because they were pregnant. She intentionally taught history from an Afro-centric lens, which gave youth permission to be unapologetically Black in a world Khlailah knew devalued them. Khalilah was more than a teacher. She was a revolutionary mother in every sense of the word–loving her children unconditionally and giving them the tools to grow up to be status quo disrupters in their communities.
So, when it was time for Khalilah and I to do our personal dedications for our book, it made sense that, without any hesitation, she chose to dedicate it “for the children”–her children. Khalilah had stated several times how much we needed to work hard to get our book in the hands of as many kids as possible, because we saw first hand, as teachers, students not being taught about our revolutionary heroes in schools.
It is this reason I chose to start a book fund titled, “Books for Khalilah’s Children” and purposely launch it today. Why today? Because today marks one year that we launched our book in Harlem, New York. And while it pains me to not be able to call Khalilah up to reflect on our year’s journey and celebrate our accomplishments together, I cannot imagine this day passing without commemorating her spirit. For she is the reason this book was written when she called me up one afternoon leaving a school she was working in all worked up about the fact that no one is passing on the stories of our freedom fighters to our children. She told me with sheer excitement, as she usually does when she has a brilliant idea brewing,”Girl, I want you and I to write a book about the Panthers. There is no book out there telling their story specifically to kids.” I had researched high and low for a book like this one, so I knew she was right. And within a few weeks after our conversation, she was already sending me calendar dates to write.
It’s still hard to believe it’s been a year since we launched our book. I never imagined this time this year I’d be launching something in her memory rather than our second book, The ABCs of the Young Lords, like we had planned. And while I am sad to not be in Kahlilah’s physical presence, I feel honored to feel her spiritual presence pushing me forward to do the things we said we were going to do.
A book fund in Khalilah’s name wasn’t anything we had envisioned, but getting revolutionary books in the hands of children definitely was. Books for Khalilah’s Children is about passing Khalilah’s legacy on through the hearts and minds of children by ensuring, as she always said, we give them the tools to “look back to move forward”. This West African Sankofa principle is what Khalilah lived by as an educator, and her legacy lives on when each of us chooses to pass on stories that decolonize and liberate our youth. You can start today in continuing Khalilah’s freedom movement by purchasing one or several of our book, The ABCs of the Black Panther Party, to be donated to children in schools or youth centers across America. Click here and scroll down to see donation options or to find out how your school, classroom, or youth organization can be considered to receive books from Khalilah.
During her physical life, Khalilah worked tirelessly to keep the legacy of our ancestors alive in classrooms. It is only right that we honor her legacy as she did for those that came before us. Rest in power, chica.
Help us send 40 copies of The ABCs of the Black Panther Party to the revolutionary students of Seneca Village Montessori School! Housed in Kahlilah’s Brooklyn, New York neighborhood, Seneca was one of Khalilah’s favorite places. She visited and supported the school so much that they gave her office space to work from. Donate 3 books to Seneca today, and we’ll add the 4th one for free!
Chemay is a social liberation & equity coach who founded My Reflection Matters, LLC in 2016. She is an unschooling mom of two brilliant, TriniRican boys. She loves traveling, going on adventures and exploring new things with her sons, reading, decorating, yoga, photography, and collecting funky art. (Read more on MRM’s About Page.)