People try to beat the magic out of black boys who like the color pink.
They say it's to protect us. But it's not. It's to protect them. It's to protect them from their fear.
It's to protect them from their ignorance. They know that we can become something free from the limits of their own imaginations... and it terrifies them.
Yet despite this, we thrive. We thrive with curves and color and fluidity and a force that cannot be contained within the prison of a "man code". We thrive while living breathing wonder and continually giving birth to the impossible.
We thrive because we begin to honor and embrace the Jeremiah Nebula we have within us all.
Who is Jeremiah Nebula? Jeremiah Nebula is a young black boy who loves the color pink and wants to go to mars. He is the protagonist in a new book by Myles Johnson and Kendrick Daye, called Large fears. In Large Fears, Jeremiah takes us on a journey through his imagination where he faces the fears that come with growth, being different and self realization in this world. Each step in Jeremiah's journey reflects major life lessons, curated perfectly in the form of a child's story.
To honor the coming of such a great project, I sat down with the creators to ask them more about Large Fears and what this book means for black children everywhere.
Yolo: What was the inspiration for Large Fears and the character, Jeremiah Nebula?
Myles: The inspiration was definitely based off of who I was as a child. I had an adventurous spirit and a wild imagination, but I was always attracted to things that I was constantly told weren't appropriate for me like the color pink or scary episodes of "The Twilight Zone". Jeremiah Nebula is definitely me reconciling
with my childhood.
Kendrick: Myles & I met years ago in Atlanta and we've worked together on numerous projects before "Large fears." I feel like the story itself was inspired by not just our lives but by the lives of queer people in general. And anyone that feels they weren't understood growing up.
Yolo: On each star Jeremiah reaches in the book, there is a fear he has to face. Can you tell us more about these fears and what they symbolize?
Kendrick: For me they all definitely have a deeper meaning. He gets to one star which is inhabited by huge skyscrapers and larger than life butterflies and fireflies who wear crowns. To me that page symbolizes going into a new situation where you're unsure of yourself and trying to assert yourself and claim your identity. I definitely identified with that page. When I moved to New York that's where a lot of my insecurities started to show, because for the first time in my life I wasn't the big fish in a small pond, I was just another fish in a vast ocean.
Yolo: The art in the book is breath taking. I noticed that throughout it, little Jeremiah is in black and white stencil amidst the color background- what lead you to make this artistic choice?
Kendrick: Thank you! Well I wanted him to stand out and not get lost in the colorful and busy backgrounds. But on a symbolic level that's how i interpret the story in that this is how he viewed himself as he explores these vast and fantastic worlds, as standing out and not fitting in and not being as special as the worlds he's in because he's in black and white. But drawings of Jeremiah are what bring each of the illustrations together and make them dynamic.
Yolo: Have you met any resistance with this story? Have people been opposed to you writing about a young black boy that doesn't have traditional masculine themes?
Kendrick: Yes and yes. It runs the gambit of why people were opposed. There were the typical homophobic people both black and white who were against the idea of Jeremiah as a character that challenges their traditional ideas of masculinity. But the most striking and unexpected resistance were from gay white men who didn't understand why me and Myles, as black queer artists, made Jeremiah in our likeness and made him unmistakably black.
Yolo: How have children related to the book?
Myles: They find the book immediately relatable, because the very unique nuances that make Jeremiah Nebula different are universal because we all have little unique nuances that make us, us and we all have dreams and fears. Children, at least the ones I have shared the story with, are able to pick up on that quickly and it affirms or plants the seed that they can go to Mars, or Venus, or be a lawyer or rockstar, or just be happy. `
Yolo: What do you hope this story will do for little black children? Specifically young black boys?
Myles: I want it to free them. I want them to know that the very things that they are told are flaws are actually their superpowers. I want them to know from Jeremiah Nebula's story that there is no inherently "right" way to exist, but just existing is excellent and beautiful enough, and just because you exist you deserve to have your wildest dreams come true, including adventure and love. Specifically, for little black boys queer and not queer, I want them to be able to decide who they are naturally. I want them to not feel the need to follow the shadow of a character that society superimposed on us, but truly be able to design who they are, where they want to go, what they want to protect, and what they'd like to receive their passion. I want this book to give them a sense of humanity in a world that is perpetually trying to take away the dimensions, depth and variations that little black boys come in. I want this book to be a reminder to everyone that their life is their own.
All Images Courtesy Kendrick Daye.