New Kids' Book Helps Parents Approach 'The Talk' About Police Brutality

"Momma, Did You Hear The News?" addresses a fundamental component of black childhood.
<em>Momma, Did You Hear The News?</em> was released on April 12. The book was written by Sanya Gragg and illustrated by Kim Holt.
Momma, Did You Hear The News? was released on April 12. The book was written by Sanya Gragg and illustrated by Kim Holt.
Sanya Gragg/Kim Holt

In the black community, “the talk” with your children isn’t just that of the birds and the bees ― it’s the one where you explain to them how their skin tone may one day make them a police target.

It’s a conversation so difficult that mother, former social worker and Nashville, Tennessee, native Sanya Gragg wanted to help fellow parents navigate it with her recently released book Momma, Did You Hear The News?

Gragg, 46, said she’d been considering writing the book for a short time after she was laid off from her position as a social worker. Her decision to go forth with it came after the police killing of Terence Crutcher last September.

“I knew there would be many families having ‘the talk’ with their children,” Gragg told The Huffington Post last week. “It confirmed that this was my assignment.”

Gragg, who now has two grown sons and a 3-year-old daughter, said that the hardest part of having the talk with her sons was knowing it could only guarantee that they might practice greater caution when confronted by police.

That’s really all they can do, given the disproportionate number of black people killed at the hands of law enforcement. A 2014 ProPublica study reported that black male teens are 21 times more likely to be fatally shot by police than their white counterparts.

Gragg also began the <a href="" target="_blank" role="link" class=" js-entry-link cet-external-link" data-vars-item-name="Memorize the 5" data-vars-item-type="text" data-vars-unit-name="58fe2f14e4b00fa7de166d7b" data-vars-unit-type="buzz_body" data-vars-target-content-id="" data-vars-target-content-type="url" data-vars-type="web_external_link" data-vars-subunit-name="article_body" data-vars-subunit-type="component" data-vars-position-in-subunit="3">Memorize the 5</a> movement.
Gragg also began the Memorize the 5 movement.
Sanya Gragg/Kim Holt

“The most difficult part for me is knowing my sons and yours can do everything right and still end up in a tragic situation,” she continued. “That just makes me really sad.”

She said the talk is a staple of all black families no matter their socioeconomic standing ― and suspects it’s beginning to happen at a younger age.

“I think [that] because of social media and our children’s access to it, this conversation is happening much sooner,” Gragg said. “What used to be a concern once our children started driving is now a concern if they are just walking down the street. I think this book can really help with the introduction of this topic.”

In Momma, Did You Hear The News? Gragg establishes a five-part mantra (below) to help black Americans remember what to do during a police encounter.

A - Always use your manners
L - Listen and comply
I - In control of your emotions
V - Visible hands always
E - Explain everything

“I definitely want everybody to ‘Memorize the 5!’’’ she emphasized. “I think even adults who have been driving for years may get anxious if pulled over. This just gives a quick mental checklist to help you come home alive.”

Momma, Did You Hear The News? can be purchased here.

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