‘Who are your people?’ features a San Diego illustrator passionate about drawing black history

A new children’s book celebrating black history is on the New York Times bestseller list with illustrations by a San Diego County artist.

Reggie Brown, an artist of mixed Filipino and black heritage, has illustrated seven children’s books in the past three years alone. “Who are your people?” came out in January.

Brown collaborated with author and national commentator Bakari Sellers to convey a universal message to every student who reads it.

“Black and brown kids can learn resilience and dream big and know where they came from,” Brown said. “Non-black children can learn empathy and understanding for people who don’t have their shared history.”

It’s a vivid picture book of black history heroes with contemporary children also portrayed.

MG Perez

Second and third graders at Johnson Elementary School listen to a reading of the book “Who Are Your People?” El Cajon, California, February 18, 2022

Brown, who is from Spring Valley, was invited to share his work with second and third graders at Johnson Elementary in El Cajon. Their teacher, Sara Holbert, said she is committed to honoring and celebrating the diversity of her students.

“Even if a student is not a person of color, I want them to know that we need to have diverse voices and they need to listen and hear from all kinds of people,” Holbert said.

The book touches on the reality of racism, which is a lesson that many students in Holbert’s class experienced first-hand.

Eight-year-old Jordan Houston was particularly moved by the page showing a lunch counter sit-in. The peaceful protest of the 1960s is tainted by the ugly truth of the times.

“It was a group of black people. I think the most messed up part was when the white person splattered the spaghetti on the black person’s head,” Houston said.

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Courtesy of Reggie Brown

A scene from the book “Who Are Your People?” by Bakari Sellers with artwork by Reggie Brown.

Besides the beautiful designs, the story is about race was published at a time when race relations are in critical conflict. “Who are your people?” rose to No. 4 on The New York Times Children’s Bestseller list shortly after its release in mid-January.

After reading the book to the class, Brown showed the students some of his drawing techniques.

Holbert said that personal visit contributed to the conversation about race.

“What’s important is not to hide it,” she said. “We want to make sure they recognize the breed and know how to talk about it in a respectful way. Race is part of their identity and they can be proud of it.

‘Who are your people?’ features a San Diego illustrator passionate about drawing black history