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Concrete Kids

Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky
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A Goddard CBC's Social Justice Prize Nominee • A YALSA Amazing Audiobook for Young Adults

"I will close my eyes and disappear into the pages of this book for many years to come."--Hanif Abdurraqib (New York Times bestselling author of Go Ahead in The Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest)

"Amyra's wondrous awe for life in all its terror and splendor is inspiring to witness."--Rosario Dawson (award-winning actor, singer, and activist)

"A moving, inspiring love letter to and about 'the concrete kids. The kids with a melanin kiss.'"-- Kirkus Reviews

"Leon's powerful book will embolden readers find their own ways of speaking out against injustice." -- Booklist, Starred Review

"A raw and complex free verse exploration of self-love, Blackness, womanhood, and healing. A timely, essential ­purchase for all young adult collections." -- School Library Journal, Starred Review

In Concrete Kids, playwright, musician, and educator Amyra León uses free verse to challenge us to dream beyond our circumstances -- and sometimes even despite them.

Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today's leading activists and artists.

Concrete Kids is an exploration of love and loss, melody and bloodshed. Musician, playwright, and educator Amyra León takes us on a poetic journey through her childhood in Harlem, as she navigates the intricacies of foster care, mourning, self-love, and resilience. In her signature free-verse style, she invites us all to dream with abandon--and to recognize the privilege it is to dream at all.
Ashley Lukashevsky is an illustrator and visual artist born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, currently based in Los Angeles. Ashley uses illustration and art as tools to strengthen social movements against systemic racism, sexism, and anti-immigrant policy. She aims to tear down these systems of oppression through first envisioning and drawing a world without them.

Her clients include Refinery29, Broadly, The Washington Post, Planned Parenthood, Girls Who Code, GOOD Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, ACLU, Red Bull, Snapchat, Air Jordan, and Logo TV. View titles by Ashley Lukashevsky
concrete kids
For Harlem & its angels

This is for the concrete kids. The kids with a melanin kiss. The kids drenched in poverty. The kids who are told to cut their hair, to tame their tone. The kids who are told to shorten their names and disappear their tongues. The kids who are told they will amount to nothing. The smart kids who are told they are problematic. The problematic kids who are told they are stupid. The kids who are taking care of their families in between extracurriculars. The kids who cannot go to extracurriculars because they are taking care of their families. The stoop kids.  The hungry kids. The thirsty kids.  The foster kids. The kids who aged out of the system.  The missing kids. The homeless kids. The kids in jail. The kids awaiting trial. The innocent kids. The kids who never got to be kids. The kids navigating the violence of hands. The kids who are being taught to fear themselves. The kids who refuse. The kids in gangs. The kids thinking about joining gangs. The kids who started them. The adults they became. The adults who wait for the blood to dry out in the sun with the laundry. 

The kids who bury the adults. 
The adults who bury the kids.

The angels they became.
The angels they will become.

More specifically—this is for the boy in the white tee and the breath I saw escape him.


gardenias

The thing about things that drown
Is that they never learn to breathe right
No one ever told them
Of a life
Without strain
A constant choking
Begging for permission
To remain
Limbless in limbo
Calling on the Good Lord
For some ease
A terrifying permission
Comes with youth
The way our bodies
Selflessly unfold
Before the altar
A sacred celebration
Of gardenias in bloom
Eden welcoming the ruin


I was born somewhere in New York City on May 15, 1992. 
I do not know the time of day or recall the scent of birth, but I am sure I arrived screaming like everyone else.


pigment

All of me is brown
My eyes, my hair
My skin
I do not know        My father
The source        is a figment
of melanin        of imagination

I have never met him

Barbie looks like my mother
Who does not look like me

Blond hair blue eyes
And a White body

My reflection
Betrays easily
As I yearn
for pieces of her
To stare back at me
there is love
there is love
there is love

there is questioning

There are no Black Barbies
My mother hand paints
them brown

I do not know
If this makes me
Feel better

There’s no way to
Fabricate reality
So we might as well

Let barbie be
Barbie
kelly be Kelly
& ken be Ken
I do not
Need to
Be White
Like her, like them
To love the skin
That I am in

About

A Goddard CBC's Social Justice Prize Nominee • A YALSA Amazing Audiobook for Young Adults

"I will close my eyes and disappear into the pages of this book for many years to come."--Hanif Abdurraqib (New York Times bestselling author of Go Ahead in The Rain: Notes to A Tribe Called Quest)

"Amyra's wondrous awe for life in all its terror and splendor is inspiring to witness."--Rosario Dawson (award-winning actor, singer, and activist)

"A moving, inspiring love letter to and about 'the concrete kids. The kids with a melanin kiss.'"-- Kirkus Reviews

"Leon's powerful book will embolden readers find their own ways of speaking out against injustice." -- Booklist, Starred Review

"A raw and complex free verse exploration of self-love, Blackness, womanhood, and healing. A timely, essential ­purchase for all young adult collections." -- School Library Journal, Starred Review

In Concrete Kids, playwright, musician, and educator Amyra León uses free verse to challenge us to dream beyond our circumstances -- and sometimes even despite them.

Pocket Change Collective is a series of small books with big ideas from today's leading activists and artists.

Concrete Kids is an exploration of love and loss, melody and bloodshed. Musician, playwright, and educator Amyra León takes us on a poetic journey through her childhood in Harlem, as she navigates the intricacies of foster care, mourning, self-love, and resilience. In her signature free-verse style, she invites us all to dream with abandon--and to recognize the privilege it is to dream at all.

Author

Ashley Lukashevsky is an illustrator and visual artist born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, currently based in Los Angeles. Ashley uses illustration and art as tools to strengthen social movements against systemic racism, sexism, and anti-immigrant policy. She aims to tear down these systems of oppression through first envisioning and drawing a world without them.

Her clients include Refinery29, Broadly, The Washington Post, Planned Parenthood, Girls Who Code, GOOD Magazine, Brooklyn Magazine, ACLU, Red Bull, Snapchat, Air Jordan, and Logo TV. View titles by Ashley Lukashevsky

Excerpt

concrete kids
For Harlem & its angels

This is for the concrete kids. The kids with a melanin kiss. The kids drenched in poverty. The kids who are told to cut their hair, to tame their tone. The kids who are told to shorten their names and disappear their tongues. The kids who are told they will amount to nothing. The smart kids who are told they are problematic. The problematic kids who are told they are stupid. The kids who are taking care of their families in between extracurriculars. The kids who cannot go to extracurriculars because they are taking care of their families. The stoop kids.  The hungry kids. The thirsty kids.  The foster kids. The kids who aged out of the system.  The missing kids. The homeless kids. The kids in jail. The kids awaiting trial. The innocent kids. The kids who never got to be kids. The kids navigating the violence of hands. The kids who are being taught to fear themselves. The kids who refuse. The kids in gangs. The kids thinking about joining gangs. The kids who started them. The adults they became. The adults who wait for the blood to dry out in the sun with the laundry. 

The kids who bury the adults. 
The adults who bury the kids.

The angels they became.
The angels they will become.

More specifically—this is for the boy in the white tee and the breath I saw escape him.


gardenias

The thing about things that drown
Is that they never learn to breathe right
No one ever told them
Of a life
Without strain
A constant choking
Begging for permission
To remain
Limbless in limbo
Calling on the Good Lord
For some ease
A terrifying permission
Comes with youth
The way our bodies
Selflessly unfold
Before the altar
A sacred celebration
Of gardenias in bloom
Eden welcoming the ruin


I was born somewhere in New York City on May 15, 1992. 
I do not know the time of day or recall the scent of birth, but I am sure I arrived screaming like everyone else.


pigment

All of me is brown
My eyes, my hair
My skin
I do not know        My father
The source        is a figment
of melanin        of imagination

I have never met him

Barbie looks like my mother
Who does not look like me

Blond hair blue eyes
And a White body

My reflection
Betrays easily
As I yearn
for pieces of her
To stare back at me
there is love
there is love
there is love

there is questioning

There are no Black Barbies
My mother hand paints
them brown

I do not know
If this makes me
Feel better

There’s no way to
Fabricate reality
So we might as well

Let barbie be
Barbie
kelly be Kelly
& ken be Ken
I do not
Need to
Be White
Like her, like them
To love the skin
That I am in

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