Taye Diggs is one of my favorite characters on the tv show, “Private Practice” and I had no idea that he wrote a book until I was invited to participate in the Bloggers’ Virtual Book Tour. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce myself and my blog and ask Taye a question about his children’s book, Chocolate Me!
Five bloggers participated in the discussion with Taye, including My Brown Baby, Spanglish Baby, Rage Against the Minivan, Book Dads, and myself. We had an awesome and inspiring conversation and I think each of us went away feeling empowered and excited about his new book! At least I know that I did.
CHOCOLATE ME! SYNOPSIS:
Chocolate Me!, is a children’s book, written by actor Taye Diggs, based on experiences of feeling different and trying to fit in as a kid. Originally written in college as a poem about his difficulties understanding his looks and differences as a child, Chocolate Me! was transformed into a children’s book after teaming up with longtime friend and Chocolate Me! illustrator, Shane Evans. The book teaches children tolerance, acceptance, and diversity, “It’s about self-esteem, self awareness and self-love.” – T.D. For everyone who has ever felt different, who has wished to be someone else, here is a celebration of how sweet and lovely and delicious you are.
DISCUSSING CHOCOLATE ME! WITH TAYE DIGGS
Our discussion with Taye was awesome and I loved every minute of it. The discussion lasted about 30 minutes and there were some good questions asked, followed up with Taye’s thorough answers. Below are some of the questions and answers discussed during the session.
My Brown Baby: (Asked Taye about how his experience influenced the creation of Chocolate Me!)
Taye: “There was that bout , my bout with my struggle at that time as a 5 year old, just understanding the nature of race as far as white people and black people are concerned or black people and black people are concerned. Right about that time when I was 5, after that conversation I had with my mother, that kind of sustained me because things remained fairly simple until, it was around 5th grade, because we moved a bunch of different places. And then later, we moved back into another suburb where the neighborhood was very diverse, but my grade was not. It was an interesting kind of contradiction, where the suburb we moved to was when I was first introduced to upper-middle class black people, but I was the only black person in my class. So there were still issues. I remember there was one black girl and me and whenever people would pair off, they would immediately just assume that we would partner. They weren’t very liberal with their thinking, the teacher included. When I got into high school I started to hear, just from the black community, “oh everybody is more attracted to the light skin girls and the light skin dudes and the light eyes.” And from within the race the light skin black people and more lighter brown people would make fun of the darker people. So then it was a completely different kind of struggle. And then funnily enough it was when dark skinned men, and this was just from my perspective, there seemed to be a shift where all of a sudden we saw Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes, Tyson Beckford. For me personally, when I saw Tyson Beckford kind of haled as this beautiful man by all people, that caused a shift in my being. And I remember literally waking up and walking the streets feeling a little bit more proud. And then after the movie How Stella Got Her Groove Back, when I had my own personal moments of weakness those were the times I just had to remind myself of all the people that really enjoyed that movie and just kind of lean on that.”
Book Dads: ”With your book, did you ever think before you became a father that you would be writing a children’s book? Did you have any aspirations to writing a children’s book before becoming a father? What part of being a father inspired you to write a children’s book?”
Taye: ”The idea to write this book came far before I was a father. I knew that I wanted to be a father, but that had no influence on the actual writing of the book. The inspiration came straight from more of an experience of being a son… my mother’s son. That being said, once we got pregnant, my perspective completely transformed and though the words didn’t change, though the message didn’t change, how I felt about what I was writing changed and I just started to get really excited for the day that I could read my book to my son. That really became a moment that I was very much looking forward to. And every time I continue to read the book to my son, now he can say the words along with me. Words cant explain how it makes me feel. So it was more my intentions changed once we found out we were pregnant, but that didn’t have any affect on the words that were written.”
The Mommy-Files: ”I had very fair skin, red hair I was a prime target for lots of teasing growing up. And I have a couple red heads and from a general perspective, kids can be pretty mean.”
Taye: ”Oh yeah! Adults too.”
The Mommy-Files: ”I’m just curious, I know as parents were all doing our best and doing the best that we know how to do. As parents, if your son were to come up to you some day and say ya know, ‘These kids were making fun of me and I’m not sure how to handle it.’ How would you approach that?”
Taye: ”In this day and age, in certain respects, people can be so advanced in their thinking, but then at the same time I think it depends on what the issue is. In my case, Walker could go to a school with 10 other little mixed kids and they can be the majority, ya know what I mean, and it could be making fun of something else. Like if he may not have a jump shot, or I don’t know. It would depend on the specific situation because I wouldn’t give my son empty promises. If it was a learning situation, I would have to treat that in a very specific situation as opposed to if he were being made fun of the way he looks. As my mother did, I would kind of just spin it and say, “what you have makes you better and makes you stronger.” I would also try to lead by example and show my child that regardless of what you’re going through, it’s important to have strength and to have that self-confidence. I think that’s one of the most important things. And however you choose to do it, try to give your child that self-confidence and to relay to him or her that what other people say, however negative and however hurtful, to kind of take that in and to understand why they’re saying it and how it shouldn’t necessarily have an negative affect on you. That being said, there’s also the understanding that kids are kids and they get hurt. So there’s only going to be so much that you can do. We can’t fix everything and we’re not going to be able to. We can do the best we can, which is to try to make them as strong as possible.”
Spanglish Baby: ”I was wondering how you feel the morals of your book would apply to different kinds of diversity? Not just racial diversity or something that is necessarily physically apparent, b/c for example my son is half white, half Hispanic and he has a Hispanic last name and speaks Spanish, but you wouldn’t know from looking at him. And he may deal with different kinds of issues when he goes to school. For example, choosing a group to fit in with or different pressures that comes from linguistic diversity or worrying about having an accent, things like that. I just wondered how you feel that might coincide with your experience or do you feel that kind of diversity is different in some way?”
Taye: ”A lot of what you are talking about has to do with people’s politics. Me and my wife, we discuss this and we’re still trying to figure some of this out just with Walker and what he should call himself and how he views himself. When I was growing up if you were half a shade darker than white, the white people would not accept you. You weren’t white. There were white people that didn’t necessarily look white and they had issues too. These days, thank god, people are a little bit more accepting and people’s views are broadening and it’s not as accepted to just choose one, how you might have been forced to in the past. I think it depends on the parents perspective and how they feel about those issues and how they kind of want to pass that down to their child. As proud as I am of my blackness, I think it’s important to show Walker that he should be just as proud of his Jewish mother and all of the culture that that includes as well. I’m sure at some point its going to come down to a choice that our children make and unfortunately where they go to school and the influence of their friends plays a large part in that decision. So to answer your question, going back to the book I think once again I think it goes back to the strength that we need to have as a family unit at home and to just provide as much of a positive perspective, including all of the races and cultures that your child possesses so that when it comes to that point when he or she is kind of forced to make a decision, the child either doesn’t and just says I’m including all of this, or depending on however he’s been guided, can make a choice. The older were getting, the more complicated it can get. But then again it doesn’t have to be.”
“I’m 40 so my mother was old school, so when we were coming up, my mother went overboard with the blackness because she figured anything white I would get as soon as I left my door. So the way she figured, she could afford to go overboard and just kind of emphasize all things black, and she was right, in that in the long run it would kind of just even out. Depending on your neighborhood and where you grew up, but the United States, just as far as what we see in the media is still predominantly white and male outside of sports and music. So with me personally, I’m alright with going overboard on the emphasis as long as you’re not discouraging of any other races, because I just think the more positive the better. No one is ever going to have an issue finding a white role model, ever. Not for a while. So I’m all cool with pumping up the positivity of ethnic diversity.”
Rage Against the Minivan: “What advice would you give those of us raising black children in predominantly white communities where they tend to be the minority and where there tends to be a few minority kids in the class. How can we be diligent about making them feel proud of their race and making sure they’re not being singled out in class?”
Taye: ”Well in situations like these, I just have to smack a huge disclaimer that in no way am I any type of expert and please don’t hold me to any answers, I just think we’re all doing the best we can. With that being said, I just think from my experience, which is all I can draw on… But I think so much of what is needed happens at home. Again, drawing from my childhood, once my mother had this conversation with me, from that point on, my mother and my father made sure that whatever we were going to see, whether it was a movie, play, TV, they always brought attention to black performers, my mother made sure I read the auto biography of Sidney Poitier, etc. At the same time, without in any way being discouraging to other races. It was just this, “we want to make sure you understand who you are and regardless of what mainstream society puts out there or may think, this is what is happening. These are positive people that look like you and are doing great things so there’s no excuse for you to not be doing things just as great.” I have to give my mother props in that respect too. My family never made it seem like I couldn’t accomplish anything I wanted. We had no money, my father was in and out of jobs, my mother went back to school, and we were on welfare. So I think tons of people in my position, as cliché as it sounds, would have maybe turned to the streets. But those options weren’t even in my hemisphere. I didn’t know how, but I just knew I was going to go to college and I knew I was going to do something successful. So I think all of that came from the home. To this day, I tell myself to only control the things that you can the rest you have to just let it be. But that which you can control, gain control and own it. So as far as that’s concerned, I feel that so much of it takes place in the home. And to be prepared. Be prepared for the adverse reactions and build up a strong sense of self so that when darts are thrown you can kind of deflect them. ”
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I received no compensation for this post. I received a copy of “Chocolate Me!” to facilitate this review on The Mommy-Files. All opinions expressed in this post are 100% mine.
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