Useni's Gift

To celebrate the third week of African American History Month, February 2019, we are posting a video of “HistoryMaker” Useni Eugene Perkins reading his poem “Hey Black Child.” The poem calls to Black children to learn all they can, to be all they can be and so transform their nation to be what they want it to be. This powerful message – wrapped in a beautiful, lyric poem – is “set to” a rhythm so catchy and compelling that it has attracted many recitations. YouTube features young children from all across the nation performing it. Unfortunately, this poem is often erroneously attributed to Countee Cullen or Maya Angelou.

We have chosen to post the author’s own rendition of this popular poem to clarify and support the truth of his rightful authorship.

The poem is published in a book. The edition the author is holding in the video is a paperback version. It has since been published in hardback format. This new edition is lavishly illustrated by six-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and four-time Caldecott Honor recipient Bryan Collier. It is available from Amazon and may be ordered directly from the Resources section of our website.

NOTE: Because of its hardback format, this book, unlike the others in our Resources section, may not be sent to someone in a correctional facility. We have nevertheless included it because of its historic importance and to encourage friends and families to purchase it for the children of their incarcerated loved ones.