Photo book Too Fly Not to Fly celebrates #blackgirlmagic and #blackboyjoy | Slideshows | Chicago Reader

Photo book Too Fly Not to Fly celebrates #blackgirlmagic and #blackboyjoy 

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Desmond Owusu
Cedrick DeBerry at 31st Street Beach

Owusu: “This was right after we got the shot for M is for magic. Heading back to the car, Cedrick decides to stand atop of one of those stone sitting rings in this Superman hero-like pose. We knew we had to capture it, and I think Cedrick knew it was the photo. And yup, this unplanned, spontaneous picture is the cover of our book. Big shout-out to Cedrick. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a creative director of a company when he gets older.”

Desmond Owusu
A’Kasha Hodges, seven, in Marquette Park

McLean: “I taught A’Kasha in kindergarten. She was one of the most bright and inquisitive students. Over time, though, I saw that she was treated differently because she was darker skinned. I wanted to make space for darker-skinned kids to see themselves as nuanced . . . to show joy but also that struggle in creating relationships, friendships, and loving yourself.”

Desmond Owusu
Eight-year-olds Kentrell McNeal, Kaylen Woodard, Miracle Powell, and Leilani Nichols in Bridgeport

Owusu: “It was apparent to me that Kentrell and Kaylen were really good buddies. When good buddies link up, they have a great time. Good buddies also tend to compete with each other. Once I told Kentrell and Kaylen that I needed both of them to soar high in the sky, they looked at each other and said, ‘Oh, I’m gonna jump higher than you, watch!’ And there you have it, two black boys flying high in the sky.”

Desmond Owusu
Top: Alexis Hunt and Cedrick DeBerry, both seven, in Bronzeville

McLean: “Food deserts is something we wanted to tackle with students. We wanted to capture the resiliency of black children against the backdrop of systemic oppression, in the form of a Food & Liquor. We chose this image for O is for obstacle, to allow students a space to unpack what elements of their world create obstacles for them but may not exist for children who live 12 miles north of them in the same city.”

Desmond Owusu
Jakyra Rodgers, seven, on the Chicago Water Taxi

Owusu: “I’ve lived in Chicago all of my life. It wasn’t until my first year of grad school that I discovered that Chicago had a water taxi! I never want any child in Chicago to not be able to experience the beauty of the city. My hope is that she looked in amazement but also with an assurance that the world is bigger than what she thought and if she wants, she can shake up this world and make it a better place.”

Briana McLean
Owusu places a hand on the head of eight-year-old Ellis Humphries.

McLean: “Ellis has been charismatic since he was three years old in my pre-K classroom, so I knew he was going to be able to show that admiration of a younger brother, nephew, or son inspired by an older family member.”

Desmond Owusu
Humphries with Christopher Hibbitt III, eight, Jaylah Brewton, eight, and Jalen Brown, nine, in Bronzeville

McLean: “Before this picture we had a discussion around representation in their favorite cartoons and TV shows. I asked one student how it felt when he didn’t see people that looked like him on his favorite programs, to which he responded, ‘It feels like I don’t belong.’ ”

Desmond Owusu
Above: Seven-year-olds Anarria Powell, Giselle Stevenson, and Alexis Hunt sit at the edge of Lake Michigan in Bronzeville.

Owusu: “Some people in the city may not look at Lake Michigan and call it a wonder of the world, but I like to think it’s a wonder in our city. When we came up with this scene, our goal was for the girls to, one, realize the beauty within our city and, two, realize the beauty and magic in friendship and sisterhood. I was really impressed by how fearless each of the girls were to go by the water.”

Desmond Owusu

Desmond’s niece Zaria Owusu-Young, ten, holds a copy of Too Fly Not to Fly in Jackson Park.

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Desmond Owusu
Top: Alexis Hunt and Cedrick DeBerry, both seven, in Bronzeville

McLean: “Food deserts is something we wanted to tackle with students. We wanted to capture the resiliency of black children against the backdrop of systemic oppression, in the form of a Food & Liquor. We chose this image for O is for obstacle, to allow students a space to unpack what elements of their world create obstacles for them but may not exist for children who live 12 miles north of them in the same city.”

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