Author Derrick Jakolby Washington and book, Son, You Matter

Uncle Kolby is Mentoring Youth Through Books

Author of Son, You Matter to discuss inspiring youth at Memphis bookstore; hopes to visit Asheville.

This month in Memphis, TN, author Derrick Jakolby Washington (a.k.a. Uncle Kolby), will discuss his mission of inspiring youth advocacy and autism awareness through children’s books.

Son, You Matter book coverWashington’s inaugural work, Son, You Matter, was a #1 Best Seller on Amazon, and the author hopes to encourage young Black and Brown boys to unlock the greatness that is already within them. He considers himself a “people builder,” aiming to empower others with the skills needed to improve their quality of life and be successful.

Background

Driven by his extensive work in the area of Human and Social Services, Washington released his debut children’s book, Son, You Matter, in 2020. Created during the peak of the social justice movement surrounding the deaths of Eric Garner and Philando Castile, the book became a catalyst for dialogue within families that would touch on race, policing, and the father-son bond.

In the book, seven-year-old Ahmad idealizes his father and loves chocolate chip cookie-dough ice cream. On this special day, Ahmad is going for his favorite ice cream with his favorite person after school. But what seems like a normal day changes quickly into one that transforms the way Ahmad views his father, ice cream, and life—all in one moment.

An Autism awakening

Less than two years later, Washington published his second children’s book, A Special Little Girl, to shed light on autism. Described as “an affirmation of love and encouragement for his niece,” this book’s very personal story promises a heartfelt lesson for all readers while exploring the differences among us, empathy, and inclusion.

Washington’s niece Zyion was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (a developmental disability caused by differences in the brain) at four years old. Six years later, he describes a recent trip home to visit, where he attended a gymnastics class with Zyion in which he witnessed the instructor reward every student in the class for doing a great job except his niece. Yes, his niece needed a few extra instructions, but she was able to complete every challenge given to her.

Feeling heartbroken about the experience, they returned home where Zyion, unable to articulate her emotions verbally, began to replay a cartoon that summed up how she felt. The cartoon essentially described how bad it felt to be left out because you’re different. Washington stayed up most of the night researching autism (ASD) and what it means in communities of color. Appalled by the disparities in diagnoses and resources, he quickly recognized a need for both greater awareness in the “neurotypical world” and greater representation for neurodivergent communities.

At that moment, he felt compelled to write an affirmation to his niece to encourage, uplift and acknowledge his family’s love for her. That affirmation became A Special Little Girl dedicated to Zyion.

Reaching out to help others

In 2023, Washington hopes to expand his role as a writer and change maker in communities of color and beyond with collaborations like the St. Jude Children’s Organization, touring with Black Authors Matter, earning his Autism certification, and starting his own reading channel, “Storytime With Uncle Kolby.” A portion of the proceeds from A Special Little Girl will go towards autism research and providing resources for children diagnosed within communities of color.

For more details, or to purchase his books, please visit djakolbywashington.com.

 

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