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'Who Are Your People?' features San Diego illustrator with passion for drawing Black history

M.G. Perez
Reggie Brown reads the book he illustrated, "Who Are Your People?", to second and third graders in El Cajon, Calif. Feb. 18, 2022

A new children’s book celebrating Black history has made it on the New York Times Best Seller list with illustrations from a San Diego County artist.

Reggie Brown, an artist with mixed Filipino and Black heritage, has illustrated seven children’s books in just the past three years. “Who Are Your People?” was released in January.

Brown collaborated with the author and national commentator Bakari Sellers to carry a universal message to every student who reads it.


“Black and brown kids can learn resilience and dreaming big and know where they came from," said Brown. "Non-Black kids can learn empathy and understanding for people who don’t have their shared history.”

It is a vivid picture book of Black history heroes with contemporary children pictured, too.

M.G. Perez
Second and third grade students at Johnson Elementary School listen to a reading of the book "Who Are Your People?" El Cajon, Calif., Feb. 18, 2022

Brown, who is from Spring Valley, was invited to share his work with second and third graders at Johnson Elementary in El Cajon. Their teacher, Sara Holbert, said she is committed to honoring and celebrating the diversity of her students.

"Even if a student isn’t a person of color, I want them to know we need to have diverse voices and they should be listening to and hearing from all kinds of people,” said Holbert.


The book touches on the reality of racism, which is a lesson that many of the students in Holbert’s class have experienced themselves.

Eight-year-old Jordan Houston was especially moved by the page showing a lunch counter sit-in. The peaceful protest from the 1960s is marred with the ugly truth of the era.

“It was about a bunch of Black people. I think the most messed up part was when the white person splashed the spaghetti stuff on the Black person’s head,” Houston said.

Courtesy of Reggie Brown
A scene from the book "Who Are Your People?" by Bakari Sellers with illustrations by Reggie Brown.

Besides the beautiful drawings, the story is about race published at a time when race relations are critically conflicted. “Who Are Your People?” jumped to No. 4 on the New York Times children's bestseller list shortly after its release in mid-January.

After reading the book to the class, Brown showed students some of his drawing techniques.

Holbert said this personal visit helped in the conversation about race.

“What’s important is not hiding from it,” she said. “We want to make sure they acknowledge race and they know how to talk about it in a respectful way. Race is part of their identity and they can be proud of it.”

'Who Are Your People?' features San Diego illustrator with passion for drawing Black history