Markita Staples hopes “Nah, I Ain’t Sleepy” will allow kids of color to not only see themselves in a story, but also get along.
SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — An Atlanta mom and author is releasing a groundbreaking children’s book celebrating African American English in honor of Juneteenth.
Sandy Springs resident Markita Staples wrote and illustrated her self-published title ‘Nah, I Ain’t Sleepy’ – an adaptation of her original book ‘I Am Not Sleepy’ – to empower African-American English to be brought to the forefront of the conversation around the performance.
“What resources do they have? Where do they have to go to let them know that’s how you speak and that’s a correct and excellent language, and here’s a book where you can actually see yourself,” Staples said.
In 2020 she was inspired to create the Curly Crew Books to allow her daughter to see herself reflected in the stories she read. His very first title, “What should I do today?” followed the Curly Crew toddlers as they figured out what to do when they were bored. Today, the series now features a collection of children’s books and sticker sheets featuring various children of color, and Staples has amassed more than 24,000 followers on TikTok.
But she didn’t stop there.
On Sunday, June 19, she will release her new track Nah, I Ain’t Sleepy in honor of Juneteenth. Staples wrote this book in AAE to expand the idea of representation and speak to a piece of black and African-American culture that was not, and still is not, fully accepted in society.
African-American English is derived from several dialects, including African Slave, Creole, and West African, according to the Linguistic Society of America.
The LSA points out that in 1973, black academics coined the language as Ebonics. However, this term did not catch on among linguists until 1996, when the Oakland School Board in California was criticized for attempting to use the language as a means of teaching the standard to black and African-American students. Americans. English at school.
Today, most linguists refer to the language as African American English instead of Ebonics, as it specifically refers to the historical roots of African American speech. And while still a distinct part of black and African-American culture, the language continues to have a dominant influence with terms like “sis” (girlfriends), “woke” (politically aware) and “trippin'” (acting dumb) regularly appearing in mainstream media.
Staples recognizes this influence, however, she also realizes that outside of the mainstream there is a negative connotation when it comes to the black community speaking this language.
“I come from a predominantly black community and I spoke African American English growing up, I didn’t recognize it like that, that’s just how we spoke,” she said. “It was later in life that I learned that the way I spoke could potentially hold me back. So, honestly, for years I carried a lot of shame for the way I spoke, and that made me feel bad. made me very anxious.
Historically, the company has coined ‘blaccents’ as ‘unprofessional’, ‘ghetto’ or ‘uneducated’ – Staples wants to change that.
She hopes “Nah, I Ain’t Sleepy” will allow children of color to not only see themselves represented in a story, but also get along – removing a stigma that is not only caused by society but sometimes also by the black community.
“I really wanted to personally change the way I view African American English and view my history by speaking that way, and a book like this is one way to do that,” Staples said.
The book did not come without controversy, however. Staples told 11Alive that she received mixed reviews regarding her release.
“There are a lot of people who, and I understand that, African American English is rooted in a lot of the same painful things that have happened in the past, and it’s either too soon or it’s just not not the right way for them to have that conversation and show that side.
That doesn’t discourage her though, she plans to continue AAE adaptations with all of her Curly Crew books as she believes in what they can bring to the table.
“It’s one of those things that I think if nothing else, even if we don’t all agree that it needs to be talked about, it still happens. We still use that language, so let’s at least have the conversation,” she said.
She plans to write more books for the Curly Crew series and hopes to expand into Curly Crew coloring and activity books and even children’s games, because for her the sky is the limit.
“I really want to be a destination for parents and kids to find fulfilling things and keep them busy and entertained,” she said. “Providing more outlets and more ways for children to see themselves.”
Staples will sell Curly Crew books, including “Nah, I Ain’t Sleepy” at the Juneteenth Festival in Atlanta this weekend.