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In the most adorable way possible, North Carolina A&T grad is giving back to the community using her gift of writing and we’re so honored to have her featured on another segment of the HBCU Buzz Young Alumni Series. Noticing the void in representation of African American children’s books, Ms. Lauren alongside illustrator, Alejandro Socorro, took the initiative to create something positive for children of all cultural backgrounds, as it offers representation for African American family units, as well diversity from a minority point of view.

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Photo cred. daughter of NCAT alumni, Marcus and Xavia

CH: We’ll start with the basics. Did you always know you wanted to write a children’s book? If so, did you always have your own childhood in mind for inspiration?

BL: I didn’t always know I wanted to write Breebe’s Brand New Baby Brother, but I did always know I wanted to write. When I was little, I had black and white composition books filled with short stories, poems and songs. I don’t remember if any of the stories and poems made sense but that’s where it all started. I also wrote skits and plays and I would direct the neighborhood kids and my brothers. It wasn’t until I got older that I decided to write a children’s book and I thought what better inspiration than my own childhood.

CH: What is the creative process like for creating something that a young person can comprehend?

BL: The creative process begins with putting myself in the shoes of my prospective readers. I think about the books I loved to read as a child and why I loved to read them. I think about the lesson I’m trying to teach and the best way to present it. The great thing about kids is they are like sponges, they absorb lessons so easily. I don’t have to over simplify anything, I just try to make it fun. I want children to learn from my stories but most of all I want them to enjoy the story I’m telling.

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CH: Being that your little brother was a driving force behind this book, do you feel like traits from other family members were also reflected in the characters?

BL: My parents are also reflected in the characters. I wanted to make sure I showed a strong family unit, both my mother and my father. Unfortunately, people think black fathers are mythical creatures that aren’t present in the lives of their children. So I made sure children saw the mom and dad present in Breebe & Kel’s lives

CH: I absolutely agree; so many people fail to understand that black fathers do exist. In your interview, you made a point to say that representation for children of color in books is important. How do you think your own child’s future will benefit from having an esteem that was essentially molded by exposure to people that looked like him growing up?

BL: I believe that my son will benefit greatly by seeing hisself positively reflected in characters that look like him. He will know there are no limits to what he can accomplish if he is willing to work hard and believes in himself.

“I think seeing characters in books that are doing amazing things encourages children to reach beyond the stars.”

My son’s future will be so much brighter just by learning about and seeing black men and women in the pages of his favorite books. It will also enlighten children of other races by teaching them acceptance instead of tolerance.

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CH: Let’s talk a little bit about your background. What did you earn your college degree in and how did your educational background help you when the timecame to publish your book?

BL: I have a Bachelors of Science in Sports Science with a concentration in Business Administration. The business classes I took while in college assisted me in becoming an entrepreneur and marketing my book. My educational background was helpful but the connections I made at the schools I attended were invaluable. I know my publisher from high school (Arundel High School) and I made too many connections to count at my Alma mater, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. The connections I’ve made and learning how to properly network have really been a driving force behind the success of my book.

CH: How did you choose your illustrator?

BL: I went through fiverr.com to find an illustrator. I went through several different illustrators before I found Alejandro Socorro, whose illustrations aligned with my vision for the book.

CH: What do you think is your biggest take away from the completion of this project?

BL: I really want to stress the importance of following your dreams and walking in your purpose. It’s an amazing feeling when you’re doing something you were truly meant to do. For so long I really felt lost. I was watching my college friends excel and move into their careers and I had been doing the same job for 10 years. I was discouraged because I thought I should’ve been so much further in life than I was. I had stepped away from writing because I was so focused on football (I worked for A&T’s football team). I was always talking about what I was going to do instead of actually taking the steps to do it. Once I started working on my children’s book, I had this amazing sense of purpose. When I finished it, and decided to share it with others the feeling of joy was overwhelming.

“I want people to know if you feel unfulfilled, find your passion and GO FOR IT!”

I had so many excuses and “reasons” that I told myself over and over for why I couldn’t attain my dreams/goals. Your purpose may not match the field your degree is in. Don’t limit God’s plan for you. I had to learn that through experience but I hope someone else can learn from my mistakes and save themselves some time!

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CH: We’ve discussed how your family inspired the book. How does your journey as a wife and new mom and the role you play in your household inspire you?

BL: My new roles have been extremely inspiring. As a mother, I strive to reach every single one of my goals so I can show my son he can accomplish anything. I want to be the best version of myself so that I can not only teach him but lead by example. He inspires me to be great, relentless and successful. People tend to think that when you have children you have to sacrifice your dreams and aspirations. Motherhood has done the complete opposite for me, it is motivation to dream bigger.

As a wife, I am inspired to be everything my husband deserves and more. One night I overheard my husband telling our son that his mom (me) is fearless. It felt amazing that I live my life in such a way that my husband thinks I’m fearless (which isn’t completely true, I’m afraid of spiders). Despite my flaws and downfalls I will always have these 2 guys that love me and believe in me that is the best form of inspiration!

Learn more about the Miami Gardens Initiative and purchase Breebe’s New Baby Brother by: Brianna Lauren on Kindle and hardcopy here