Read Together Daily…..

We spent one year traveling around the world before we settled in Culver in 2015. We home schooled (road schooled?) our two children during that year and as part of our loosely defined curriculum I read a book to them each night. One of the books we read was One Crazy Summer (OCS) by Rita Williams-Garcia.

Originally published in 2010, OCS tells the story 11 year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters Vonetta and Fern. The sisters travel from Brooklyn to Oakland, CA in the summer of 1968 to spend it with their estranged mother, an artistic poet who has no time or patience for them, so she sends the girls to the only child-care option she has, the local Black Panthers camp.

With a heartwarming child’s point of view and Rita’s knack for humorous dialogue, we catch a glimpse of the political climate of the time during the early days of the Black Panther Party. My children and I still have “inside jokes” from reading this book all those years ago.

Flower Child: “Have a daisy, sweet soul sister.”

The sisters put up the power fist sign. “Free Huey!” “Power to the People!”

At the time we read the book, I am embarrassed to admit all I knew about the Black Panther Party came from movies like Forrest Gump. OCS gives us a different outtake on a group whose community-based harm reduction efforts included registering Black voters, screening people for sickle cell anemia, free full breakfast for school children, and providing childcare. OCS gives us a different perspective on the group the FBI once called “the greatest threat to internal security of this country.” Sound familiar?

As you read this book with your family, the content organically centers around themes applicable to the political climate of our time. Who is demonizing the BLM movement and why? What are you teaching your children about BLM? If you lived during the 60’s, on which side of the civil rights movement would you and your family be? There is no age limit to ask these questions. There is no age limit to interrogate these uncomfortable truths. Some families have no choice but to face them daily. If your family does have a choice, acknowledge your privilege and use it to support justice and equality for Black Americans.

Reading OCS as a family is a funny, safe, wonderful, age-appropriate way to introduce these essential concepts into your family’s everyday conversations. You will laugh. You will cry. You don’t have to join the Black Panther Party, just learn a little about it. You will fall in love with three little girls spending one crazy summer in Oakland.


The Black Panther Party and Community-Based Public Health Initiatives