Monday, December 23, 2019

Celebrating the Nguzo Saba Through Books

The seven principles of Kwanzaa (Nguzo Saba) are an important part of our work at Just Us Books. They not only shape our approach to business, but they show up as themes in many of the titles our company has published.

1. Umoja = Unity (To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.)  
Book Recommendations: Kwame Nkrumah's Midnight Speech for Independence; Sink or Swim; The March on Washington

2. Kujichagulia = Self-Determination  (To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves).
Book Recommendations: Papa's Free Day PartyWe Could Be Brothers; Path to My African Eyes I Told You I Can Play

3. Ujima = Collective Work and Responsibility (To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together)
Book Recommendations: Recognize: An Anthology Honoring and Amplifying Black Life; Willimena Rules; Freedom Rides: Journey to Justice; 12 Brown Boys

4. Ujamaa = Cooperative Economics (To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.)
Book Recommendations The March on Washington; Tamika and the Wisdom Rings

5. Nia = Purpose (To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.)

Book Recommendations: Defiant: Growing Up in the Jim Crow SouthScientists, Healers and Inventors; Great Women in the Struggle; Kids Book of Wisdom

6. Kuumba = Creativity (To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it
Book Recommendations: Poetry from the Masters: Black Arts Movement; Clothes I Love to Wear

7. Imani = Faith (To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.)
Book Recommendations: We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our VoicesBishop Daniel PayneCome by Here Lord

What are your favorite books about Kwanzaa or books that focus on one (or more) of the Nguzo Saba?

The Purpose in Kwanzaa

How do you define yourself? What values are important to you?  How do you tell your story?

I asked a version of these questions earlier this month when I gave the Kwanzaa message at Pride Academy School in East Orange. These are questions I reflect on frequently, too.

Living a life of purpose is important to me, and that's one of the reasons I love Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is a pan-African holiday that's observed December 26 - January 1. As a celebration, it provides guideposts for living purposefully. It celebrates African-American history and culture; embraces creativity; and encourages community. And its foundation, the Nguzo Saba or seven principles, help guide my life as well as my work as an author, publisher, and entrepreneur.

Our family has observed Kwanzaa for over 30 years. Just Us Books, the children’s book publishing company my husband Wade and I founded in 1988, has been in business for just as long. And although Kwanzaa did not directly inspire our entrepreneurial venture, I'm sure that timing is no coincidence.

The Nguzo Saba show up in our books and shape our work. We’ve published or packaged several books about Kwanzaa, including: My First Kwanzaa Book; Willimena Rules: Nine Steps to the Best, Worst, Greatest Holiday Ever! and the Kwanzaa Sticker and Activity Book. We included the principles in AFRO-BETS Kids' Book of Wisdom: Quotes from the African American Tradition. The principles are also themes in many of the books we've published. (Read more about those books here.)

As entrepreneurs, we live the Nguzo Saba of Kwanzaa year around. UJIMA (collective work and responsibility) and UJAMAA (co-operative economics) define our approach to doing business – from the stories we share in our books, to our intentional focus on employing Black writers, illustrators, editors, designers, and  doing work with Black vendors such as  BCP Digital, as much as possible.

Our purpose (NIA) is to bring more stories about Black people, history, and experiences to the public so the richness and diversity of Black culture is represented in the books all children read.

We use creativity (KUUMBA); self-determination (KUJICHAGULIA); and faith (IMANI) every day when working with authors and illustrators, defining our business goals, and planning for the future.

It takes unity (UMOJA) to brings all of these elements together to create books and run a company - particularly as a family business.

I believe we all have an opportunity and responsibility to identify and use our unique gifts to make positive contributions to our communities - whether cultural, local, or global. That's purpose and I'm blessed to be living in it.

Cheryl Willis Hudson is an children's book author, publisher, and co-founder of Just Us Books. Her newest title, Brave. Black. First. 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World, is a collaboration with  the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and Penguin Random House.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Just Us Books Donates $4000 in Children's Books to East Orange Public Library

Just Us Books is ending 2019 with a special gift to its founders' local library. 'Today we donated $4000 worth of children's and young adult books to the East Orange Public Library, based in Wade and Cheryl Hudson's hometown of East Orange, NJ. (Watch a video of the book presentation here.)

The donation includes books from Just Us Books’ publishing list, and from generous donations by publishing collaborator Crown Books for Young Readers, and the Children’s Book Council. CBC selected Just Us Books as one of its 2019 Diversity Outstanding Achievement Award winners - an honor given to children’s publishing professionals who have helped bring greater diversity to children’s literature. With the award came a donation of more than $1000 worth of books to an organization of awardees’ choice. Just Us Books selected the East Orange Public Library to receive its award donation. 

“Just Us Books has a long history with the East Orange Public Library,” said Wade Hudson, Just Us Books CEO. “We’ve hosted many book signings and author events at the East Orange Public Library over the years and we’re happy to continue bringing quality, diverse books to our community with this donation.”

Wade and Cheryl Hudson were joined by East Orange Mayor Ted Green; Jimmy Smalls, President of Library Board; Carolyn Ryan Reed, Library Director; and Lisa O'Shaughnessy, children's librarian for the Dec. 16 book presentation, which took place at the library. 

Celebrating more than 30 years in business, Just Us Books remains one of the nation’s few Black-owned publishing companies. Its titles, which include the popular AFRO-BETS series, Book of Black Heroes from A to Z, The Secret Olivia Told Me and We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices (published in partnership with Crown) are available at  

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Arts, Activism and Black Boy Joy - Our Picks for Gifting Books this Season

Good books make great gifts, but with so many children's titles available, which should you pick? 

Whether your favorite young readers are into the arts or activism; whether they want to celebrate Black girl magic or Black boy joy, there is a great book waiting for them. Here are suggestions from Just Us Books' collection. 

The Arts






Sunday, December 1, 2019

Just Us Books Receives Best in Business Award from NJ Black Business

What better way to celebrate Small Business Saturday than with a room full of Black entrepreneurs, Black business supporters - and a Best in Business Award?

It was our first time at NJ Black Business' annual awards event, and we were proud to be there as an honoree. The NJBB Awards are special because the organization was founded to help Black businesses grow, succeed, and increase their visibility. The awards - now in their fourth year - recognize businesses (15 total this year) that exemplify the highest in quality, integrity, and excellence. In short, it's for us, by us, and celebrates us. 

A celebration like this takes vision, commitment, and lots of hard work. We salute Natasha Bray, NJBB founder, for using her talents to bring this community together year after year. Thanks to keynote speaker and entrepreneur Lunic Boyd who spoke words of inspiration; to the judges; and everyone who helped to make the celebration so special.

And congrats to our fellow honorees (or as Lunic called us, “Warriors”). Between us, we have over 100 years of experience in business. We're in this together!

We listed all the honorees' Instagram handles below so you can learn more about the excellence of New Jersey’s Black business community. Of course, please follow us on IG as well, at @JustUsBooks 

@aboveartstudios | @we_shipping_co | @sweetsavorypalmers | @dashikipride | @uprisingstarinc || @printkreations | @montclairbrew | @upperroomevents | @jerseyturntupent |
@groomingextraordinaire | @nentikitherapy | @reid_financial_solutions | @yameanstudios |

Photos courtesy of 2nd Chapter