Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett publishes third children’s book — ‘Dear Black Boy.’
Former Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett may have the legacy of a football player, but he has the soul of an artist. Bennett has produced films, books and apps, all with the goal of inspiring young people. His latest children’s book, “Dear Black Boy,” debuted this year. The poetic love letter to black children encourages kids of color to persevere and dream big.
“Most of the stories I tell have kids of color as the protagonist. We don’t get to experience a lot of escapism as black kids,” says Bennett. “I don’t want to tell kids that they can do it, I want to show them that they can do it.”
“Dear Black Boy” shows the kids running the race of life. They wear marathon numbers, but not by choice. Bennett is illustrating how black boys are forced into the game of life with a set of rules they didn’t agree to. But in the book, he shows the characters not competing against each other, but supporting each other throughout the race. It’s a team effort.
Bennett also encourages black boys to look beyond sports for opportunities. He writes in the book, “The game of life is the only game they don’t think we can win.”
Bennett pioneered every step of the process, from crafting the poetic editorial to designing the illustration style for the book. This is his third children’s book, and he’s designed a different style for each one. “Dear Black Boy” utilizes traditional African American art styles with a contemporary twist, all in tones of black and brown.
“This book is as brown as you can make it,” says Bennett, laughing. The characters intentionally don’t have distinct faces, so young readers can envision themselves in the story.
But Bennett’s lessons don’t stop with the story itself. He created his own publishing company under his larger conglomerate, The Imagination Agency, so that he could have total control over the production of his books. “It’s also important for black kids to know that ownership of their work is important. They need to be able to have control over their own stories,” he says.
According to Bennett, “Dear Black Boy” isn’t just about the content of the book, but the experience of reading it. It’s meant to be read by parents and children together as a gateway for encouragement. At the end of the book, Bennett has included a pledge parents can read with their children to help create goals and dreams for the future.
“By changing the way that we see ourselves, that change will show up in society,” says Bennett. “I’m so proud of being a black boy. So it’s easy for me to talk about my joy.”