Baltimore-based author creates coloring books about colorism to help children learn, grow

BALTIMORE -- A local woman is helping others to embrace their skin through coloring books.

Naomi Winston has published a dozen coloring books since 2019 to help children see themselves and learn about others.

The first page of Winston's first coloring book, titled Black Women are the Future, comes off more like the start of a memoir.

"To a beautiful black girl, know that I value you and deeply care about you, and so do the rest of the women in this book," the page reads.

Winston, a Louisiana native, was inspired to create the coloring book when she heard her cousin deal with colorism—which is discrimination against those with a dark skin tone.

"I took her to the park and she kinda refused to get out of the car out of fears of getting too dark and wished she didn't look like this," she said. "Whatever 'this' meant in her head."

The drawings inside her coloring books are real people, not just historical figures. Some are people she knows that kids with similar backgrounds could connect with—like one of her sorority sisters.

"These are real world problems; these are real world things and experiences," Winston said. "In order to really relate to children or even young adults that experience this all the time, it's about feeling like you're not alone."

Winston publishes her coloring books through her own publishing company, Revolutionary Hearts Industries.

The coloring books are now collectively called The Creative Representation Empire series (thecreativerepresentationempire.com) and have only become even more inclusive.

One of the books centers around LGBTQIA+ identity, another is centered around Native Americans, and there's even one on STEM careers.

"I don't create coloring books," Winston said. "I create opportunities to both see and be seen. I like to say that we create mirrors of representation for black and brown kids to see themself and their stories and cultures reflected."

Knowing cost can be a barrier, Winston is trying to work with school districts to get more kids access to her books.

"We were already seeing how much teachers and youth organizations have said that the kids are much more engaged, that they've opened up," she said. "They feel seen for the first time."

Winston is trying to become more involved in Baltimore, too. Recently, she had an immersive art experience where people could paint pages from her book. That's is something she said she would like to do more of.

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