‘Chocolate Me’ inspired by incident in Diggs’ Youth
Approximately 40 Syracuse City School District elementary students sat together to listen to Taye Diggs read them his new book, “Chocolate Me,” while Shane Evans, the book’s illustrator, accompanied him on the guitar Sunday, Nov. 13, at the Greater Evangelical Church, located at 4325 S. Salina St.“Chocolate Me” is a children’s book that illustrates a personal experience from his youth that changed his life.
“When I was 5 years old, kids at school would make fun of me because of my skin color and would ask me why I had a curly afro instead of short straight hair like theirs,” Diggs recalled.
When he went home to tell his mother about the other kids making fun of him, Diggs’ mother told him he wasn’t any different than the other kids.
“She told me I was as sweet as chocolate,” he said. “That reference stayed with me while I was growing up.”
At the reading, Diggs read the book out loud to the children and had a couple of them go up with him on stage and chant “I am chocolate me,” as Evans accompanied them with his guitar.
This book reading was presented by the Say Yes To Education program, a non-profit education foundation that brings the Syracuse City School District, Syracuse University and the Say Yes To Education, Inc., together, amongst others, to organize people, time, money and resources to support city school students.
Vincent Cobb, program director at Elmwood Elementary School, has been a part of the Say Yes program for three years and found it important to bring Diggs to the South Side for kids to be exposed to successful African-Americans.
“Encouraging reading and literacy is important for kids of all ages, especially on the South Side, because it helps their imagination be curious,” he said. “They will also understand that it’s OK to be a little different and still be successful.”
When working on the book, Diggs thought of none other than Evans, whom he met in high school and whom he went to Syracuse University with, to serve as illustrator.
“We are like brothers,” Evans said. “When Taye approached me with the idea, I didn’t think twice because it has such an important message.”
“The main message I want to send with this book is that just because we are a chocolate color, it doesn’t mean we have to take the difference as a negative,” Diggs said. “It’s about embracing our sweet chocolate color and turning it into a positive difference in life.”
At the end of the reading, children in attendance got a free copy of the book and stood in line to get it autographed by Diggs and Evans.