Happy Book Birthday to this dopalicious children’s picture book, CROWN: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, by celebrated author Derrick Barnes and illustrated by fine artist Gordon C. James—the latest on the Denene Millner Books imprint. Listen, I could not be more proud of this work. It has more action! More color! More power! More POW POW! And FOUR starred reviews from four major book publications. Can you stand it?!

To celebrate the official pub date of this glorious jewel of a book, Derrick will be debuting “Crown” on Facebook Live, tomorrow, Wednesday, October 11 at 7:30 p.m. EST on his FB page. I will share it on both my personal and MyBrownBaby pages. Be there, with the babies. This is a “Good Night, MyBrownBaby” you do not want to miss!

In the meantime, read this beautiful piece, the author’s note from “Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut,” explaining the heart and soul of the book. It is every bit as gorgeous as the book and the beautiful Black boys it seeks to touch. Oh! And click here to buy the book!


Mr. Tony was my barber in the sixth grade. To get to his chair, I rode the Prospect southbound Metro bus to 63rd St. every Thursday, the day of the week my mother would leave eight dollars on the kitchen table so that I could get my hair cut. Walking out of that shop, I never felt like the same kid that went in. I couldn’t wait for Friday morning so that Carmella Swift, my girlfriend, could see how perfect my box was shaped up. I knew she’d bug out about the two parts on the right side of my head, which, in my mind, made me look like Big Daddy Kane. There was no way she’d resist my ruler-straight hairline, a precise frame for my smiling, brown, 11-year-old face. That fresh cut made you more handsome. It made you smarter, more visible, and more aware of every great thing that could happen in your world. 

With “Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut,” I wanted to capture that moment, from a first person point of view, when black and brown boys all over America visit “the shop” and hop out of the chair filled with a higher self esteem, with self pride, with confidence, and an overall elevated view of who they are. The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins. It’s how we develop swagger, and when we begin to care about how we present ourselves to the world.

It’s also the time when most of us become privy to the conversations and company of hardworking black men from all walks of life. We learn to mimic their tone, inflections, sense of humor and verbal combative skills when discussing politics, women, sports, our community and our future. And really, other than the church, the experience of getting a haircut is pretty much the only place in the black community where a black boy is “tended to”—treated like royalty.

Crown: An Ode To the Fresh Cut” focuses on the humanity—the beautiful, raw, smart, perceptive, assured humanity—of Black boys/sons/brothers/nephews/grandsons, and how they see themselves when they highly approve of their reflections in the mirror. Deep down inside, they wish that everyone could see what they see: a real life, breathing, compassionate, thoughtful, brilliant, limitless soul that matters—that desperately matters. We’ve always mattered.

* * *

Derrick Barnes, a graduate of Jackson State University, is the author of eight books, including the popular series Ruby and the Booker Boys. He also wrote best-selling copy for Hallmark as the first African American male staff writer for the company. Barnes resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, with his wife and four sons.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

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