Shayla Michelle

By Shayla Michelle

Every so often I come across a children’s book which combines a story, our history, and the Spoken Word in one package. Echo in the Distance is just such a book, written by Shayla Michelle Reaves and illustrated by Kprecia Ambers.

At least three generations were yet to be born when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at the March on Washington on August 28, 1963. He had given many inspiring speeches during his lifetime as a “Drum Major for Justice,” but the one most people think of is “I Have a Dream.” As for myself, I was 11 at the time, watching it unfold on television with my parents and my little brother.

Reaves gives the reader an entirely different experience of that day. From the Speaker to the Watchers, her words are an energy force that is not only heard, but felt from all the senses. The poem and the images are transcendent, connecting his speech to the present and the future. She encompasses us in using the intentionality of the metaphorical weather of the times. “The echo in the distance” gives us a powerful portent of what was to come, to those who are the embodiment of King’s Dream.

Performed as a Spoken Word poem when she was a freshman at Northwestern University, I could easily visualize being in the audience, snapping my fingers in response to her recitation from the sheer power of her work.

Those of us in the Twin Cities area know Reaves as the news anchor and reporter for the WCCO -TV midday news. She describes herself as “a creative deep-thinker who loves to laugh and help others see the best of who they are.” Now we will have the opportunity to experience her gift as a creative writer and poet. Echo in the Distance is scheduled for release on Juneteenth, and it is available for pre-order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Melanin Origins, and her websites, and

I’m with Dr. Cornel West on this verse in her book: “People are people, not color-coded crimes.” Thank you, Shayla, for the precious gift of your literary voice to increase the representation of African American authors when it comes to children’s books, and for making a positive difference.

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