As with many news organizations, the team had been working overtime discussing coverage of the protests, pandemic and other breaking news. In the midst of this unceasing activity, Montgomery took a moment to email a note with the subject line “A little light for you all.”
Yet it was from her perspective as a children’s book author and a mother that she decided to share a message about equality with her colleagues.
Montgomery is mother to an adorable spitfire of a 3-year-old, Amaya. And there her daughter was — or rather, her illustrated alter ego Grace — staring earnestly from everyone’s inboxes and telling them, I am watching.
Grace came to be two years ago in “The Tiny Human Hotel,” penned by Montgomery. She partnered with illustrator Joanne Wong, who made the adventures of a rambunctious baby come to life.
As the recent social unrest and anguish of racial inequality erupted (again) across America, Wong was following events from across the world in Hong Kong. Originally from Britain, she’d been wanting to speak out against racism since seeing how her own Asian family members in the UK were treated during the early days of the coronavirus.
“My cousin’s shop was vandalized and they have had verbal abuse shouted out them. It really affects you,” Wong explained. “Since then, I have been following other stories of racism and how people felt after 9/11 and other stories in America. Breonna Taylor. The guy [Ahmaud Arbery] shot after just running. The killing was so casually done. There are so many things that are really wrong. I wanted to do something.”
She reached out to Montgomery, who was grappling with what she saw in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Top of mind was her struggle to find the right things to tell her daughter, Amaya.
“She is smart, observant and has questions,” Montgomery explained. “She said, ‘Why are they so angry?’ I told her they wanted justice. Sometimes you get so mad that it burns inside of you and overflows. But, we can’t let it rage out of control. We have to stay steadfast, focused and pray that justice will come.
“I wanted to do something. I told my husband that I really wanted to go to law school to become a civil rights attorney,” Montgomery said. “He brought me back to Earth and told me that I could do something more immediate to make a change.”
That’s when Wong and Montgomery partnered once again. Writing from Grace’s perspective, Montgomery wrote down her words and texted them to Wong. The illustrator responded with the drawings that became their piece “I am Watching,” which she sent on to her team’s inboxes.
“It was our little bit to help,” Joanne said. “It was our contribution to fight against racism.”
“I wanted it to be a conversation starter with parents and to show how the actions of Big Humans really shape the views of Tiny Humans. I know that there are other parents who are having a hard time finding the right words to explain to their Tiny Humans what is going on in this country,” Montgomery said.
You can print the story to share with your own Tiny Human. (If the embed’s not showing, try a different browser.)
Emeri B. Montgomery is a senior content PM for the MSN homepage. She came to MSN after an extensive career at newspapers, including Newsday, The Baltimore Sun and The Chicago Tribune. She is also mom to Amaya Grace, who is an inspiration for her book and comic strips.
Joanne Wong is an illustrator & writer from UK living in Hong Kong. Her choice of medium is gouache, watercolor and colored pencils. Joanne’s work is inspired by travel, vintage children’s books and cute pets. Working as an Art educator part-time, she runs art classes for children and adults in the New territories HK. An active member of HK SCBWI, Joanne is also the organizer of an Illustration community, HK ILLO.