When you see yourself, you can be yourself

From brothers Michael and Gilbert Allen comes an inspiring, true story of what it takes to persevere through the real obstacles facing young Black boys today. When Gilbert was just 15 years old, his older brother Michael—himself a full-time college student at the time—made the extraordinary commitment to take legal guardianship of Gilbert. Together they began to dismantle the messages of self-doubt and despair that Gilbert had internalized all his life, and replace them with love and affirmation.


“The bond that we developed saved my life. It was the simple things he did and said that inspired me to succeed.”
– Gilbert Allen

“Hope is focusing on something greater than one’s circumstances.”
– Dr. Michael Allen

Dr. Michael Allen, Author

As a school principal at Oakton Elementary School near Chicago, Dr. Allen recognized the huge need for reading materials that depict young Black boys in a manner that is authentic and relatable as well as positive and life-affirming. Named the 2020 Elementary Principal of the Year (North Cook Region) by the Illinois Principals Association, Dr. Allen tirelessly advocates to end policies that hold students of color down and replace them with trauma informed practices, equity, emotional intelligence and mindfulness in schools. To that end, Dr. Allen recently founded Wholistic Equity (WE) Leadership Consulting, where he empowers and equips educators and administrators to center racial consciousness in their work.

Gilbert Allen, Author

Gilbert Allen should not have finished high school, let alone have earned a master’s degree in Social Work and be working toward a doctorate. As a child, he struggled in school and faced extreme poverty, homelessness, and parents who battled drug addiction. There was a time when he thought excelling in football was his only way “out.” But at the critical age of 15, his older brother Michael intervened to care for and mentor him. While Gilbert did indeed excel in football, breaking a number of school records and earning all-state honors and a full scholarship to college, he is most proud of leveraging his education for his life’s purpose: giving back to kids on the margins, who just need someone who “gets it.”

Tyrus Goshay, Illustrator

Tyrus is an award-winning illustrator, designer, innovator, and educator with a special place in his heart for creating life-affirming, joyous images that celebrate African American childhood. His work has graced the pages of Disney’s Tinkerbelle book series, Jaleesa Bluitt’s You Can Be, and Alonda Williams’ beloved Penny and The Magic Puffballs series.

Make Hope Tangible by Donating

We are accepting donations for students and kids who are growing up under adverse circumstances and who cannot afford books. We are also looking to provide workshops to at-risk students and children. The workshops will help students learn skills to transition back to school after the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has hit children on multiple fronts including social isolation, family stress, a breakdown in routine, and anxiety over school closures and the virus itself.

Dr. Michael Allen and Gilbert Allen will create an environment for students to open up and talk about challenges they may face with returning back to school in the fall. They will also provide various mindfulness meditation exercises to help with self-regulation. Finally, they will share their story of breaking free from poverty, and how Michael adopted Gilbert to raise him and teach him important life skills to cope with everyday life.

Book an Author Visit

The virtual author visit is a 45-60 minute 3 part educational experience targeting intermediate and middle school students. Students are exposed to an engaging virtual presentation highlighting the following components:

  • General recap of the book

  • Presentation of the key areas that apply to the growth mindset, systemic racism, equity, vulnerability, mentors, mental health, mindfulness, and goal setting

  • Question and Answer Session