Finding a way to spread love and light in the wake of heartbreak and sadness is no easy task, but that’s exactly what motivational speaker Chris Singleton dedicated his life to after losing his mother five years ago.
His mom, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, was among the nine victims whose lives were taken at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015. The day after the tragedy, the then-18-year-old Singleton told a crowd of mourners, “I just say, love is always stronger than hate. If we just love the way my mom would, then the hate won’t be nearly as strong as the love is.”
Singleton has continued to share that same powerful message in speeches and appearances across the country. Now a parent himself to a two-year-old son, he is especially inspired to reach out to younger generations. This led to him writing a children’s book, Different: A Story About Loving Your Neighbor ($15.99, Chris Singleton), which goes on sale today, the fifth anniversary of his mom’s passing. “It basically just teaches every kid to love people no matter what their differences are,” Singleton told South Carolina Public Radio.
The story follows a young boy named Obinna who feels out of place after his family moves from Nigeria to Charleston. Singleton not only dedicated the book to his mother’s memory, but included a character based on her who tells Obinna, “Never be ashamed of who you are. You are beautifully and wonderfully made.” It also features questions at the end for children to think about with their parents and teachers, such as, “Can people choose where they’re from or what they look like? What does that mean for how we should treat them?” and “What would the world look like if we were all the same? How is it helpful that we have unique differences?”
Singleton spoke to The Post and Courier in Charleston about why it was so important for him to publish the book today. “Every single year around that time is a down time for me and a down time for my family… By releasing this book on that day, every single year from here is here on out is something to smile about.” He added that he also waited for this day to mark the first time he’s reading the book to his son, which he plans to make an annual tradition as a “small and mindful act of choosing love over hate.”
And although his timing was intentional for his own personal reasons, Singleton acknowledges that the book’s release could be even more useful in light of recent events. As he told Southern Living, “With everything going on right now, there’s nothing better we can do than to teach our young people to make this world a better place.”
You can learn more about Singleton and pick up a copy of Different: A Story About Loving Your Neighbor on his website.