David Miller’s new children’s book, Chef Toussaint. (Courtesy Photos)
By Marnita Coleman
Special to the AFRO
While college touring in Florida with his daughter, we caught up with David Miller, Baltimore’s esteemed social entrepreneur, for a candid conversation about the launch of his new children’s book, family dynamics and future projects on the horizon.
Miller’s latest contribution to the world of children’s books is a culturally rich, inspiring story of Toussaint Palmer, a 9-year-old award-winning chef from Atlanta, Ga. whose aspirations led him to become the youngest chef to win the coveted Buckhead Cook-Off. Through his children’s books, Miller aims to awaken the dreamer in children of color, feature relatable characters and culture, and pass on Black historical nuggets. By the way, Chef Toussaint, is strategically named after Toussaint L’Ouverture, leader of the Haitian independence movement during the French Revolution, a fact not widely taught in schools today. Miller chooses to name his characters after historically famous people to educate kids about who they are.
Brilliantly illustrated by C.J. Love, a MICA graduate, Chef Toussaint sizzles with vibrant images of the chef’s specialties like black-eyed peas, grilled sea bass with mango sauce, and last but not least, pecan pie. Miller’s vision to feature characters that look, dress and talk like the Black boys he addresses is fully captured. And on the final pages of the book, he cleverly includes three culturally appetizing recipes with tips to parents on how to engage children in the art of cooking.
Miller believes there are “book deserts,” and one’s zip code is a factor in whether or not a community has access to books. He points to parents as forerunners for introducing books to their children and improving literacy rates. Miller credits his mother for instilling the love of books in him. “My mother was a voracious reader.” As a purist, he confides, “Ebooks are okay, but I like holding a book in my hand, turning the pages and running my finger down the spine.”
As a boy, Miller was fascinated by the library, which he and his brother frequented on Fridays. His favorite read was National Geographic. Miller was captivated by the pictures of distant lands and the narrative of people that lived there. National Geographics inspired him to dream beyond his family’s home in Ashburton, beyond Pimlico Middle School, and beyond Walbrook Senior High School to see faraway places in Africa and Australia.
Those dreams propelled his extensive travel empowering and developing Black men and boys in Africa, Canada, the Caribbean and throughout the US. Miller has trained parents, teachers, police officers, fraternities and countless others, providing solutions to the vulnerabilities that hinder Black males like anger, poor decision-making and violence.
Growing up, Miller found himself in some difficult situations. He witnessed a fatal shooting as he and the victim stood side-by-side on Maryland Avenue. He admitted knowing men that are currently serving jail time in the penitentiary. And, unshielded from life’s unexpected pangs, Miller’s mother, a school teacher, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 31. She passed away last year.
Unapologetically Black and focused on issues related to Black life, Miller’s humble persona blazes with relentless passion for his work. He recalled getting his insatiable work ethic from his father who once worked at the post office. Miller recognized the importance of self-care that many Black men neglect, and shared that during his down time, he enjoys fishing and kayaking.
Miller is staying busy by creating new stories and adventures for girls of color implementing famous figures like Winnie Mandela.
The Baltimore native is the epitome of who Black men and boys can become. When presenting Chef Toussaint, a publisher stated to Miller that Black boys don’t read. The fortunate reality is Black boys not only read, but they also dream, as Miller has unequivocally proven and paved the way for others to follow.
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