♪ [Cam humming] CAM: I am wired for stories.
I was brought up in a home that we told stories around the dinner table, everything I remember, I remember as stories.
So when I write music, I do the same thing.
I bring a story in that I care about.
And then it blossoms into a song.
♪ ♪ Nothing wasted but time ♪ Country music started in a time where our country was segregated, back when they first started to record sound, they went out to look for what sounds they could record, even though they heard all kinds of people playing country music when they went out into the hills, [laughs] they decided country hillbilly music will be white music.
And then we will have another genre of race records for Black people and by Black people, that is not a natural distinction.
So here we are, and people a lot of times didn'’t question why this was such a white industry.
Music is the story of all of us.
It is unbelievably important that we have diverse voices and diverse creators and diverse caretakers of something that is so precious to us.
I'’m always on the hunt for stories that can inspire me.
And I heard about Meredith McKinney.
This woman started a whole project around something she noticed, that kids in need of books were being given donated books, but they didn'’t have characters that looked like them.
I am so beyond thrilled to be able to meet Meredith.
I'’m excited to know what it is in her that caused her to act when so many people don'’t act.
And hopefully make her story into a beautiful song.
[audience clapping] I'’m Cam and Meredith McKinney is the inspiration for my American Anthem.
♪ ♪ CARTER: Pick a card.
CARTER: And what the picture shows, that'’s where you go.
CARTER: It puts it how many times is on the number.
MEREDITH: Oh, oh.
This is what you move with.
My name is Meredith McKinney.
I am a wife of Luther McKinney and a mother of two amazing rambunctious boys.
I vividly remember as a young child, my mom was a school teacher and so literature was a big part of our world.
One thing that I did notice even at a very early age was that there were no Black characters in our books.
Children are children and I still believe that that'’s something that they wanna see in their books.
They wanna see themselves represented as well.
CARTER: I promise to go to school and read as much as I can.
I promise to work hard, do what'’s right to be a leader in this game of life.
MEREDITH: Hey, Jocelyn.
MEREDITH: I sit on the board of directors for Book'’em which is a nonprofit organization that provides free books for children.
I was volunteering a little bit with Book'’em and I asked the executive director, and I said, "Hey, just an observation, where are the Black books?"
And she just laughed and laughed and she said, "Meredith, that'’s something "that'’s been so heavy on my heart.
"A lot of our books are donated, and so whatever we get, we just get."
I was having a conversation with my husband.
We were in the car on the way to the beach and we'’re talking about it and I said, "Hey, this is something that I want to do.
"I'’m passionate about "making sure that our children get books that look like them."
And he says, "Well, what are you going to do about it?"
And I said, "I don'’t know.
I just feel like I need to do something."
So he said, "Why don'’t you just throw it out there and see if some family and friends will help?"
And I did.
And so we were gone about four days.
When we get back from Florida, I had about six or seven boxes at my front door with books.
And so my husband said, "Well, babe, why don'’t you put it on social media and see if you can get some response?"
Put it on social media, and the original goal was 500, and we ended with 1,386 books.
And then at that point, I knew I was onto something.
♪ JOCELYN: It looks like you got some more chapter books too.
MEREDITH: Oh, yep.
Got more chapter books.
Hello, hello, everyone.
It'’s Meredith McKinney here, founder of the Black Book Project.
You know I update you all on all our new donations that come in.
So the current goal for this year is 2,000 books.
It'’s a drastic increase from the year before, but I'’m optimistic and hopeful that we will be able to reach that goal.
JOCELYN: We'’re at 1,711 as of last night.
That'’s not including that- like, those couple of Amazon packages.
MELISSA: She'’s amazing.
I mean, she did the project out of a real need that she saw and that she knew firsthand because of her experience, and she works with our school system.
So she sees it day in, day out.
♪ [footsteps] ♪ MEREDITH: Good morning, boys and girls.
Did everyone find a seat?
You wanna sit right here?
So, we are here today because I am the founder of something called the Black Book Project.
The Black Book Project is a special project that puts books that look like you all into your hands.
So if you look at this book, what do you notice about this- this little girl on this book?
MEREDITH: What do you notice?
CHILD: She'’s Black.
MEREDITH: She'’s Black!
And so this is why we'’re here today.
And guess what?
You get to pick your own book and you get to keep it and you get to take it home.
CHILD: We was gonna read that in that classroom but they... CHILD 2: I love my hair.
CHILD 3: And there'’s two books.
CHILD 2: Yeah, we was gonna read this.
CHILD 3: And there'’s two of '’em.
CRYSTAL: So today, one of my first graders chose "Dancing in the Wings."
I noticed she was, um, getting teary eyed.
So I said, you know, "Hazel, wha- what'’s wrong?"
And it was because, um, the illustration, she said, was just so beautiful, and she likes to dance.
The interest in seeing this little girl dancing, looking like Hazel, was, um, was- it was touching.
MEREDITH: Extra- Extraordinary words.
You can look at it and see if you like it, okay?
CHILD: She'’s Black.
MEREDITH: She is.
CHILD 5: I picked this book '’cause I like it, and- and it reminds me of Black history.
CHILD 4: I picked this book because I like the artwork on the front.
CHILD 2: I'’m excited to take it home.
CHILD 5: I'’m excited to take this book home and read it.
ROBERT: I think it'’s fantastic that, you know, she would take on a project like this.
It'’s not easy.
Those projects that are not easy are the best, and they are the ones that we get more bang for our buck in reference to helping our kids move forward.
Boys and girls, how do you like your new books?
MEREDITH: Good, I am so glad that you like '’em.
Please, please take care of these special books.
Take them home, share them with your brothers or your sisters.
Who can pinky promise that they'’re gonna read their book when they get home?
Who'’s gonna pinky promise me?
We had a Black Book Project celebration last week where we were celebrating the number of books that were received.
Everybody at the event was, "Can I take a picture with you?"
I felt like, ooh!
I'’m like Beyonce.
Everybody wanna get a picture with me.
Like, who'’s that?
But it'’s not about me.
Like, I had to take a step back and say, you know what?
This is not about me.
This is about the work.
CAM: I'’m on my way, gonna meet Meredith for the first time.
I'’ve heard a lot about her.
She'’s one of those rare gem of human beings who has this good heart and actually acts on it.
[laughs] I think I'’m just gonna try and dig a little bit while I'’m talking to her to try and find the right little nuggets that can turn her story into a really beautiful song.
MEREDITH: It'’s so nice to meet you.
CAM: So nice to meet you, too.
MEREDITH: Thank you for coming.
CAM: I am so happy to be here.
I'’m so happy we get to like celebrate you.
MEREDITH: Thank you so much.
[Cam laughs] Come on, let me show you around Book'’em.
CAM: I would love to see.
MEREDITH: Book'’em works closely with multiple schools within the district.
So anytime our schools have an event...
This is Cam.
CAM: Nice to meet you.
MEREDITH: Or if they'’re needing literature for the summer break...
Here is where all the books are processed.
They reach out to Book'’em and Book'’em will provide the school with books.
And these are some of the donations that we have received from the Black Book Project and I'’m so excited about these.
♪ CAM: Meredith, thank you so much for letting me be here.
This has been such a cool... MEREDITH: Oh.
CAM: Experience, just learning about everything you'’ve been doing, and it makes me so excited, '’cause being a songwriter, I love stories.
CAM: You know like I just get so motivated by that, and I feel like your story, to me, feels like it starts when you were a little girl.
MEREDITH: My mom, um, is a school teacher, retired school teacher, has taught school for 30 years, and so books and literature was always a part of our household.
We got up in the morning and read a book.
Before we went to bed at night, we had to read a book.
Like, books were just integrated into our every day lives.
And this is back, I'’m telling my age now, but years and years ago- CAM: I mean, we'’re in the same age- so it'’s not- Yeah.
MEREDITH: So years and years ago.
CAM: We'’ll just keep it hush.
[Meredith laughs] MEREDITH: Children'’s books, um, did not represent, um, African American children.
But I would take a brown crayon and color the characters in books brown with black hair because that looked like me.
CAM: Whatever you'’re getting taught as a kid, like, that sets the standard for you.
CAM: Like it sets the norm.
MEREDITH: Right, right.
CAM: And so for you as a young kid- MEREDITH: Yeah.
CAM: Number one, you'’re disobeying your mom- MEREDITH: Yep, yep.
CAM: Who already said that she loves this- MEREDITH: Yes.
Don'’t color and draw on books.
CAM: And you'’re saying like it was such an expression of you and how the world like naturally should be.
You'’ll hear people say, you know, it take- Meredith, it takes time.
MEREDITH: Yes, mm-hmm.
CAM: We'’ll get there, but it takes time.
And you'’re one of those people that was like, no, now'’s the time.
MEREDITH: Hey, Nadia Grace.
NADIA GRACE: Hi.
[Cam laughs] MEREDITH: How are you?
NADIA GRACE: I'’m good.
How are you?
Nadia Grace, this is Cam.
NADIA GRACE: Hi.
It'’s nice to meet you.
CAM: It'’s nice to meet you.
Oh my gosh.
MEREDITH: Hey, you'’re just putting stickers in books.
Can we help you?
NADIA GRACE: Yeah, sure you can.
CAM: I see these stickers are saying this is a book for you from the Black Book Project.
NADIA GRACE: Mm-hmm.
CAM: What does it mean when a kid opens up a book and sees this sticker in it?
NADIA GRACE: It'’s saying that this book is yours now and that you should keep it to make like your own book collection at home about books that you can relate to.
MEREDITH: This book is, you know, twelve to thirteen dollars and when you think about families that are really struggling to make ends meet, like their children will never be able to own a book, you know, like this.
CAM: It'’s such a luxury to have books and I think you kinda forget that sometimes.
CAM: These kids having a brightly colored, just for you- MEREDITH: Right.
CAM: You pick what you want- MEREDITH: Absolutely.
CAM: I mean, they'’re really gonna take in- MEREDITH: Ownership of that book.
I think that the community as a- as a greater whole is really starting to understand how important it is.
It- it has been something has been so humbling to see that there'’s so many people that care around this c- around the country that care about children, and it'’s particularly children that are not able to- to have some of the resources and- and books and just things that other children are privy to.
MEREDITH: And won'’t have it without the help of others.
I mean, when I tell you I'’m floored by the responses I get from older to middle aged white men, [both laugh] when I tell you, they will inbox me and say, "Hey, listen, I wanna give books" CAM: Aw!
MEREDITH: Or "I wanna help."
I mean, it is so like it really restores my faith in like-- CAM: Yeah.
MEREDITH: The greater community as a whole.
NADIA GRACE: My mommy was a dancer so I would always dance with her, and when I read "Dancing in the Wind," it was like really cool because like she was just dancing.
And the other girls would tease her '’cause she'’s tall and I'’m tall.
[Cam laughs] And it'’s just really like motivating, I guess you could say.
No matter like how tall you are or how short you are, or no matter like what you are, you can be anything that you wanna be.
MEREDITH: Being able to see yourself and being able to see someone who was able to attain a goal that you'’re striving for is so powerful.
I was at a elementary school, and LeBron James has a book called "I Promise," and it was sitting on the table and there was two little boys standing at the table, and one of the little boys says, "Ooh, LeBron James wrote that book."
And so they both go to grab it, right?
So the little boy who noticed it got it, and the other one, he was in the third grade, and he was so upset.
I mean, tears- CAM: Aw.
MEREDITH: Were falling from his eyes because he didn'’t get this book.
MEREDITH: That LeBron James wrote.
I looked at him and I said, "You know what?
"I will come back tomorrow and I will bring you that book."
But if that'’s what it takes for them to read, I'’m okay with that.
If they wanna read LeBron James, I will get you every book he wrote.
CAM: Well, that'’s the thing.
The stories are what stick with us.
This is how we share, you know, with each other.
This is how we decide our shared understanding of the world.
I mean, definitely the world is hard enough.
CAM: And you as a mom, I- me as a new mom, I aspire to do that for my kid all the time.
Like, let'’s fill them up.
MEREDITH: Absolutely CAM: So that they have enough to last through some of those things.
MEREDITH: I have two boys and I try to instill in them that their hair is perfect, their skin is perfect, their lips and features are perfect, you are perfect, you are enough.
MEREDITH: While promoting literacy at the same time.
It'’s so important.
CAM: Thank you.
MEREDITH: Oh, thank you, Cam.
I appreciate you.
CAM: It was so wonderful.
MEREDITH: Thank you.
This was great.
CAM: You kind of showed me what you do, and if it'’s okay with you, I really wanna show you what I do.
CAM: And put a little concert on- MEREDITH: Yes.
CAM: For you tomorrow!
MEREDITH: Yes, that would be great.
CAM: Bring your favorite people- MEREDITH: I will.
CAM: And we'’ll just have a little hang.
MEREDITH: Oh, that is so sweet.
♪ CAM: This is Dre Williams.
I called him today because I knew he'’d be a perfect fit for this.
DRE: If you'’re doing what you'’re supposed to do musically, by the end of that song or show, total strangers are hugging each other.
He not only is an incredible writer, producer, musician, he'’s also married to a New York Times bestselling author.
She writes stories specifically for Black youth, Black children, like centering their experience.
♪ ♪ So it'’s easy doin'’ nothing at all ♪ For me, writing is a really visceral experience.
You have to have the right vibe and right setting, so today we'’re writing in a- a public library in the children'’s section.
So that'’s why we have all these cute, you know, animals and bright colors.
And this something I think we talk about a lot.
You see issues and you wanna do something about it, but most people don'’t do the thing.
It feels too big.
DRE: Yeah, they feel like they need permission.
CAM: I just knew if I brought Dre in we could write something that would really just get to the heart of how much we feel grateful for Meredith and what she'’s doing.
DRE: I'’ve been a musician all my life.
I grew up in a musical family.
But the thing is is that I didn'’t see a lot of representation in the country music industry.
DRE: I would watch Dukes of Hazard and wait to the end of the show to see Waylon Jennings'’ guitar.
DRE: That was amazing, but I didn'’t see people that looked like me.
♪ Make tomorrow come ♪ ♪ ♪ Make tomorrow come ♪ CAM: The hook line, like I love this line.
I didn'’t have the melody yet, just the lyrics of "Make Tomorrow Come Today."
DRE: This is perfect because we'’re talking about little kids here.
They need to see that now.
♪ Make tomorrow come today ♪ CAM: Which is what she'’s doing.
And I want- I really want her to see, when we'’re singing this to her, herself reflected in the song.
You know, the- her- Meredith as a kid, she'’s disobeying her mother by drawing in these books.
♪ Only you will know the moment ♪ ♪ When it'’s time to disobey ♪ ♪ Make tomorrow come today ♪ CAM: Like, kind of like a "Landslide" thing, but like-- the kids are getting older.
You gotta do this now.
CAM: Like, um, ♪ Kids are getting older now don'’t- ♪ ♪ Don'’t have the time to wait ♪ ♪ The kids are getting older now ♪ ♪ Don'’t have the time to wait ♪ CAM: Right?
♪ Wait ♪ ♪ Make tomorrow come ♪ DRE: Yeah, there it is.
♪ Make tomorrow come today ♪ I like those separate, even.
DRE: Yeah, yeah.
♪ Make tomorrow come ♪ ♪ Make tomorrow come today ♪ CAM: I love that.
That'’s some Randy Newman stuff.
DRE: Yeah, it is.
CAM: Love it.
The thing that I love the most about country music, you'’re not trying to stretch people'’s ears in terms of really crazy jumps Musically or harmonically, you'’re just along for a ride that feels familiar, so you can focus your attention on what someone'’s saying.
DRE: So what do you think about acoustic for this?
DRE: I think that'’d be great, man.
CAM: Yeah, have Simon come- DRE: Yeah.
CAM: Play a pick part.
♪ Only you will know the moment ♪ CAM: That note, let'’s save that so the verse is just under, right?
CAM: So it'’s like, overcoming things and knowing things, and then at the end, you'’re gonna feel like this relief of like, yeah, you can do this.
And not just Meredith, like people watching everyone being like you can do this.
Like she is this inspiration.
You can make tomorrow come today.
[sighs] ♪ Make tomorrow come ♪ ♪ Make tomorrow come today ♪ DRE: Yeah.
CAM: I think she'’s gonna love it.
♪ CAM: So the song'’s done.
We'’re gonna perform it for Meredith.
She doesn'’t know, but her friends, family, everyone'’s coming.
We'’re gonna do a little show and I can'’t wait to perform it for her.
I hope she feels seen.
[audience applause] Thank you guys all for coming.
I'’m so happy to meet all of you guys.
I'’m especially happy to be in the presence of Meredith.
It was so wonderful to get to talk with you yesterday and hear your story.
I couldn'’t help, after learning all the pieces that I'’ve learned about you, I had to write a song for you.
CAM: And so I actually called Dre up and was kinda talking it through with him.
We were talking about how in that early stage, you took the brown crayon and you colored yourself into the story, even though you were disobeying your mom in that moment.
[laughs] Actually, I think Mom is here, right?
[laughs] And how just people like you, you see and you feel the future, and you- you just know where it'’s going.
And instead of waiting for it to happen, you grab it and you bring it back for the rest of us.
And so we wrote this song for you.
It'’s called "Make Tomorrow Come Today."
♪ ♪ It'’s always easy doin'’ nothin'’ at all ♪ ♪ ♪ Pretending you don'’t hear the call ♪ ♪ The way it'’s always been, is the way it'’s gotta be ♪ ♪ Tell yourself it'’s not your problem to solve ♪ ♪ But when the current pulls you under ♪ ♪ You gotta break away ♪ ♪ Only you can know the moment ♪ ♪ When it'’s time to disobey ♪ ♪ The kids are getting older now ♪ ♪ Don'’t have the time to wait ♪ ♪ Make tomorrow come ♪ ♪ Make tomorrow come today ♪ ♪ When you finally say the words you need to say ♪ ♪ ♪ Dare to play the part you'’re meant to play ♪ ♪ Feel the hopeful eyes upon you ♪ ♪ Pushing you along ♪ ♪ The future'’s working through you every day ♪ ♪ And when the current pulls you under ♪ ♪ You gotta break away ♪ ♪ Only you can know the moment ♪ ♪ When it'’s time to disobey ♪ ♪ The kids are getting older now ♪ ♪ Don'’t have the time to wait ♪ ♪ Make tomorrow come ♪ ♪ Make tomorrow come today ♪ [Cam humming] ♪ Make tomorrow come ♪ ♪ Make tomorrow come today ♪ [audience applause] CAM: I wanna tell you like just a little behind the scenes.
As we were talking this through and I was getting so inspired, and knowing that I was gonna call Dre to write this, I didn'’t even put two and two together really until we started sitting down and going through the lines, Dre'’s wife actually is a New York Times bestselling author.
You said how the kids really liked those LeBron books, and she actually co-wrote the latest LeBron... MEREDITH: Oh my God.
CAM: Book with him.
MEREDITH: Oh my God.
CAM: So we have some copies signed for you.
MEREDITH: Oh, thank you.
[audience applause] CAM: Yes, of course!
MEREDITH: Thank you.
CAM: Oh my gosh.
MEREDITH: So much.
CAM: And I know how important this goal of 2,000 is for you.
CAM: And we wanted to do what we could, so we'’re gonna gift you 500 books on top of those two.
[audience applause] [audience applause] MEREDITH: Her listening to my story and her really getting to know like me on a deeper level, the words could not have come together any more perfect than that.
I knew we were coming to something- CAM: I know.
MEREDITH: At the library.
I just didn'’t know what it was.
MEREDITH: This has been something that I will never forget.
♪ Make tomorrow come ♪ ♪ Make tomorrow come today ♪ [static] [chiming] ♪