Social media powered much of the impact of 2020’s racial-justice protests, which took so many forms it was easy for campaigns to get lost in the noise. But The ABC’s of Survival cut through all clutter with a concept that is simplicity itself: An alphabet book for children.

Billed as “the book that should not exist,” it is equal parts history lesson, self-care and activism, designed to be torn apart in ways that can change laws. This graphic powerhouse supports mental health for BIPOC youth, who can rip out its posters and send the postcards it contains to Congress. 

Made in partnership with the National Black Child Development Institute, the project caught fire with a budget of just $25,000. The idea came from Shamel and Tiffany Washington, two parents searching for teaching solutions after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. They wanted “to tell a troublesome story that plagues many Black households,” says Shamel, “and create something that could help have ‘the talk,’ as well as help end the talk.”

The social strategy is Instagram genius, teasing a single letter from the book each day during Black History Month. Then its influencer campaign went live, shipping 100 hardcopy books to schools, museums and politicians. Their posts are driving awareness, new followers to Instagram, generating ebook downloads and sparking donations to the NBCDI. 

So far, 10 schools are using the alphabet book as part of their curriculum, and a copy is on display at the Underground Railroad Heritage Museum.