We’re kicking off our family series on helping kids and families navigate and work towards becoming anti-racist by highlighting the liberative work being done in Ypsilanti through Black Men Read (BMR).
Meet Yodit Mesfin Johnson, founder, Tamara Tucker-Ibarisha, co-founder, and Nuola Akinde, curriculum and culture director of BMR!
Yodit Mesfin Johnson (she/her) has been working at the intersections of racial justice and liberatory practices for women and black, indigenous and other people of color for nearly two decades. Recently, she has been facilitating dialogue with individuals, organizations and communities of people who wish to explore race, anti-racist practices and smashing white dominant culture. As a champion for equity and social change, she believes there is no greater antidote for hate than love and liberation. She founded Black Men Read and leads the organization’s culture and strategy work. In her spare time she is actively trying to decolonize her mind.
Tamara Tucker-Ibarisha holds a doctorate in Cell and Molecular Biology and has been teaching at the college level for over a decade. She has a passion for education and has developed and been involved in STEM education outreach initiatives for children, college students, and the general public. She is a co-founder of Black Men Read and focuses on the educational and creative aspects of the program.
Nuola Akinde (she/they) is a Yoruba priestess of Nigerian and Bahamian descent, and parent of three bi-racial children. She strives to decolonize her motherhood practices and create a world where her grandchildren’s grandchildren can thrive, with joy and self-determination. Nuola is the curriculum and culture director at Black Men Read and founder and facilitator at Kekere Freedom School.
Yodit, Tamara, and Nuola “imagine a world where people honor and appreciate difference and embrace multiple truths about the human experience.” Their mission is to “uplift black men, all children, and all communities through the power of stories from the African Diaspora.” BMR is a great example of the importance of community connection and the power of sharing Black and Brown stories in order to ignite social change.
Black Men Read was founded in 2016 when Johnson’s son’s teacher reached out with a concern that male caregivers and volunteers of color hadn’t come to Black History programming and he knew that there was a need for representation.“We recognize that an important part of literacy is being able to see and have your identity affirmed in the stories and curriculum that you’re moving through as a student,” Johnson said. “We wanted to disrupt the trope that black men are not engaged in their families and communities. That isn’t our experience.” The organization continues to engage with the community by offering storytimes led by Black men and providing programming that is Afro-centered. BMR has a goal of putting an Afro-centered book in the hands of every child in Washtenaw County as they help raise up a community of liberated learners.
For an example of some of the work BMR does, listen to Jerron Totten, a Social Outreach Coordinator/Legislative Advocacy Specialist at LBGT Detroit, read Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love.
Start going through books in your home library (or borrowed library books) and do a little research to see which books were written and/or illustrated by Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).
Are you seeking out books by BIPOC authors with BIPOC characters? The books that you choose to read and share with your child can be one small step on your journey of anti-racism because the only way to undo racism is to identify it and dismantle it.
Click the button for details about how examine your books and talk about your findings.
- Afro-centricity We are unapologetic about placing the stories experiences of Black people at the center of our work; affirming our view of the world through the lens of the Black and African experience.
- Community We serve with the awareness of the power of ‘we versus I.’
- Liberation We believe the power is in the people and that they are the catalysts of their dreams.
- Love of learning Knowledge is power.
- Interdependence As humans and members of this community our fates are tied to one another.
- Self-determination We define who we are and who we will be in the world.
Read more about BMR and find out how you can get involved and support their mission.
LEARN MORE ABOUT USING BOOKS TO HELP KIDS UNDERSTAND RACE AND RACISM
In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.
– Angela Davis
Hear Gina Danene Thompson, local dance instructor, read Dancing in the Wings.
Get tips for how to talk with your kids about race and racism.
RACISM IN CLASSIC CHILDREN'S BOOKS
Think about and watch for racism in your favorite childhood classics, too. Listen to author Grace Lin talk about this more.