“There’s a large gap with literacy rates in comparison with African-American children, some kids go to schools that don’t have the resources. They don’t have access to laptops or the simple necessities.“
Meet Antionette Toni Mutcherson, CEO of BFF Publishing House, Award-winning Author and Tedx speaker, based in the US. Mutcherson has an initiative to publish 100 Black children writers and provide an outlet of expression for them during the current climate of racism and the Black Lives Matter protests.
Toni Mutcherson discusses the inspiration behind the pledge, “I have an eight year old daughter and so I’m having to sit her down and have a discussion with her about what’s happening right now and the social injustice. I think now would be a good time for kids to express themselves with regards to their feelings about what’s going on.”
With a lack of appropriate resources and the likes of Trump in power, the tools given to Black children to help them manage their feelings and emotions are lacking in the US.
Mutcherson adds, “We [adults] get to go out and protest and have conversations with other adults. Kids may not know how to express themselves or navigate their feelings. My daughter was born when Barack Obama was the president, of course there’s been a humongous shift in the climate of everything since. She was brought into the world where it was more about unity and making strides towards change. The world is responding differently now to what she had initially experienced. It’s very close and dear to my heart and so being able to advocate for kids being able to express themselves is important.”
The programme will also be an opportunity for parents and caretakers to have a conversation about what’s going on and will help them to navigate their children’s feelings. Unfortunately, for many children it will be an introduction to them, who are mostly unaware of the social injustices of the world.
Literacy is another element lacking for Black American children, with many children attending schools that lack simple resources and necessities such as laptops.
Mutcherson remarks, “Even with this pandemic, having to have kids at home, a lot of parents didn’t have access to laptops in school. That plays a big part as well as the home environment, if the literature isn’t seen as something of value then of course that’s passed onto the next generation.
They [children] have laptops, cell phones – all these devices that sometimes interfere with their learning. There are an array of issues that can interfere with kids learning to read, learning the value of, and understanding that literacy is the one component that touches over all jobs and career paths. There’s definitely some areas of growth and concern as far as literacy here in America.”
“My Young Life Matters” includes 100 spaces for Black American children from as young as six years to 17 years old. The programme will follow a 4-week virtual writing class, providing children with e-courses, e-books, and building literacy confidence. For many participants this will be their first time doing something of this magnitude, which provides them with the opportunity of becoming a published author.
The aim is to encourage children and “let them know that writing is important but we also want them to have fun, so we’ll have some prompts for them to use”, says Mutcherson.
The CEO comments, “We’re excited to see what type of entries we get, to read them, for them to open up their hearts and their minds. Some of the prompts are ‘My Black life matters because…’ or ‘If I was in a position of power I would…’ It’s an array of different prompts so they can decide which position they’ll take on this.”
But, of course, the aim of the initiative runs a lot deeper. Toni Mutcherson stresses the importance of what BFF Publishing House want to gain, “I’m hoping people in positions of power, or White Americans will read it and have a better understanding of what it’s like to be a Black child in America. Or if another Black child picks up the book, they know they’re not alone. I hope the message spreads and encourages better understanding of the issue. “
Politics and policy remain a huge place of focus for restructuring the system so that equality can exist as well as ridding policies that “have been set in place for years, to the detriment of Black America”.
Mutcherson discusses the importance of conversations with people outside of your race to get a better understanding of what it’s like “to have been at a disadvantage for over 400 years”.
She observes, “We’re playing catch-up and then there are these barriers. It’s important that you have those conversations so that people know not to come off on the defence. That type of dialogue across the world matters, we are very creative and brilliant people and we can all come up with some changes that make a difference right now. I’m still very hopeful. I think we can certainly turn this around.”
You can help the cause by donating to the Go Fund Me page by clicking the link here.
Ciao for now x
For any enquiries or feedback, please do not hesitate to contact me.