We Could All Use A Little Head Start!
As a young parent, I needed help. Help from family, help from organizations and even help from strangers. I recall specifically having two small children each by my side and one more in a stroller staring down a steep, cement flight of stairs that led to the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) office. A woman walked up the staircase just in time and assisted. So grateful to have all three of my children safely at the bottom of the stairs, her disdain – “Why don’t you just quit having children!” – barely stung. WIC provided a necessary service in a welcoming and efficient manner; a random stranger did not change that.
The Child Development Council of Franklin County (CDCFC) is another organization that was central to my children’s growth and development. CDCFC provided me with peace of mind and an opportunity to find and maintain employment, and they always did so with grace and enthusiasm. What an enormous gift. Throughout the years, my children and I have moved multiple times, and I have changed jobs even more often, but there has always been a Head Start site feeding, teaching and caring for my four children until they reached kindergarten. My youngest daughter is still in high school, but the older three have all graduated and been accepted into multiple universities. By many standards, my children have excelled and avoided many of the stereotypical situations associated with growing up in a single parent household below the poverty level. I owe much of that to my family, my mother specifically, to God for giving me the strength to just be (on many days that is all I had), and to organizations like CDCFC.
As an author, my children’s books are a mirror for families like my own; an opportunity for African American youth to see their stories told, embraced and celebrated. The protagonists, main characters, and super heroes in my books are children who laugh, play and learn at Head Start Centers, get physicals and dental checkups via Medicaid, and are raised by a village of Aunts, Grandmas, and Great Uncles. My books are also a window for the disgruntled stranger, the confused taxpayer, and those striving to maintain or exceed middle class to see outside of their world. My publications aren’t chock full of these messages – they’re just books.
As a publisher, accessibility is a huge part of my platform and passion. It is my goal to make sure the children who would benefit most by having my books don’t have any barriers to getting them. I reach out and work with schools, financial institutions, non-profits and governmental entities because I know from experience that it takes a village. I was over the moon when Tracey Johnson shared with me CDCFC’s plan to have Family Literacy Fairs at their various Head Start locations in Columbus, OH. I jumped at the opportunity to be a guest author and read my four children’s books! On Thursday, November 9, 2017, the day of the Literacy Fair, I was under the weather and lost my voice. So, I asked my son, Jelani, a former CDCFC Head Start kid to read.
My son read brilliantly, although there was a slight back and forth between he and I because he wasn’t showing all the pictures (I paid good money for those illustrations). But more importantly, the children were enthralled. They stared and listened intently to the young man that looked and laughed just like them; they ogled at the pictures (the ones he showed) that depicted their experiences, hopes and dreams with children who looked just liked them. The children loved looking in the mirror; they admired who they saw and who they aspired to be. It was God’s small reminder that they are enough. Thank you, Child Development Council of Franklin County, for sowing into the community young and old, big and small, pupil and entrepreneur. It feels good to be a lifelong partner in the village.