Black Men Read is a program that was started in the community by two Black mothers, Yodit Mesfin Johnson and Tamara Ibarisha. Drawing on their professional and lived experiences, these women saw a need for a literacy program that centered their cultural experiences and history in the stories their children heard. The intention is not to be exclusive, instead they set out to normalize the historical and cultural contributions of Black people through stories while uplifting and countering the narrative that Black men don’t engage in their families or communities. The program took shape during Black History month in 2016 when the women activated their networks and set out to host reading events for children on Saturday mornings. The events were well received and families consistently praised the mission of honoring and normalizing Blackness in our beloved community. The women believe that the stories told are important and essential so that students can “see” themselves in the stories that are read to them. They believe this is key to all children's cultural awareness and development. Professor Maulana Karenga, the creator of Kwanzaa, wrote, “History gives blacks an understanding of themselves by suggesting possibilities of future and national world achievement based on what they have achieved in the past.”
Riding on the success of the program in the community, we now join with our fellow Mitchell Elementary School (A2) parent-friend, Cathleen Haglund, to offer this program to Mitchell students beginning in January 2018. We hope all students and families will see value in this initiative and choose to participate with encouragement from Mitchell school administrators and staff. Ultimately, we believe that inclusive stories, shared by men of color, are one powerful aid in supporting all students’ literacy.
Funded by Ann Arbor, MI (February 2018)