Pictured above Young, Black & Lit Founders Krenice and Derrick Ramsey.
Welcome to Chicago North Shore Moms Local Nonprofit Spotlight, where we highlight and introduce a local nonprofit’s inception and mission. First we’d like to extend heartfelt gratitude to our Local Nonprofit Spotlight Sponsor, the lovely, bright and colorful Katie Ford, founder of Flowers By Katie.**
This month we are spotlighting a local lit-based nonprofit, Young, Black & Lit, whose mission is to increase access to children’s books featuring Black characters for free! CNSMoms had the pleasure of hearing from Co-Founder, Krenice Ramsey, about the nonprofit’s importance, why and how Young, Black & Lit was formed, and the positive impact on, and connections with, our local communities. Krenice states: “In a world that too often undervalues the beauty and brilliance of Black children, Young, Black & Lit aims to change the narrative.” The action: To date, they have provided over 24,000 books with Black characters to local children. And, they are just getting started. Learn more about Young, Black & Lit and how you can get your community involved in this interview. Welcome, Krenice!
Hi Krenice! Please introduce yourself. Where did you grow up, where do you live, and what is your title(s) at Young, Black & Lit…
My name is Krenice Ramsey and I am the Co-Founder of Young, Black & Lit. I grew up in Evanston, IL and currently live in the West Loop.
What is the mission of Young, Black & Lit?
Young, Black & Lit is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to increase access to children’s books featuring Black characters. We do so by partnering with schools, organizations and businesses to provide free, new books to children in pre-K through eighth grade. Since our founding we’ve provided over 24,000 books to the communities we serve.
When and how was Young, Black & Lit established?
About three years ago, I walked into a major bookstore to find children’s books featuring Black girls as a birthday gift for my niece. After about 30 minutes in the store searching shelves full of books featuring animals and children who looked nothing like my niece, I left empty-handed and saddened that there were likely few bookstores my niece could walk into and feel seen.
Determined to make sure that children like my niece had easy access to children’s books featuring Black characters, I started making small personal donations of books to local youth-serving organizations. When my husband and Co-Founder, Derrick Ramsey, learned of my efforts, he believed that my small efforts could grow into something bigger. With my determination and Derrick’s vision, Young, Black & Lit was born.
Who else was instrumental in helping you establish Young, Black & Lit? Who would you like to thank? Who helps keep the mission strong today?
Getting the nonprofit off of the ground would not have been possible without the support of my family – my husband, Derrick, my mother, Rita Roseman, and my sister, Krystin Madison. They have continued to be part of the core team that helps Young, Black & Lit sustain and grow its mission.
Additionally, I have been deeply heartened by the support of our community. We cannot do this work without the support of the community-minded individuals who support our work with their donations, who partner with us to bring books to their organizations and schools, and who share our mission with their networks.
How do you get the word out to local communities about this much-needed resource?
The primary way we get our services to the communities who need them most is through partnerships with parents, concerned community members, teachers and school administration who connect us directly to students. Information about our nonprofit work is most easily found on our website at youngblackandlit.org and on our Instagram page.
Please tell us more about the importance of representation in children’s literature.
Many Studies have shown the critical importance of representation in children’s literature. Many education scholars agree that when books serve as mirrors, allowing children to see themselves, their families, and their communities reflected, children feel valued. When those same books serve as windows, allowing children to see the similarities and differences they have with other cultures, children feel connected.
In a world that too often undervalues the beauty and brilliance of Black children, Young, Black & Lit aims to change the narrative. We are an organization that is rooted in love: love of children, love of reading, and love of Black culture. Young, Black & Lit makes it easier for children to access quality books featuring Black characters by removing the cost and doing the research to find books that affirm the varied experiences of Black children; building at-home libraries, self-esteem, and life-long readers, one book at a time.
That is beautiful. What’s next for Young, Black & Lit?
Young, Black & Lit is planning to double our impact in our third year. Last year, we rolled out our biggest new program yet, the Lit Year, which is designed to ensure that every child in Cook County has at least 60 books in their at-home library by the end of third grade. We partnered with 8 schools in our first year, and are aiming to expand our partner schools to at least 16 for the 2021-22 school year.
In addition, we will be expanding the number of books that we donate to schools and organizations to 1000 a month.
How do our readers contribute or volunteer their time or get involved with Young, Black & Lit?
To donate or sign-up to volunteer, please visit our website at youngblackandlit.org.
If you’re interested in learning more about our Lit Year & Lit Monthly programs, please email us at [email protected].
Your support means the world to us!
Thank you to CNSMoms’ Local Nonprofit Sponsor, Katie Ford of Flowers by Katie Ford!
Flowers by Katie Ford was started after Katie experienced a debilitating mental illness. She found peace working with flowers during her darkest days. Now Katie and her team create floral designs for wedding, events, and workshops hoping it brings joy to each occasion. Book Katie for your next special event! Learn more at https://www.flowersbykatieford.com/