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One Vibe Africa presents Kijiji Night at the Seattle Art Museum
Ellenore's Note: Open Hearts Big Dreams, OneVibe and Pan-Africanism
We attended OneVibe Kijii Night 2020 for the first time this year as a table sponsor, and Leyla participated in the panel discussion. Joel Walker from University of Washington, who leads the Horn of Africa Project, was kind enough to introduce us to the founder of OneVibe, Simon Okelo whom it was an amazing experience getting to know. He has an incredible vision about empowering youth using storytelling that is very much inline with ours. He is multi-talented and also a stay at home dad of three beautiful little girls who loved our #ReadySetGoBooks. We'd like to share some of what we learned with all of you.

The panel topic was supporting Africans Around the World - Pan-Africanism. We are still learning more about this idea and how it connects to the work we do with Open Hearts Big Dreams. Leyla and I did some research and we both liked this summary:

The ideology asserts that the fate of all African people and countries are intertwined. At its core, Pan-Africanism is a belief that “African people, both on the continent and in the African diaspora, share not merely a common history, but a common destiny".

I believe you can take it even one step further and apply the concept of shared history and common destiny to all humans on the planet.
Open Hearts Big Dreams is furthering collaboration (people working together) and innovation (trying new things) to create a bigger positive impact in Ethiopia and the diaspora in Africa, and around the world.  

We are doing five things we think support this shared history and common destiny:
  • We tell African stories that are culturally appropriate in Ethiopia and beyond, including the diaspora, as our books are being bought and read as far away as Japan, India, and Brazil.
  • We are getting our books in libraries including the Seattle Public library, which carries all our titles, in all available languages. We have limited selections in California, Colorado, Ohio, and Minnesota libraries. Many of our stories are ones you can find across different African cultures, such as We Can Stop the Lion and Fifty Lemons, which promote globally relevant topics like collaboration and cooperation.
  • We designed our books to be published in any two languages. We are currently talking to Simon about testing Swahili in a number of our books. We would welcome the chance to include more languages with other organizations.
  • Our books are a collaboration with African creators in Africa and in the diaspora. We have illustrators, authors, translators, proofreaders, and editors that ensure our stories reflect their perspective. Many of our creators are just learning about Africa and Ethiopia through the work they are doing with us. In 2019, 44 of our titles were submitted for review and all 44 were approved by the Ethiopian Ministry of Education and Head of Curriculum in Ethiopia.
  • We piloted a #RSG Africa series last year which is targeted at telling stories of countries around the continent. The first, Yaya, Come Here!is based in Guinea and tells the story of everyday life for a little boy there. You can read more from Yael below.
We have lots of needs for help in achieving this vision and mission - both big and small. We also never turn down a small or big donation, but there are other ways to help! You can:
  1. Buy or borrow our books and promote the African stories they contain in your communities and networks. Each book purchased funds ongoing book project efforts. Books make the best gifts!
  2. Help us create a new book. We work with schools: Leyla’s elementary school is working on a book about inclusion that will be part of the #RSG Africa series.
  3. Share your art or photos to inspire our artists, or connect us with artists or illustrators you know.
  4. Expand the exposure of these African stories by encouraging your local and school library to carry them.
  5. Connect us to organizations that would like to translate our books into more African languages or would like to collaborate to create new books.
We are excited to continue to increase our collaboration with Simon and OneVibe as well as other organizations that promote storytelling and working together for the common good.


 

The True Story Of Yaya, Come Here!
by Durga Yael Bernhard

"Just after the turn of the millennium, I spent a month in Guinea, West Africa learning the indigenous dance and music of the region. I traveled not only as a dance and drum student, but as a children's book author and illustrator – and as a mother of two, leaving my children for a month. My son was 11 years old, and my daughter was 8.  

 

"Cell phones were rare in Africa back in 2000, and international calls weren't really possible. So every day in the bustling heat of Africa, I collected sights and sounds to bring back for my kids. I knew what would catch their eyes. Every day, children ran through the compound where I lived in the suburbs of the capital city, Conakry. One girl with beads in her hair was just my daughter's age. Another boy was especially nimble and inquisitive. His name was Yaya. I gave him the toy my son had given up for me to give away to a boy in Africa. (Yaya is on the left holding the toy.)


"As a children's book author and illustrator, I saw Africa through children's eyes – that's my job as a multicultural illustrator. Besides fabric, bracelets, and little carved elephants purchased in the marketplace, I also brought back found objects from the street: a scrap of strip weaving; a chunk of red lava rock that breaks down into the ubiquitous African dust; a strange seed pod; a colorful candy wrapper, printed in French; a lost cowry shell.  

 

"One day I saw a cluster of kids running by, rolling a hoop with a hooked rod – a homemade toy made from discarded metal. Their smiles were as bright as the tropical sun. What could children back home learn from this? I began to make a list of ordinary activities that enriched the daily lives of African children – and possibly the minds of American readers, someday.

 

"When I flew back to winter a month later, both my suitcase and my head were full of colorful trinkets from my trip. I wrote the first draft of Yaya, Come Here! during a long layover at Brussels airport, in a little pocket memo book with a black marbled cover.  

 

"That was twenty years ago – and Yaya is now 25. What a thrill for him to see this book! His mama, Fatou, was delighted to see her son in a picture book – even though neither she nor Yaya can read English or Amharic. 

 

"The distance between Addis Ababa and Conakry is 4,829 miles (7772 km) – 600 miles more than the distance between New York and Conakry.  Will Ethiopian children who read about Yaya find life in West Africa familiar?  Will American children find it strange?  

 

"My hope is that children everywhere will see themselves in the ordinary antics of this energetic boy – even if the dust on his feet is a little redder."

Yaya and his mom get to see a finished copy of the book inspired by his life

OHBD Author Jane Kurtz Visits Sunny Hills Elementary School

On January 30, Sunny Hills Elementary School welcomed award-winning author Jane Kurtz to speak at an assembly for second through fifth grade students geared to building excitement for reading, making a difference, and learning how to be inclusive and welcoming for all. Jane showed pictures of her own childhood growing up in Ethiopia and described how she developed a life-long love for books and learning there. She shared pointers about how to become a strong writer and passionate reader. Finally, she inspired students to get involved with Ready Set Go Books. The school has set aside several recess times when young artists can work with artist April Philips to create illustrations for a book written by Worku Mulat and Metti Mulugeta.

 

Thanks to a generous donor, Open Hearts Big Dreams can underwrite a few additional Jane Kurtz author visits in the Seattle area. Contact us for details.

Translator Spotlight: Alem Eshetu Beyene

Alem Eshetu Beyene  is one of our volunteer translators who has agreed to provide Amharic translations of our Ready Set Go books. In addition to translation, his deep understanding of Ethiopian culture and history help us ensure that our translations are not only accurate, but relevant and interesting to our young Ethiopian readers. He is also a skilled children's book author, and you can find his charming My Friends and My Doll on Amazon. We are grateful for his knowledge and expertise.

Artist Spotlight: Lee Baughman
"As an art teacher I am always on the hunt for projects that the participants in my classes will get excited about. When Katie Bradley first approached me about the Ready Set Go books I thought 'well this might be something a few of my students would be interested in…'. While I was intrigued and excited about it, I wasn’t sure how much interest there would be.The idea of the project is for the finished art piece to be donated to raise funds for the production of the books. So it would be a generous gift of time, effort and the painting itself. And I knew better than most how much goes into creating a piece you are proud of.

"In my wildest dreams I never anticipated the level of their enthusiasm. What a response! The artists who paint with me, many of whom are avid readers themselves, were so touched that children in Ethiopia had no basic readers to introduce them to the world of books. Many were excited that they could contribute something that could touch a child on the other side of the planet. And quite a number have contributed more than one painting.  
"To date the men and woman of Clark Colleges Economic and Community development have contributed the art for 14 books and a collection of images for the authors of these wonderful books to draw from. Open Hearts Big Dreams is honestly one of the most meaningful things in which I have participated within my art career, and I love the fact that I get to share that with so many great artists who also happen to be awesome people."

Want to help us increase literacy in Ethiopia? There are many ways to offer support:

  • Have you been to Ethiopia? Do you have pictures of the people, cities or animals that we could use as illustration inspiration? Our volunteer student artists and illustrators depend on authentic Ethiopian images to create their pieces. One of your pictures could become an illustration in a multi-lingual children's book and inspire someone to learn to read! Contact us for details on how to share your pics with us.
  • Donate your gently used household items to our Value Village FUNDrive! We have several drop-off points in the Seattle area. Value Village will pay us per pound for your old clothes, books and household goods. We are collecting through February 24.
  • Do you have one of our Ready Set Go Books? Have you read one? Write a review on Amazon and tell the world what you liked about it. Show our beautiful books some love in your own words!
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Open Hearts Big Dreams Fund · Editor - Anna Graham · 3518 241st Ave SE · Issaquah, WA 98029 · USA

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