Lessons Learned from Empower Community Weekend 2021
Leyla and I were thrilled to attend the Empower Community Weekend in Washington DC hosted by the Helen Show in person this year. We had an inspiring day sharing our books with new and existing supporters. We heard from amazing panelists and hosts, attendees, and fellow vendors. A couple of key themes were repeated which really resonated with me.
The importance of education. Oballa Oballa shared his quest to gain an education once he came to the United States. The lengths he went to were inspiring and led to his role as a council member in Austin, Minnesota. We talked with Oballa after his panel about the need to get our Ready Set Go books into the community he serves in Minnesota, and the community where he grew up in Gambella, Ethiopia. We are excited to explore both together because we know literacy is the first gate to the power that education unlocks for kids and youth. Oballa is a great reminder of what is possible.
The power of getting communities engaged. Helen led deep and meaningful discussions on topics like civic engagement and mental health. Hannah Joy Gebresilassie moderated a great session of young trailblazers to close out the day. Many talked about the broad and diverse community support they received to achieve their goals. Our efforts are similarly made possible by community engagement at all levels, in the United States, in Ethiopia, and globally. We met amazing entrepreneurs among our fellow vendors -- some of whom we are already working with the Afro Reads app. Others we met for the first time and are exploring how we best support each other after exchanging goals and missions.
The need to represent everyone. Our DC leader, Meseret Tekle, joined us all day at the event. She also co-authored with me our first Mike Carr Legacy project book, entitled Sign to Me, featuring the true story of a hearing-impaired boy who was also a family friend. Another family whose members include several hearing-impaired individuals shared with us how much it meant to them to see themselves represented in this ReadySetGo book illustrated by Eyayu Genet. The look of joy and belonging is one that said more than any words could.
We are often asked how we accomplished all we have in the short amount of time we have been an organization. And the answer is a combination of all three of the themes above. We focus on education and are constantly seeking to educate ourselves by learning innovative approaches and lessons. Our community of engaged supporters continues to grow and step up in big and small ways. They inspire others, creating beautiful ripples of impact and growth. We are tapping into the power of representation for all in the community. And each time we extend our reach, we bring along more people to help us. We do so through the diverse stories we tell as well as the languages into which we continue to expand. Somali was recently added, and we are working on others. Stay tuned.
Thank you to the entire team at the Helen Show for a beautiful, inspiring, and impactful event. We are thrilled to be part of your community and to have you as a part of ours. We are in this together, creating more opportunities and spreading the power of books and literacy.