3 Reasons Why Representation Matters in Children's Literature

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With the work we're doing with "I Am Unique!,” we’ve noticed a need in the marketplace to create stories with representative characters that showcase their strengths and struggles. There’s something about being able to see yourself reflected in the content you consume – especially when you’re a child and your mind and worldview are being shaped every second of the day. If our stories are not told, then we assume the experience is not relevant to others and we begin to feel we are alone in the struggle. I’ve come to realize that we are never alone - we just need more representation in children’s literature (and beyond). Here are 3 reasons why.

Reading at Marcus Garvey Elementary

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Last week, we had the pleasure of partnering with the National Organization of Jamaican and Supportive Organizations (NAJASO) and read "I Am Unique!" to the students at Marcus Garvey Elementary School in Inglewood, CA. 

After the reading, the teachers let the kids out for recess. A few of the volunteers and Jennifer went out to join them. Some of the girls ran up to Jennifer to share that they, too have birthmarks and showed her where there’s were.

We brought some copies of "I Am Unique!" out and the girls were eager to read the story out loud.

It's so important for young people to see themselves positively represented in the content they consume. We are so grateful to be in a position to serve as an example for younger generations. 

3 Ways to Teach Your Child Self-Love

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We met the lovely Ravelle Worthington at Moms in Color earlier this month. She is the founder of Mommy Brain, your go-to place for kid-friendly listings, reviews, and a community of parents. When she asked Jennifer to guest blog on her site, she couldn't resist!

Jennifer shares what inspired her to write "I Am Unique!" and three ways you can encourage your child to love themselves. Click here to read the article!

 

[PODCAST INTERVIEW] Overcoming Insecurities and Doing What You Love

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Our founder sat down with Jacqueline T.D. Huynh of Parent Pump Radio to share:

  • What "I Am Unique!" is about and the inspiration behind the story
  • Why we need more more conversations about self-love with young girls
  • How Jennifer overcame her birthmark insecurity
  • The one thing parents can do right now to encourage self-love in their child(ren) 

Listen to the interview below!

Moms in Color 2018

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Not only is March Women's History Month, it was Moms in Color's event launch! Moms in Color is a collective created to celebrate diversity, complexity and intersectional motherhood. Their mission is to inspire, motivate, and spread awareness around the topics that affect moms most. We were honored to be one of the vendors at this event. 

The key takeaway from this event is that representation matters. When we have booths at events, our founder likes to give visitors a brief overview of the mission and message behind "I Am Unique!" When we vendored at this event, a number of women bypassed the intro and went straight to asking how much the book costs.

"I want to buy the book because [Erin] looks just like my daughter" many of the mothers expressed. Some of them even took out their phones to show us how much Erin resembles their daughter.

There's something about seeing yourself positively depicted in the content we consume. A special thanks to the lovely women of MIC who curated such an amazing event!

5 Questions You Must Ask Yourself to Identify Your Unique Gifts

A few months ago, we partnered with the talented Sharlene-Monique, a U.K.-based singer and songwriter to launch #IAmUniqueToo, a self-love campaign. We asked girls and women around the world one question:

What makes you unique?

You all had some inspiring and thoughtful things to say. We took the submissions and compiled your responses into a 15-minute audio. You can download it here.

When we were in the process of gathering submissions, I asked a couple friends if they’d be interested in participating. The responses were mixed. Some said, “Sure!” without hesitation, while others committed, only to later tell me they couldn’t come up with anything to say.

That got me thinking. How much time do we actually spend learning about ourselves and discovering our unique contributions to this world? We all have something about us that is non-replicable. I realized what I thought was a simple 4-word question actually requires more time to develop. We need to get to know ourselves and because most of us don’t take the time to do so, we take the easier approach and say, “there’s nothing unique about me” or “I don’t know what I’m good at.” What I know for sure is that this question requires TIME exploring and discovering who you are at your core. It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I picked up Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” and dedicated time to really get to know myself and the reason I was placed on this Earth.  

If someone has asked you what you’re good at, what your passions are, or what your gifts are and you were stumped, I’ve listed some ways to identify what it is about you that makes you unique.

  1. What do I love to do? / What are my hobbies?

  2. What activities make me lose track of time?

  3. What areas of my life, school, work, etc. come easy to me that most people find to be a struggle?

  4. How would my closest friends and family members describe me using 5 adjectives (ask them)?

  5. What do people compliment me on frequently?

Identifying your unique ability takes time with yourself. What better person to know you than YOU?

It is in your uniqueness that makes you stand out. What are some other ways you could identify your unique gifts? Share them below.

#IAmUniqueToo: Girls and Women Share What Makes Them Unique in Self-Love Campaign

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We teamed up with the talented Sharlene-Monique, a U.K.-based singer, songwriter, and blogger to create #IAmUniqueToo - a self-love campaign.

We asked girls and women around the world one question: "What makes you unique?" They had to sum it up in a 30-60 second audio and we compiled your responses.

It was amazing to hear everyone's gifts, talents, and aspirations. We hope this audio inspires you to identify your unique contribution to this world. Enjoy!

Let's keep the conversation going! We want to hear what makes YOU unique. Post a picture or video on Instagram sharing what makes you unique. Be sure to use the #IAmUniqueToo hashtag so we can see!

The Two Ah-ha! Moments That Inspired Me to Live in Purpose, on Purpose

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In Spring 2015, I received a “3” performance rating on my annual review. Although the rating was considered a successful contributor, I felt it wasn’t aligned with my contributions for the year.  I requested a meeting with my manager to discuss our difference in opinion. My performance year was a unique situation – I was reporting to three different managers during that time period. So, all of them were in the meeting that day. 

I came prepared. I gave them examples of how I went above and beyond my call of duty throughout the year. I expressed that receiving that rating made me feel unmotivated and I wanted their feedback on my performance. They listened attentively, and when I was done, one of the managers simply said, “We don’t want you to feel unmotivated. You’re a great worker, but your contributions didn’t directly impact the business.” If someone had dropped a brick on my chest, I don’t know if that would’ve equated to the pain and disappointment I felt that day.

Ah-ha! Moment #1: Don’t Die Without Sharing Your Gifts

Flashback to New Year's Eve 2012, when I received an epiphany after Bishop Dale Bronner said, “Don’t die with your gifts still on the inside of you; impart to others what was entrusted to you.” I spent 2013 compiling poems and short stories written from age 6 to 26, and later in 2014, I published “My Channeled Energy” on my birthday. That was the first time I believed I could share my writing gifts and make supplemental income from it. But the negative self-talk, coupled with the disbelief that I could actually make it by sharing my gifts set it in. So, I decided to keep my creative fire dimmed and focus on proving my value in Corporate America. 

But telling me that my contributions didn’t directly impact the business lit a fire underneath me. It gave me just enough ammunition to shift gears out of my dormant state. I thought, Well, if I’m not impacting their business, then I’m going to figure out how to use my own gifts to impact people’s lives

Ah-ha! Moment #2: Create Your Own Impact

I had been sitting on a children’s book idea for a while. The idea actually came to me when I was working on “My Channeled Energy.” Not wanting to take my focus off that project, I quickly jotted down a few notes so I wouldn’t forget the vision and saved it on my thumb drive.

Soon after I received my performance rating and the managers’ feedback, I went home, found the thumb drive, and started developing the storyline. In Fall 2015, “I Am Unique!” was born – a story about self-love that stemmed from my childhood insecurity of having a birthmark. I hired an illustrator and we worked magically together.  Waking up early to work on my passion project before heading to the 9-5 was my way of life for several months. Then in January 2016, “I Am Unique!” was published.

Two months later, I was laid off and left with mixed emotions. I was relieved that I was released from an unfulfilling job, but also scared because I had no other source of income. I spent 2016 taking “I Am Unique!” to schoolsyouth empowerment groups, and non-profit organizations to share the message of self-love and the importance of sharing your gifts. My former managers might not have seen the impact I made on their business, but I could see firsthand the impact my story was making in girls’ lives. After a reading at my former elementary school, one little girl came up to me and said, “You’re my new role model.” This is a testament to what happens when you honor your gifts. I’m continuing to build the “I Am Unique!” brand with aspirations of positioning Erin, the main character, as the face of self-love. She embodies my personal motto to “live your life undimmed” because I believe we should do work that sets our soul on fire, to not play small in life, and to stand fearlessly in all our power. 

This journey has been daunting, yet liberating. While there is no blueprint to destiny, I have been entrusted with the opportunity to walk in my purpose, on purpose. I stopped trying to prove my value to others that may never get it and started directing my talents, time, and attention toward people who actually do. My hope is that through my books and passion projects, I inspire others to do the same.

 

What was THE "ah-ha!" moment that set you on the path you're on today?