A Message from Karyn

2020 continues to be a trying year for many. With the school year about to kick off, many local governments are working hard to determine the best method for kids to attend classes. In New York for example, schools will likely begin in-person but in other parts of the country, it will remain online. 

Recently, Sweet Blackberry kicked off its first of many virtual programs for 2020 through a partnership with The Fresh Air Fund. This summer, we worked with high school students to tell their own stories of African American triumph. With this, we've made the decision to also work with educators to keep our fall visits virtual. You may find more information below.  

Speaking of education, this month, we're focusing on historically black colleges and universities, HBCUs. In addition to this month's write-up, be sure to test your knowledge on Black history with this month's trivia question. 

We hope you're all staying safe as we continue to navigate through this new normal. If you have any ideas that you would like to share with the Sweet Blackberry community on ways you've be able to entertain your family and loved ones, let us know and we'll feature your ideas in our next newsletter. 

All the best,
Fall Programming 
with Sweet Blackberry 

Sweet Blackberry visits are going virtual. While schools across the country are divided on whether to hold classes in-person, Sweet Blackberry is altering our community visit programming this fall to accommodate all students. 

Programming is tailored to each audience be that elementary, middle or high school students. Themes addressed include surmounting odds, African American history, inventors and their innovations, as well as storytelling, creative writing, and filmmaking. Each presentation includes a screening of a Sweet Blackberry film and Q&A with founder, Karyn Parsons. Curriculum lessons are available to elementary school students, while older students will be tasked with creating their own version of a Sweet Blackberry film. 

If interested in bringing Sweet Blackberry to a virtual classroom near you, please email admin@sweetblackberry.org. 

Celebrating Historically Black Colleges and Universities

When it was announced that California Senator Kamala Harris would be Joe Biden's running mate in the upcoming election, media was quick to point that the Biden-Harris ticket is the first of a major political party since 1984 to not have an Ivy League graduate. This doesn't discredit their ticket. In fact, it brought to light that Harris graduated from Howard University, a historical black university. Here's why her education is significant. 

While running to become the democratic nominee for president, Harris made it a point to mention that when she was a little girl, she was a part of the second class in her area to integrate her school. Think about that. Public integration in the U.S. was not met with open arms. In fact, it took many years after Brown v. Board (1954) for schools to integrate.  In 1957, The Little Rock Nine were escorted by more than 1,000 paratroopers to integrate schools. In 1960, Ruby Bridges courageously walked into school with angry crowds protesting integration along the way. In the 1960s federal courts held many trials to admit African American students to public universities. HBCUs were founded because African Americans deserved an adequate education that the government was not providing or enforcing. They were founded by efforts from Black churches with the support of the American Missionary Association and the Freedmen's Bureau. Between 1861 and 1900 more than 90 institutions of higher learning were established with Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina being the first. 

HBCUs are in no way inferior to any other colleges or universities in the U.S. Therefore undermining the education of a trailblazing politician is not only unnecessary, it's insulting. Notable alumni of HBCUs that you'd recognize in modern history include Noble Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, mechanical engineer and inventor of the Super Soaker, Lonnie Johnson, entertainment mogul, Sean Combs, Academy Award nominee Samuel L. Jackson and Academy Award winners Taraji P. Henson and Spike Lee. 

Attending an HBCU, or any college or university for that matter, should be met with respect and with pride. Individuals are working to better their lives through expanding their education. Let's applaud them. 

Please make sure you're registered to vote for this upcoming election. With the Covid-19 pandemic still impacting a majority of the country, it's important that you understand your options. Be sure to pay attention to your local news and credible news channels for the most up-to-date information impacting the November election. If you have concerns about your neighbors being able to vote by mail, call your representatives, reach out to them on social media and do what it takes to make your voice heard. Check out this campaign, When We All Vote for the opportunity to pledge to help fight for a fair, safe and accessible voting for all Americans. This site provides information on voter registration, allows you to check your voter status and more! 
Some may think my favorite color is purple
I am an alumnus of Spelman College, an HBCU
In 1982 I won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Who am I? 
Tweet your answer to @SwtBlackberry for a shout out in next month's newsletter! 

Book of the Month
The Voting Booth 
By Brandy Colbert 

Marva Sheridan was born ready for this day. She's always been driven to make a difference in the world, and what better way than to vote in her first election?
Duke Crenshaw is do done with this election. He just wants to get voting over with so he can prepare for his band's first paying gig tonight.
Only problem? Duke can't vote.
When Marva sees Duke turned away from their polling place, she takes it upon herself to make sure his vote is counted. She hasn't spent months doorbelling and registering voters just to see someone denied their right. And that's how their whirlwind day begins, rushing from precinct to precinct, cutting school, waiting in endless lines, turned away time and again, trying to do one simple thing: vote. They may have started out as strangers, but as Duke and Marva team up to beat a rigged system (and find Marva's missing cat), it's clear that there's more to their connection than a shared mission for democracy.
Romantic and triumphant, The Voting Booth is proof that you can't sit around waiting for the world to change?but some things are just meant to be.
Check it out on book, based on a true story at Amazon Smile here. 
What We're Reading!