A Message from Karyn

Happy Black History Month! It's been a busy month for us here at Sweet Blackberry. This month, we've visited schools and communities around the country, integrating our programming. We've also relaunched our blog, most recently highlighting educators are working to include Black history into their curriculum

With this said, Sweet Blackberry is always open to new ideas and stories to consider for our projects. If you have an idea, don't hesitate to contact us at admin@sweetblackberry.org. 


Sweet Blackberry Celebrates 
Black History Month  

This month,  many schools and community programs have welcomed us with open arms to come and educate their students and staff on lesser-known stories of African American pioneers in American history. 

To kick the month off, we visited our friends at Weaver County Union School District in California and Friends Academy in Massachusetts. For both visits, we screened our latest film Flying Free: The Bessie Coleman Story and spoke with the older students about Karyn's debut novel How High The Moon.

While in California, the city of Merced and the NAACP presented Karyn with a proclamation for her work in the multicultural arts. There, she also spoke with the city council about Sweet Blackberry's mission. Dr. Wanda Patrick, a staff member for the district discussed our visit and its importance on our blog

In our last newsletter, we gave a preview of the annual February School Vacation Week at the Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston. In its fifth year, the program incorporates Sweet Blackberry films and develops educational programming by offering morning and afternoon activities centered on aviation, invention, dance and art-making. We couldn't be more grateful for all of their support over the years and encourage you to check out their programming here

If you are interested in integrating Sweet Blackberry programming into your school or community program, please contact us at admin@sweetblackberry.org for more information. 
For Those That We've Lost 

It's hard to sum up the legacy of "hidden" figures on social media. This month alone, we've lost scientist Katherine Johnson, lifestyle guru B. Smith and actresses Paula Kelly, Ester Scott and Ja'Net Dubois. Here we offer insights into their legacies and careers. 

In 2016, the world was introduced to the story of Katherine Johnson, a mathematician whose calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the U.S. Space Shuttle program, through the Oscar-nominated film,  Hidden Figures. In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work and in 2019, Johnson was rewarded the Congressional Gold Medal. Johnson was the first African American woman to attend graduate school at West Virginia University after the ruling of Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada. Her journey and legacy show just one example of the importance of offering equal opportunities regardless of race. 

Barbara Elaine Smith best known as B. Smith was the kind of person who looked to accomplish the biggest feats with ease. The first African American model to be on the cover of Mademoiselle magazine, Smith went on to become a restaurateur, author, and television host. 

Best known for her portrayal of Willona Woods in the 1970's show Good Times, many do not know that actress Ja'Net Dubois was the first African American woman to be a regular cast member of a daytime serial for her role as Loretta Allen on Love of Life. She had the gift of appearing on-screen with a natural confidence that shined. She wore many hats throughout her career as an actress, singer-songwriter (she composed and sang the theme song for The Jeffersons) and dancer. Dubois was awarded two Primetime Emmys for her voice-over work in the animated-sitcom The PJs and a TV Land Image Award for her role in Good Times

Paula Kelly and The Mafundi Institute Dancers (1973) | #LeggyPeggyRIP
Paula Kelly and The Mafundi Institute Dancers (1973) | #LeggyPeggyRIP

Paula Kelly was a multifaceted performed with a career beginning in the mid-1960s making her Broadway debut as Mrs. Veloz in the musical Something More!

Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Kelly's family relocated when she was 6-years-old to New York City. A talented dancer, Kelly performed with such dance companies as Alvin Ailey, Martha Grahame and Donald McKayle and performed as a guest artist on the Sammy Davis Jr. variety show, Sammy and Friends. She also served as co-choreographer of the BBC production of Peter Pan. As an actress, Kelly was nominated  Primetime Emmys for her roles in Night Court, The Women of Brewster Place and an NAACP Image Award for her role in Uncle Tom's Cabin

Esther Scott was an actress who was featured in more than 73 films and shows including  Full House Dreamgirls (2006) and The Birth of a Nation (2016).  One of her most notable roles was in  Boyz n the Hood (1991), where she played the grandmother to Cuba Gooding Jr.'s Tre. 

We are so grateful for the journeys of these women. They've paved the road for future generations to shoot for the sky and not falter from thinking that their goals, no matter how large, are unachievable. 

What We're Reading

Book of The Month: 
Counting on Katherine

You've likely heard of the historic Apollo 13 moon landing. But do you know about the mathematical genius who made sure that Apollo 13 returned safely home?

As a child, Katherine Johnson loved to count. She counted the steps on the road, the number of dishes and spoons she washed in the kitchen sink, everything! Boundless, curious, and excited by calculations, young Katherine longed to know as much as she could about math, about the universe.

From Katherine's early beginnings as a gifted student to her heroic accomplishments as a prominent mathematician at NASA, Counting on Katherine is the story of a groundbreaking American woman who not only calculated the course of moon landings but, in turn, saved lives and made enormous contributions to history.

Check it out on Amazon here
I was the first African American to sign a contract with the NFL A graduate of UCLA, I went by the nickname "The Kingfish"
Prior to becoming a professional athlete, I was an LAPD officer

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