A Message from Karyn

It's hard to believe that we've been living in this new normal, and yet monumental year, for more than six months. While our newsletter does not focus on the impact of COVD-19, it's always on the top of our mind. We hope you all are remaining safe as many states around the country are seeing an increase in cases. Please be sure to social distance and wear a mask when in public. Also, read up on how to vote safely in your area as we approach this year's election. 

This month's newsletter focuses heavily on pioneers in the field of architecture. Like many professions, architecture had many barriers for African Americans. We're highlighting a few here, but encourage you to do your own research, even taking a look at some of the historical places they've designed. 

This month, we are also recapping our summer program with Fresh Air Fund, a nonprofit offering academic enrichment and leadership programs for the children of New York City. This group of 100 talented teenagers developed a short film, sharing the journey of singer Ella Fitzgerald and pulled together a fun activity guide complete with DIY activities and puzzles. Be sure to check out their work. We're very proud of what they've done.

Wishing you and your loved ones a great October and peaceful November.

All the best,

Celebrating Black Architects

Earlier this year, Sweet Blackberry shared the barriers African Americans had to cross to receive an adequate education. But once, that education was received, there were still rules in place barring Black people from jobs regardless of their talent. Architecture was one of those professions.

Still today, African American architects make up only 2% of all licensed architects in the U.S. African American women make up 0.3%. This month, Sweet Blackberry would like to celebrate these pioneers by highlighting their achievements. You may also read more about the impact racism has, and continues to have, on this profession here

Norma Sklarek overcame racism and sexism to become the first Black woman member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1959, the first licensed Black woman architect in California in 1962 and the first Black woman fellow of AIA in 1980. Her career highlights include the Pacific Design Center and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. 

John Chase was one of the first two African Americans to enroll in the University of Texas at Austin architecture program. He went on to become the first Black architect to be licensed in Texas. Some of his most well-known projects include Riverside National Bank - the first Black-owned banking institution in the state of Texas, the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia and  the MLK Jr. School of Humanities at Texas Southern University. Chase co-founded the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) in 1971. 

Paul Williams designed over 2,000 homes in his more than 50-year career including designing homes of Lucille Ball and Frank Sinatra. He played a major role in shaping Southern California's signature architectural style and was a part of the LAX Theme Building planning and design team. Williams became the first Black member of AIA and was posthumously awarded the AIA Gold Medal. 

Robert Taylor was the first academically trained Black architect and first Black graduate of MIT. He also lead the industrial program and campus expansion of Tuskegee Institute and the home of friend Booker T. Washington. 

John Mountoussamy designed the headquarters for Ebony and Jet magazines. Today, it remains the only downtown Chicago tower designed by an African American. 

Moses McKissack III is a part of the nation's first Black-owned architecture firm. Most recently, the firm is known for its design and construction management of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, designed by British architect David Adjaye. 

Walter Bailey was the first African American graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and went on to become the first licensed African American architect in the state. Bailey's last major project was the now-landmarked First Church of Deliverance in Chicago. 

Vertner Tandy was the first Black architect registered in New York state, where his landmarked structures include the 1910 St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Harlem. He also designed 1918 Villa Lewaro for self-made millionaire Madam C.J. Walker. Tandy was also a founding member of the oldest Black fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha. 

Flying Free: How Bessie Coleman's Dreams Took Flight
is now available for pre-order.
Click here to secure your copy today!

Sweet Blackberry partners with Fresh Air Fund

This summer, Sweet Blackberry partnered with non-profit, The Fresh Air Fund, for a program focused on teaching high school students the art of storytelling. This group of 100 students created a short film focused on Ella Fitzgerald's triumphs and place in American history. They even developed educational resources, and marketing materials like the poster on the left. 

On the Sweet Blackberry blog, advisor Jai Rodriguez discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic made their traditionally in-person summer program go virtual and how her teams worked together to make this story come to life. You may read more about her experience here

You may also view their full film below. 

Ella Fitzgerald: Fresh Air Fund Project
Ella Fitzgerald: Fresh Air Fund Project

Also check out their Ella inspired at-home activities found on the Sweet Blackberry website here
Fall Programming 
with Sweet Blackberry 

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. 

It wasn't until 1965, nearly 200 years after this country declared its independence, that law was enacted to guarantee African Americans to exercise their right to vote by overcoming legal barriers at state and local levels. Many marched heads held high to guarantee that future generations would not have to endure the same unfairness. This is why it's important that we all vote. Vote in every election. 

Follow your representatives to ensure they're adhering to your values. This year, the pandemic has presented many hurdles that impact American's ability to vote safely. Please listen to the local news. Vote early, if possible. Just vote! 
All Because You Matter  
By Tami Charles 

Discover this poignant, timely, and emotionally stirring picture book, an ode to Black and brown children everywhere that is full of hope, assurance, and love.

Tami Charles pens a poetic, lyrical text that is part love letter, part anthem, assuring readers that they always have, and always will, matter. This powerful, rhythmic lullaby shows readers that their matter and their worth is never diminished, no matter the circumstance: through the joy and wonder of their first steps and first laughs, through the hardship of adolescent struggles, and the pain and heartbreak of current events, they always have, and always will, matter. Accompanied by illustrations by renowned artist Bryan Collier, a four-time Caldecott Honor recipient and a nine-time Coretta Scott King Award winner or honoree, All Because You Matter empowers readers with pride, joy, and comfort, reminding them of their roots and strengthening them for the days to come.

Lyrical, personal, and full of love, All Because You Matter is for the picture book audience what The Hate U Give was for YA and Ghost Boys was for middle grade: a conversation starter, a community touchstone, and a deep affirmation of worth for the young readers who need it most.

Check out this book on Amazon Smile here. 
I am believed to have been the first African American woman licensed as an architect in the U.S.  
I was the first African American woman to earn a degree in architectural licensing from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
I assisted with designs for the UNESCO United Nations Headquarters.   

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

What We're Reading!

Richmond Free Press - VSU opens John Mercer Langston Institute for African-American Political Leadership