'Representation really matters': Montreal author and activist shares Black history in childrens' book

Monday marks the beginning of Black History Month, and while celebrations are different this year, they’re just as meaningful.

Every year during Black History Month, Akilah Newton and her brother Omari tour Canadian schools with a beat-poetry bit of edutainment.

This year, they are still presenting to 75 schools, all virtually. With less travelling, Akilah has had published a book for younger audiences.

'Movers, Shakers, History Makers: The Canadian Black History Book of Rhymes' is designed for elementary-school-age readers and their families.

“Representation really matters,” she said. “Kids need to see mirrors of them. People that look like them doing jobs they want to do so they can go on and dream these big dreams and accomplish greatness. Because if they see someone doing something they want to do that look like them, they'll know that it's possible. For me, to start young, we're shaping the minds of the future leaders of tomorrow.”

The rhyming educational verses have a storytelling flow, not too different from poet Amanda Gorman's style that captivated many at Joe Biden's presidential inauguration.

Akilah retells lessons from the past in tangible ways, like Canadian civil rights activist Viola Desmond's story.

“When they made the connection, they were actually in disbelief that Canada was so racist in the 40s,” Akilah said.

In years past, Akilah hosted book launch events where the people featured in her books would gather.

This year the launch is all online.

“In my opinion, if they have contributed to the Canadian landscape and changed Black history in Canada, they deserve to be celebrated,” she said. “People who are not in the book, does not mean that they are not incredible, inspirational people, I just haven't gotten to them yet.”

Akilah Newton has more books on the way. Find out more at bigdreamers.ca.

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