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North London brothers empowering our youth through books

A GOOD READ: (l-r) Brothers Sulaiman Lee, Leonegus Darealest Noel Kerr aim to boost the self-esteem of black children through books

THREE BROTHERS from Tottenham, north London, are on a mission to raise the self-esteem of African Caribbean children through books.

Sulaiman Lee, Noel Kerr and Leonegus Darealest are the trio behind Black Child Promotions, which aims to give children a positive view of their identity through the works of a range of authors.

The men hope to give young people access to knowledge about prominent black figures such Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King, successful black empires and movements, African Caribbean fables and folk stories as well as the writings of influential black political leaders.

One of the trio, Lee, told The Voice: “We have titles from the likes of Maya Angelou to Iyanna Vanzant to Amos N Wilson and Dr Yosef Ben-Jochannan. We have something for everyone, children’s stories, political books, poetry, autobiographies and more.”

He added: “For us, Black History isn’t just for one month, it’s all year round and that’s exactly what we want to show people. We believe we need to promote black history more, as it isn’t something we see widely in the media or something that our children are learning about at school.”

The trio has recently set up a stall outside Brixton tube station and another one outside Stratford tube station in a bid to reach as many people as they can and engage them about the importance of reading.

However their main location for the last 12 years has been in Seven Sisters, north London.

Before becoming involved with books, the three men sold educational DVDs outside Seven Sisters tube station.
Among the titles they sold were the acclaimed documentary series Hidden Colors by Tariq Nasheed and films about influential figures such as Malcolm X.

CONFLICTS

However they ran into several conflicts with local authorities and police officers concerned about copyright laws, licensing and permission documents.

It was the difficulties they faced that led them to move into book distribution.

Through partnering with Pepukayi, a black book distributor for over 50 years, they were able to provide books to the community without these restrictions under Article 10 of the Human Rights Convention which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”

Although the trio do not directly sell books to the public, they accept donations to their charity in return for free literature.

KNOWLEDGE

“We recognise now that books are a better and more effective way of spreading the information and knowledge to the community” said Lee. “All the money we raise through donations goes towards the Marcus Garvey Foundation. Through it we are in the process of setting up a community centre named the Maat Cultural Centre in Tottenham. Here we hope to run more cultural events, rent out office space to community groups, provide a mini library and build a centre that acts as an accessible hub for the local community.”


POWER OF WORDS: The Blackchild promotions team want to encourage young people and their parents to read more often

As well as their work with Black Child Promotions, the trio have been active in working with local schools in north London.

Lee said: “Last year we delivered five sessions at St Augustine’s Church of England High School in Kilburn, to groups of year 7’s and 8’s where we looked at a range of different themes and topics related to black culture. The kids loved the sessions, and learnt a lot. We also received really positive feedback from the teachers.

“After the sessions we even set the kids homework to write a 2 page essay on Marcus Garvey and we threw in a prize giveaway of a Marcus Garvey badge. We are keen to do more of this work in the future because we see how much it is needed.”

The trip has also featured on Soap Box, an inspirational YouTube channel that broadcasts filmed motivational speeches.

“We are targeting black people to raise awareness in our community. We want people to learn about the history of black people past and present and be inspired by their stories” said Lee.

■ For more information, log on to Blackchild Promotions via Facebook

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