In this section, we feature some of the work of our members with the hopes that the profile might inspire some new connections, ideas, and community building. If you’re a Thread STL member and interested in being a future Member Snapshot, drop us a line at Threadstl1@gmail.com
Below is Thread STL’s Member Interview with Julius B. Anthony, Board Member of Turn the Page STL, President and Founder of St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature, and President of the St. Louis Regional Literacy Association.
Julius talks about his work through a racial equity lens and a new project he is working on that is titled “Racially Relevant Literacy in the Prekindergarten through Third Grade Classroom.” It is a collaborative effort between Turn the Page, STL Black Authors, and the STL Regional Literacy Association.
Member Name: Julius B. Anthony
Title: Board Member of Turn the Page STL, President and Founder of St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature, President of the St. Louis Regional Literacy Association
Name of partnership, coalition, or collective impact initiative: Turn the Page STL, St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature
What is your effort trying to achieve?
Ensuring all children become confident and competent readers by the end of third grade.
What are some of your strongest beliefs that support the work you do or your approach to it?
Ever since I was a kid, I grew up in schools where the population was predominantly Black, but the books we read did not reflect the experience of Black people nor did they have Black characters. I realized this was a problem at a young age and actively tried to address it as I grew up. The community I grew up in was very close, like one big family. We always looked out for each other, no matter what. Church was very important to my family and everyone else in the community. It was a place for all of us in the community to get together. This is what shaped my strongest beliefs in the work I do. Family, faith, education, and a sense of connectedness/togetherness.
I know racial equity is an important part of Turn the Page’s work. How does applying a racial equity lens affect the work you do?
Applying a racial equity lens to the work I do starts with getting people in the process of changing their mindset. To get people in the racial equity mindset, the St. Louis Regional Literacy Association, Turn the Page, and St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature are partnering/collaborating on a new project called a “speaker series.” The theme for the first one is titled “Racially Relevant Literacy in the Prekindergarten through Third Grade Classroom.” We identified three national Black thought leaders who will participate in an interview style event virtually to begin talking about the importance of Black children’s literature in the early grades and how that literature can impact or influence a child’s ability to be a successful reader by the end of third grade. The goal is to work with folks’ mindset, recognize what the real issues are, what the research suggests, and then move from that space to actually bringing about change.
If there was one piece of advice you would give someone just starting out in a role similar to yours as a partnership/coalition facilitator, what would it be?
Two pieces of advice:
1. Be clear on why you are doing what you are doing. If you are not clear, then you are doing yourself a disservice and all the people that you say you are trying to help. Know that your service is bigger than just yourself.
2. Have solid foundational knowledge about the history of the role that you are playing and the people that you affect. If it is not an experience you had yourself, do the research, talk to people, don’t just decide one day that, “I think I can do this because I have a heart for something or people,” know who you are going to affect and impact by knowing the history.
What are you most proud of about your work? Tell us about a small win or big achievement and why it matters.
I am most proud of the work I am doing right now, particularly with St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature and The Believe Project, which creates spaces in the St. Louis educational system for Black children for the first time in this city’s/region’s history. Black children will be in a learning space where the majority of the information tells stories about them and their experiences. That is transformational. These are the kinds of things that make me emotional.
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
This is something no one knows about me, but I love to sing in the choir at my church.
When did you start singing?
I did theatre in high school and choir in college and I loved it. Since my faith is very important to me, singing in the choir is a way to strengthen my faith.
What’s the best way for other Thread STL members to contact you?
What’s the best way for other Thread STL members to learn more about your effort?
Turn the Page STL Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/turnthepagestl
Turn the Page STL website: https://turnthepagestl.org/
STL Black Authors Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/STLBlackAuthors
STL Black Authors website: http://stlblackauthors.com/
The Believe Project YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbmO0-Hcph0
Missouri Literacy Association website: https://mla31.wildapricot.org/