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Vegas educator promotes diversity, representation in children's literature

B is for Black Brilliance
Posted at 6:29 AM, Feb 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-01 21:36:14-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Books, pencil boxes, backpacks and stickers are just the beginning for Shawna Wells. She wants her initiative to go beyond tangible goods, but more so change mindsets.

“I hope for all of those groups of people that there’s more access to creating a robust narrative about blackness,” said Wells.

Wells is the founder of B is for Black Brilliance an organization and a movement that promotes an array of positive black figures in learning resources for children.

“We’re looking at walls and we’re seeing pictures of people, and it’s the same four black people that we’re seeing over and over again,” Wells said. “There are millions of us doing beautiful and creative things.”

Wells was a teacher in North Las Vegas, and then a principal in her hometown of Philadelphia, and throughout the years, she recognized the schools were lacking a simple, but very significant need when one of her students pointed out that the library was missing something.

“He picked up “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” book, which he loved. He read it over and over again, and he said, “But what if the character really centered on someone who is Black.”

She remembers that as a child, even she didn’t have enough access to black heroes in fiction and non-fiction stories.

“The stories of black people are told in deficit or struggle or pity, and that became a point of frustration for me as I was working to teach children and working with senior leaders in education trying to draw on examples of Black brilliance.”

Wells knew that she had to change the culture of the classroom. She returned to the valley as a leader in education. Currently, she’s found a solution in B is for Black Brilliance so that all children feel represented in literature. And she hopes that the legacy of black people is embraced by families of all backgrounds.

“Even in fiction books, as we think about who we put in front of our kids, we could be way more intentional. And I am an advocate for black brilliance, but there are so many other ways we could be intentional about who our children see every single day.”

Wells launched B is for Black Brilliance in February to recognize Black History Month, but she hopes that the movement will continue long after. The website gives families tools on ways they can be more intentional about bringing Black brilliance into the household.