Deanna was frustrated by the lack of children’s books that featured children of color. As a result, she turned a note that she wrote to Zephaniah and Zion into a picture book that would eventually become I am A Boy of Color. Almost immediately, she was asked to write a companion to the first book for girls, which is how I am a Girl of Color came into existence.
Before the first printed book arrived, Deanna and Justin had a conversation about the potential for impact with their children Zephaniah and Zion. They all agreed that they wanted the books to help elevate other work that was being done in this area. They decided that they wanted to be a part of a greater movement. So, they committed to finding ways to partner with others, including donating profits from the book sales to other organizations also working to promote positive images of children of color.
Over the years, as the company has grown, they have been able to make significant contributions, raise awareness, and continue to produce high-quality products.
Zion Singh Ponder (8) is proud to be the co-chairman of Story To Tell Books. Zion loves reading, writing, swimming, gymnastics, and performing. In addition to working on a new chapter book, he also spends his time on stage! During the summer of 2019, he performed in Mago De Oz in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and in the Fall of 2019, he was in Milwaukee Youth Theater’s Aladdin and was the youngest member of Black Arts MKE 2019 Black Nativity cast. Zion also sang in the choir of the official “We Are the World” remake. Zion believes that everybody is equal, and that should be reflected in our reality!
Zephaniah Singh Ponder (12) is grateful that he is able to co-lead Story To Tell Books. Zephaniah loves acting, reading, building, swimming, and traveling. In addition to running Story To Tell Books, he also has extensive theater credits. His work includes First Stage’s Mockingbird; Judy Moody; and Nate the Great, and starring in Snowy Day; Black Arts MKE’s Black Nativity (2016-2019), starring in Aladdin with Milwaukee Youth Theatre, and voice-over in the award-winning documentary “The Point Is”. Zephaniah believes that everyone has good inside of themselves, it just takes work to find it!
Deanna Singh is the daughter of a Sikh American man and African American woman. Her husband is African American and German American. Their two children, Zephaniah and Zion, reflect all of those beautiful heritages. Instilling pride in their color, in a country that is filled with negative images and messages about their brown skin, is the primary motivation for writing children’s books featuring children of color. A native of Milwaukee, WI Singh earned her Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from Fordham University, a Juris Doctorate from Georgetown University, and a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She is committed in her personal and professional life to the pursuit of social justice, these books are an extension of that commitment.
Rozalia Singh (nickname Aya) started drawing from a young age. Her father, renowned muralist, Reynaldo Hernandez, is her mentor. Through his tutelage she has gained a keen eye and learned many tricks of the trade. She has a bachelor's degree in Visual Communications from Illinois Institute of Art. Rozalia works as a professional caricaturist, muralist, and painter and works with Arts@Large teaching children art. Her works can be found throughout the Milwaukee area. She continues to evolve and develop her creativity. Art for her is not just an outlet. It is her passion.
Ras ‘Ammar Nsoroma, known as Ammar, was born in Milwaukee and has lived in Milwaukee for most of his life. He graduated from the Milwaukee High School of the Arts, where he painted his first mural as a senior, and then attended the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) as well as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has exhibited extensively in both Chicago and Milwaukee and has created over 100 murals in Milwaukee, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Washington DC collectively. Ammar is a founding member of African-American Artists Beginning to Educate Americans About African-American Art (ABEA) and is an avid reader. The knowledge he gains through reading is reflected in his drawings, paintings, murals, and mixed media pieces.
Mary K. & Pijush Biswas reside in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Since childhood, Mary has loved to draw and paint. She feels very blessed that her hobby has turned into a profession. When asked about creating illustrations, she said: “It doesn't feel like work at all, I enjoy illustrating each and every project!” As the artist for Cloth Crown, she was able to make the words on the page come to life! Her Husband, Pijush Biswas feels he was born to be an artist! He loves escaping into the world of imagination and fantasy. He also enjoys executing an author's thoughts, character's feelings and emotions through beautiful illustrations!
Right now, while children of color make up more than 50% of our school age children they are featured in less than 14% of books. As the author of three children’s books, I am a Boy of Color, I am a Girl of Color, and Cloth Crown, Deanna is often asked, what can I do to help change the narrative? We - parents, educators and communities - can change that reality through some very simple steps!
Here are some suggestions to get you started!
Ask teachers, librarians, and bookstores to stock books that reflect children of different ethnic backgrounds. That simple request is often all they need to add more diverse books to their collection!
Follow organizations and We Need Diverse Books for recommendations about what you could be purchasing for the children in your life.
Consider a subscription with a company like Just Like Me Box, that focuses on providing diverse books to children!
Reach out to book stores like Fulton Street Books & Coffee that feature work from diverse backgrounds.