A Kitchener, Ont., education assistant was inspired to write a book about diversity and inclusion to help her daughter and others after the five-year-old experienced bullying that left both of them sad.
Marswa Blossom Yarmeto, author of Black, Brown or White: We All Feel (Daughter of the King Publishing), said Angel Solanke’s kindergarten classmates were telling her they didn’t like her hair or she wasn’t allowed to play with them.
Nobody wants their child to be bothered at school, to be sad at school, especially at this young age.– Marswa Blossom Yarmeto, author
“This situation was very disheartening for us. We were both sad,” Yarmeto told CBC K-W’s The Morning Edition.
“Over a couple of days I prayed about it because nobody wants their child to be bothered at school, to be sad at school, especially at this young age.”
Five-year-old Angel said some of her friends weren’t saying good things about her.
However, she told CBC News: “All colours are beautiful … All colours are beautiful like the rainbow.”
Yarmeto said the bullying prompted her to start thinking about how she could make a difference in children’s lives.
“This is a prevalent issue that’s going on around the world. Every day a child is going through bullying at school,” she said.
“So I thought to myself, ‘I can write … so let me jump on this and use my message to make an impact, a positive impact.'”
Angel and her sister Ariel are the characters in Black, Brown or White: We All Feel, which Yarmeto hopes will help bring about change.
Angel said that after reading the book, which includes lessons on kindness and patience, the other children stopped bullying her for awhile, but then it started again.
Talk with kids about diversity
Yarmeto said children need to start learning about different cultures and races from an early age.
“[Start] having basic conversations as early as before school age. This way they’re aware at least and they will go to school having an expectation to meet different people, not meet someone else and feel afraid or not wanting to play with them because of how they look,” she said.
“So, we need to teach diversity at home. Aside from teaching, the contents they’re watching need to be diverse, the books they’re reading need to be diverse.”
Yarmeto said she’s deliberate about using diverse content in her lessons.
“If you are to go in the classroom right now at the desk, behind me you will in fact see a white doll and a Black doll,” she said.
“I often make sure I’m deliberate in my actions in dealing with my students. I make sure my actions [are] fair. I treat them fairly and make sure there’s equality so not treating one child better than the other based on how they look.
“So, it has to be a conscious and deliberate decision from my part and from every other educator’s part,” added Yarmeto.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.