One day, after teaching a curriculum through her program, the Learning Project, educator Stephanie Courtney received an anonymous email from a teacher. They asked how to incorporate Black people in their classrooms.
“It made me realize that we need to have a deeper conversation, ” Courtney said. “But, with our early childhood educators asking the question, it makes me even question if we’re giving a representation to our community that explains who is doing what.”
In celebration of Spokane’s diverse community, and a celebration of its current leaders, Courtney released her children’s e-book, “Our Community Spokane,” Wednesday.
The Learning Project provides educational services through seminars and online curriculums. After obtaining her masters in education, Courtney founded The Learning Project, an organization that educates communities through a specialized project-based curriculum. With diversity, equity and inclusion conversations rising in academic spaces, Courtney finds most of her work educating local teachers about the importance of representation of the community.
Courtney also realized the specific challenge that the broken community loops within Spokane can often hide the residents and organizations responsible for providing community aid and services.
“People just go on the internet, print off pictures and put them in their classroom to represent that diversity,” Courtney said. “There’s a disconnect when people are looking for resources for kids.”
A military brat, Stephanie Courtney moved to Spokane in 1998 from Georgia. After a brief East Coast stint, she returned to Spokane in 2004. Courtney observed how Black communities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania established and tended to their community networks.
Her daughter Jaliyah is only 9 months old, but Courtney already worries about the visibility of Spokane’s leaders of color for the next generation.
“I don’t want my daughter’s generation asking ‘Who does this?’ and ‘Who does what,’ I want her to be a part of a network that’s already injected into the community and they’re visible.”
After reading Dwayne Mack’s book ‘Black Spokane,’ which highlights the history and culture of Spokane’s Black population since their arrival in the 1880s, Courtney was inspired to publish ‘Our Community Spokane.’ Mack’s collection of Spokane’s Black history motivated Courtney to tell the ongoing history being made by Black Spokanites.
“Why do we have a history book once everyone is dead and gone?” Courtney said. “We can’t even ask questions to them. What are we doing in our community that makes current history, and how were we documenting, preserving that and how are we sharing it?”
The book’s main character is an unnamed Black child who is looking through the book with the reader. ‘Our Community Spokane’ is sectioned off by encouraging affirmations: ‘I am smart enough,’ ‘I am strong enough,’ ‘I am kind enough,’ ‘I am brave enough’ and ‘I am wise enough.’
Forty-seven members of Spokane’s community are highlighted in the book. Courtney wanted to ensure the representation of the business owners, artists, healers, educators and other sorts of community members.
Some people highlighted throughout the book are Kerra Bower, who will soon open a care center for Spokane’s children and families of color; Michael Moody, a trainer who promotes health lifestyle; and business owners Stephanie Tullos and Nikki Ray. Pageant participant Jada Graham, one of the youngest featured in the book, also makes a cameo.
The book ends with an affirmation: “I am me.”
“Whatever you want to do know that you can do it,” the final page reads. “So many people are cheering you on! The Spokane community is growing strong.”
With the online edition published, Courtney is now looking to create print versions of ‘Our Community Spokane.’ She’s also using the project as a taste-tester for The Learning Project’s ideas that haven’t been brought to fruition yet.
“We would love to have a hard copy and the dream is to have an opening where other authors of color come and read.”
Two more books will be added to the edition. The next one, Courtney speculates, will be published around Juneteenth.
“I felt like I left out so many amazing people in this book, but I realized this is just a first of many,” Courtney said.
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