Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation funds Black Men Read program

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation awarded a $1,000 mini-grant to Black Men Read on March 4, 2018.

Black Men Read was founded by two Black mothers and Ypsi residents, Yodit Mesfin Johnson and Tamara Ibarisha. Drawing on their professional and lived experiences, these women saw a need for a literacy program that centered their cultural experiences and history in the stories their children heard. They set out to normalize the historical and cultural contributions of Black people through stories while uplifting and countering the narrative that Black men don’t engage in their families or communities.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Yodit Mesfin Johnson with her $1,000 grant.

Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation trustees present Yodit Mesfin Johnson with her $1,000 grant.

Black Men Read took shape during Black History Month in 2016 when Johnson and Ibarisha activated their networks and set out to host reading events for children on Saturday mornings, with Black men reading to the children in attendance. The women believe that the stories told are important and essential so that students can “see” themselves in the stories that are read to them. They believe this is key to all children’s cultural awareness and development.

Building on the program’s success, Black Men Read’s founders are now joining with fellow Mitchell Elementary School parent Cathleen Haglund to offer the program to Mitchell students beginning in January 2018. Awesome Foundation funds will be used to provide small stipends to readers, and healthy snacks and books to hand out to children who attend Black Men Read events.

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation is the Ann Arbor chapter of the Boston-based micro-philanthropic organization known as the Awesome Foundation. Each fully autonomous chapter supports awesome projects through micro-grants, usually given out monthly. These micro-grants, $1,000 or the local equivalent, come out of the pockets of the chapter’s “trustees” and are given on a no-strings-attached basis to people and groups working on awesome projects.