This Waterloo author takes a novel approach in her conversations with kids about race

December 3, 2021
This Waterloo author takes a novel approach in her conversations with kids about race

Grace Ibrahima grew up with many unanswered questions. In her hometown in Trinidad, a clear message was imprinted in her mind as a young child: That she would be seen, but not heard.

As an adult, she moved to London, England, then Ontario. And Ibrahima vowed that one day she would turn that message around. Now she is on a journey to give children a safe space — not just to be heard, but also to talk about racism.

“I found that many books I read about Blackness, racism and all of that, I felt as though the author was talking down onto the children,” Ibrahima told CBC Kitchener-Waterloo. She said she felt the authors had messages they wanted children to agree with.

That’s why in her work, Ibrahima has taken a different approach, allowing children to come to her with any questions they may have about herself, her life and her experiences with racism. Pulling from her own life, Ibrahima tries to answer them with honesty and care.

She recently partnered with the Ken Seiling Waterloo Region Museum for a pilot educational program sees her join a class and have students ask her their questions.

That idea stemmed from an experience Ibrahima had with a Grade 5/6 class at J.D. Hogarth Public School in Fergus in 2020. It also paved the way for her third book, White Questions. Black Answers. Helping Children to Be Seen and Heard.

In the book, Ibrahima answers all the questions she was asked from that day. Early chapters look at questions around where she was born and growing up in Trinidad. Later chapters delve into deeper, harder questions like those around her experiences with racism. 

Ibrahima hopes those who read the book will take a moment to pause and dig deeper to search themselves and their conscious around the issue of racism.

“I don’t think that’s too much to ask, not just the children, but their parents and anyone who will be listening. Search your soul and your heart in relationship to the questions and the answers in this book and see what happens,” she said.

The inspiration behind Grace Ibrahima’s book and work came after she spoke to a Grade 5 class in Fergus in 2020. There, she allowed students to ask her any question they had about her experience as a black woman and any questions they had about racism. (Carmen Groleau/CBC)

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

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