Our story

While we didn’t start working together until 2020 and 2021, this curriculum truly began when we were children. We all grew up “breathing smog” without knowing it was smog…and we’ve all had the good fortune to learn, change, and grow from the work of excellent humans – writers, activists, artists, changemakers – who came before us. We are still learning and growing, much like the children we serve at our public library – and we notice that while there have been some changes in the environment, we are still all breathing smog.

What if we would have had a chance as kids to learn that we were breathing smog – earlier?

What if we could help kids and families become more aware of the air they’re breathing, and find some new places to breathe?

Upon completion of the program at EPL, we wanted to share what we’d compiled and created — to bring free resources to families, libraries, and other organizations who want to teach antiracist ideas but don’t know where to start. Already, staff had put in an incredible amount of outside-work hours for research, curriculum development, video production, graphic design and writing. Creating a website with access to these free materials in an easy-to-use, organized fashion was out of the scope of our paid library jobs, so we created this website on our own dime and time. We are grateful for Evanston Public Library’s support of our work. It was their commitment to antiracism work that created a pathway for us to even consider doing race and culture education at our public library.

Our team

Sally (she/hers) is a multiracial (Chinese, Japanese, and white) woman. She dabbled in several fields (sociology, education, and neurobiology) before she decided to stick with libraries as a career choice rather than just an excellent venue for a night out. She loves creating fun, curiosity-provoking programs for kids and families in the Evanston Public Library’s Early Learning & Literacy team and feels incredibly grateful for the opportunity to work on this project as team lead.

Cozbi A. Cabrera (she/hers) is a multimedia artist. Trained as an art director, this Parsons School of Design grad left her dream job creating music packaging in NY (art direction and design for artists such as Yo-Yo Ma and award winning platinum selling artist Ginuwine) to make handmade collectible cloth dolls (Muñecas) in honor of her Honduran heritage. Her dolls were featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Martha Stewart Living, Land Of Nod catalogue, and many US networks. Solo exhibitions include Thread That Binds (2017-18) at the Jewish Fund Gallery, Ernest Rubenstein Galleries and the Lincoln Center Education Art Gallery. Her dolls, quilts and paintings exhibited concurrently with the Gees Bend Quilts at the Myrtle Beach Art Museum (2017).

Cozbi’s star reviewed illustrated titles include: Beauty Her Basket/Sandra Belton, and Thanks A Million/Nikki Grimes, Greenwillow Books; Stitchin’ and Pullin’ A Gees Bend Quilt/Patricia McKissack, Random House; Most Loved in All the World/Tonya Cherie Hegamin, Houghton Mifflin; Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks/Suzanne Slade, Abrams Books (ALA’s Sibert Honor and Coretta Scott King Honor). She’s currently painting Elizabeth Jennings Takes a Stand/ Amy Hill Hearth, Greenwillow Books, and has authored/illustrated My Hair Is A Garden/Albert Whitman and Me and Mama/Simon & Schuster (Coretta Scott King Honor, Caldecott Honor).

Kellye Fleming (she/hers), a longtime Evanston resident, is a Branch Assistant at the Robert Crown Library Branch where she focuses on graphic novel/comic collection and multicultural programming.

She recently graduated with an MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee focusing on instructional technologies.

Carmen Francellno (she/hers) is a Black woman and lifelong Evanston resident. She is a former classroom teacher with additional experience working in the social service and public service sectors. She has completed Beyond Diversity, SEED and Leadership Evanston. She works in the Engagement Services Department at Evanston Public Library.

Jessica Iverson (she/hers) is a lifelong Evanstonian, and a white, cis female. After growing up with frequent visits to EPL and earning her Masters in Children’s Literature, she was eager to join the children’s department and has been with EPL for the last 6 years. While there, she has created and co-led the girls’ empowerment workshop- Girls Be Heard and Graphic Novel Book Club for Kids, Community Understanding Project (CUP) an EDIS (equity, diversity, inclusion and social justice) book club which launched late 2020, and another upper elementary aged kids’ programs in the works- a positive masculinity workshop- Boys Can Be. She is a current member of EPL’s EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) Committee, has received training through SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity), Beyond Diversity, and has attended multiple workshops through the YWCA’s Equity Institute. Jessica loves being part of and supporting safe and brave spaces.

Kennedy Joseph (they/them) is a Chicago based cultural coordinator, specifying in the development of creative, maker spaces and artist-centered programming for communities. Currently, most of the work they do lends itself towards libraries and they are a STEM Experiences Library Assistant at the Evanston Public Library, where they are working at integrating arts and literacy into STEM programming.

Tracy Olasimbo (she/hers) is a Nigerian-Ecuadorian Evanstonian. She is currently EPL’s Family Engagement Coordinator, which supports her passion for helping others foster cultural awareness to build equitable and inclusive environments. As a master facilitator and a curriculum developer, she has developed and implemented professional development for educators and community partners, supported under-resourced schools, and built vital relationships in the community. At present, Tracy leads workshops and professional development for parents and District employees on the layered topics of race and education in Evanston, and is a parent herself. Tracy currently holds the role as a Board Chair for Free Lunch Academy, Board Member for Chicago Volunteer Doulas, and is a member of the African-American, Black, and Caribbean (ABC) Family Support Group’s Planning Committee. She holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Special thanks to Leila Adams for generously donating her excellent editing skills, though all mistakes are mine (Sally).

We are indebted to Cozbi A. Cabrera for her gifts of time, energy, insight, and experience – plus she designed our logo!