Ms. Ford’s Winter Wonderland


Ms. Betty J. Ford at 9 years old at a piano recital in 1945

Eccentric, talented, witty, and charismatic, Ms. Betty J. Ford is the Program Coordinator for Chocolate Storytime here at our home base, La Pintoresca Branch Library.  She schedules and books special talent, speakers, and guests for our story time.  This past January 11th, she turned 80 years old.  And while some may associate this milestone season of life with slowing down, Ms. Ford considers these years as part of her winter wonderland because, to her, age is just a number.  A classically trained pianist, Ms. Ford continues to travel around the city, volunteering where she can, helping to keep music, creativity and entertainment alive.

Ms. Ford is the talent agent for the community.  She assists with organizing special programs, which includes booking the young and old, students, special guests, community members, and local celebrities for music and public speaking events.  Brutally honest and a stickler for professionalism, yet inspiring and motivational, Mr. Ford enjoys coaching and rehearsing, helping performers memorize and theatrically recite poetry, oral presentations, and spoken word.  A prolific writer and eye for detail, Ms. Ford also has much experience in marketing, fundraising, and coordinating media coverage.

In addition to music, Ms. Ford is deeply involved in community service, advocacy, and volunteerism.  She frequently helps to raise funds for various groups and grassroots organizations through her creative branding.  An English major, Ms. Ford is also known for her creative writing, poetry, and songwriting.  She frequently writes for articles for newspapers and lends her technical proofreading and writing skills to numerous organizations.

A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Ms. Ford graduated from Point Loma High School in San Diego, California and from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in music and English.  At 6 years old, she began taking music lessons twice a week.  She was trained by her parochial school teacher, and at 7 years of age, was playing the pump organ for an 80-member Catholic church.  Ms. Ford also played for secular dances at the Catholic school programs, like the Polka, Irish Set Dance, and Virginia Reels.  For 29 years, under the leadership of Pastor Stuart York of Rosemead Christian Church, Ms. Ford served as musician.  For more about Ms. Ford, read her bio here.

Today, Ms. Ford continues entertain on the piano at various community events, including the Pasadena Senior Center as a volunteer.  You can still find her around the San Gabriel Mountains and beyond attending and helping to produce diverse social, community, and civic engagements.  Check out some of her most recent concerts on Youtube and listen to her prelude below to the 2017 Senior Competition of the George Robert Garner, III Branch of the National Association of Negro Musicians (NANM), of which she is a member, this past January.


Autumn Change of Heart

fall-is-hereFall, also known as autumn, is a time of change.  The autumnal equinox occurs in the month of September when the sun slowly moves south.  Weather grows cooler and tree leaves change hues. Farmers work long hours to harvest crops grown through the spring and summer months.  Many mark this time of year with fall festivals and other celebrations.

Consistent with theme of change, Chocolate Storytime guests learned about a change of heart from our country, 80 years overdue.  In 1936, 18 African American athletes left the Berlin Olympics with 14 medals, a quarter of the total medals won by the U.S. team that summer.  They returned to a segregated United States, where the American public mostly celebrated their victories–but their president did not.

Eightychocolate-storytime-2016-09-30-2 years later, the athletes–16 men and two women–received their overdue recognition by President Barack Obama Thursday when their relatives visited the White House for an event honoring the U.S. team at this year’s Rio games.  Of the attendees was our very own, Kathy Robinson Young, daughter of Matthew “Mack” Robinson, silver medalist in the 1936 Olympic 200 meters in Berlin, and niece of baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson.

Robinson Young and her granddaughter, Makarah, came directly from the airport from their visit to Washington D.C. to share their experience with Chocolate Storytime guests.  The kids were very attentive as Robinson Young told the children about the legacy of her father and uncle.  Many of them were already very familiar with the Jackie Robinson Park, as well as the two sculptures in front of City Hall, but they were even more engaged as Robinson Young told them about her connection to them.

During their kathy-robinson-youngvisit to Washington, Robinson Young and her brother were also special guests at the 1936 Black Olympians Family Welcome at Georgetown University, and attended the special screening of Deborah Riley Draper’s documentary, “Olympic Pride, American Prejudice.” The film traces the stories of the 18 African American Olympians, including silver medalist, Mack Robinson, who returned to America after the Summer Olympic Games in Germany.  To watch the trailer, click here.

Source:  Obama Welcomes Relatives of 1936 African-American Olympians, A White House Tribute at Last | Photo Credit:  Zimbio

This Month’s Picture Books and Crafts

This month, we read 3 new books.  The first one was Can One can-one-balloon-makeBalloon Make an Elephant Fly? by Dan Richards and illustrated by Jeff Newman.  It was a whimsical book about a mother and son exploring the ways to make an animal fly, but in very different ways.  The book had sparse text and subtleties that piqued the imagination and encouraged participation from kids of all age groups.  Although there was 5 minutes allotted for the book reading, it could have easily lasted 20 minutes.

The next book, another theme of travel by air, was selected by a majority of boys ages 4 fear-of-flyingto 11 years old.  In Fear of Flying by Nancy R. Lambert and illustrated by Ron Lim and Rachelle Rosenberg, Marvel character, Falcon becomes afraid of flying and is forced to confront some unusual non super-powers in order to help a friend out of a tough situation.  This is a Level 2 in Marvel’s emerging reader program, “World of Reading” and a great choice for reluctant readers, specifically boys, who can relate to featured characters they love.  This was a big hit with the Chocolate Storytime male guests!

little-redOur last book, Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion, was a recommendation from librarian, Rosa Cesareti.  A cute twist on the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale, Little Red goes on a journey through the safari and tries to convince a hungry lion not to eat her.  The illustrations are dazzling, and Little Red’s and the Lion’s hairstyles are really cute.

After story time, Junior Girl Scout volunteer of Troop 4601, Alicia Randall, distributed


The Wessons displaying their fall lanterns

chocolate treats, ice cream sundays, and sweet potato pie–all donated by Barbara Lindsey and Adora Lindsey of Inglewood, California.

With the tunes of Curtis Mayfield playing in the background, kids and their families created beautiful fall lanterns, inspired by those created at Chinatown’s Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.  Kids used construction and copy paper, scissors, string, markers, crayons, and ink pastels to make their creations.  At home, they were encouraged to use them decorative faux lights to hang from light strings, trees, and more.  See more pictures below.


Butterflies, Hula Hoops, Poetry & Chocolate

cs 11 La Pintoresca Library had a “pocket poem” writing contest for National Poetry Month, and our very own Alicia Randall won for the elementary school division!  For this month’s Chocolate Storytime, Alicia recited her poem for the guests.  See Alicia’s winning poem, “When I Turned into a Dog,” below:

I made friends with a hog
But I just had to sob
With a hog in a bog
Eating crushed cranberry fog.

We had so much fun this month at Chocolate Storytime.  First, Ms. Ayesha read “My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood” by Tameka Fryer Brown and illustrated by Shane W. Evans.  The kids were very engaged with the story and enjoyed coming up with synonyms to describe the mood.  After that, she read the book, “The Hula Hoppin’ Queen,” by Thelma Lynne Godin and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton.  Hula hoops donated by Chocolate Storytime friend, Lydia Breen, were on hand for kids to try out their skills.

For crafts, Alicia led guests in creating beautiful butterflies with coffee filters, pipe cleaners, and markers.


2-Year Anniversary of Chocolate Storytime with Dr. Zanaida Robles

zanaida roblesConcert soprano soloist, conductor, composer, studio vocalist for film and television, and professional ensemble singer Zanaida Robles opened up the 2nd year anniversary of Chocolate Storytime leading guests in a stirring rendition of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”accompanied by Ms. Betty J. Ford on the piano.  Afterwards, she encouraged young people to follow their dreams and spoke of her relationship with Ms. Ford and the importance of having an encouraging mentor.

Robles performs throughout the United States and in Europe, New Zealand and Australia and sings with a growing list of orchestra conductors including Charles Dutoit, Esa-​Pekka Salonen, Pierre Boulez, John Mauceri, Leonard Slatkin, Gustavo Dudamel, Jeffrey Kahane and Michael Tilson Thomas.  Robles is the recipient of numerous awards and distinctions and holds a Doctor of Music Arts degree from the USC Thornton School of Music, a Master of Music degree from CSU Northridge, and a Bachelor of Music degree from CSU Long Beach.

Robles has prepared choirs for performances with such artists as Josh Groban, Kristin Chenoweth, Audra McDonald and Zanaida RoblesWayne Brady. She conducted the USC Thornton University Chorus for two years and served for five years as Director of Classical Choirs at the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA), and is currently enjoying her fourth season as the Artistic Director of the San Gabriel Valley Choral Company in Monrovia, CA.  She has performed background vocals for various artists including the Rolling Stones, Andrea Bocelli, and Juanes. She has also worked as a singer and pianist on the hit Fox Television series “Glee.” Her film credits include “Tinkerbell:  Pirate Fairy,” “Godzilla,” “Minions,” and “Creed.”

Happy in the Skin You're InFeatured storytime readers were all special members of the community. The first reader was Joan Reid, former 36-year librarian veteran of Jefferson Elementary School. She is very active in the Martin Luther King Community Coalition as the project coordinator of the “Day On, Not Off” campus beautification day and the coordinator of the African American memorabilia booth at the annual MLK Celebration event. Ms. Reid read the book, “Happy in Our Skin” by Fran Manushkin and Lauren Tobia. Next was Ms. Lupita Barajas, lead story time reader for Léeme un Cuento, the library’s Spanish language storytime. She read a library favorite, “Pickin’ Peas,” by Margaret Read MacDonald and Pat Cummings, a contemporary twist on the Brer Rabbit folktales. Lydia Breen, artist and community garden advocate, read “The Secret Olivia Told Me,” by N. Joy and Nancy Devard. She also brought in hula hoops for the kids to enjoy.

Entertainment included eight-year old, San Rafael Elementary School student, Alicia Randall, who played “First Minuet in G” by J.S. Bach.IMG_0596  Adorable five-year-old, Imani Bowser, sang a sweet rendition of “Jesus Loves Me,” as her mom, Natasha, helped her along. Middle school student and granddaughter of Joan Reid, Sasha Shorter, shared a moving poem about gratitude.

Special thanks goes to Lilia Hernandez, Director of the Armory Center’s Community Programs, who coordinated the styrofoam linocut print making activity headed by artist, Heather Hillard. Kids and adults enjoyed creating art with using brayers, styrofone, paint, and pencils.  Ms. Betty J. Ford, Chocolate Storytime program coordinator, organized the entertainment and provided a beautiful array of chocolate and other goodies around the theme of love.


Chocolate Storytime Visits Jackson Elementary

Jackson 8This year, Chocolate Storytime visited Jackson STEM Dual Language Academy.  Parent volunteer Natasha Bowswer worked with Chocolate Storytime coordinator, Ayesha Randall to bring volunteers from the community to read to the students in a series of sessions.  Among the storytime readers were Tyron Hampton, Pasadena City Councilmember; Julianne Reynoso, Pasadena Unified School District Executive Director, Elementary Schools; Harlan Redmond, executive director of Harambee Ministries; Pat Smith, La Pintoresca Branch Library Manager; Rosa Cesareti, Librarian; Felita Kealing, Pasadena Unified School District African American Parent Council past president; Lydia Breen, Community Garden Manager and Director of Trailer Trash Art & Science Project; Stella Pulliam, San Rafael African American Parent Council member; Joan Reid, Martin Luther King Community Coalition Member and Retired Librarian of 36 years; and LaBarbara Madison, Aspires West Pasadena volunteer.



Giving Thanks 2015

Sweet Potato Pie 2015The featured book for November 2015 was “Sweet Potato Pie” by Kathleen D. Lindsey.  Special guest, community volunteer extraordinaire, Ms. Betty J. Ford, shared a song with the kids. Afterwards, eight-year old Alicia Leilani led the students in creating miniature accordion thankful books.

In addition to chocolate goodies, sweet potato pie from 27th Street Bakery were all donated by retired school teacher, Barbara Lindsey of Inglewood.

Mrs. Abby Fisher’s Sweet Potato Pie

After Thanksgiving dinner, many of us will sit around the dinner table and enjoy a slice of sweet potato pie. One of the earliest published recipes of this fall classic dessert is contained in Abby Fisher’s, What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking: Soups, Pickles, Preserves, Etc. What makes this recipe different from some of the others is that it is made with orange juice and zest and was popularized by a former slave turned cookbook author named, Abby Fisher.

Born into slavery in South Carolina in 1832, Fisher is the author of the second published African American cookbook in thesweet-potato-pie United States. A product of a French father and a slave mother, Fisher grew up cooking in plantation kitchens where she honed her culinary talents. It is said that Abby “expertly blended African and American cultures by combining the food and spices from two continents. Her unique dishes with their distinctive flavor represented some of the best southern cooking of the day” (

Free after the Civil War, Fisher and her husband, Alexander, gathered their eleven children and moved to San Francisco, where she entered her food into cooking competitions. A former slave without the benefit of education, Fisher could not read or write, so she was encouraged to dictate her recipes to a transcriber. The ground-breaking result became the first known cookbook published by a former slave that would eventually be auctioned at Sotheby’s in 1984 and sweet-potato-pie-fisher-1881purchased by Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library.

To see and read it, go to UCLA’s California Digital Library. Shown above is the actual 53rd recipe, sweet potato pie, from page 26 of the book. It calls for simple ingredients and easily adapts to the modern kitchen. However, if you don’t want to make it from scratch, you can always buy one fresh from 27th Street Bakery direct or via Smart & Final (in the “frigidaire” section) or from Altadena’s Dutch Oven. Source: Fisher, Abby. What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking (with historical notes by Karen Hess). Applewood Press, 1995.


Chocolate Storytime Celebrates 1-year Anniversary and Black History Month with Jarvis Emerson

Emerson Reading to Kids

Special guest reader, Jarvis Emerson

What a great way to celebrate Chocolate Storytime’s one year anniversary!  The culmination of Black History Month 2015 was an exceptional Chocolate Storytime lineup of artists, musicians, and special guest, Mr. Jarvis Emerson, Community Services Supervisor of the City of Pasadena’s Jackie Robinson Community Center. Mr. Emerson made himself comfortable on the rug and read Whose Knees are These?, Grandpa’s Face, and a beautiful poem, Dream Variations, about the freedom of dance and the beauty of rest by Langston Hughes.  The kids were very attentive as Mr. Emerson engaged them with little anecdotes and in dialogue about the stories.

Mr. Emerson has deep roots in community service, as former director of the school board health clinic and youth services for the Watts Health Foundation, director of the Save Our Sons program for the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Southern Conference, and Field Representative for Assemblyman Anthony Portantino.


Jarvis Emerson and Chocolate Storytime kids

In 2013, Mr. Emerson was honored by Zeta Tau Chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Inc., and was presented the Chapter’s Citizen of the Year award by Immediate Past Basileus William C. “Bee” Thomas.  The Citizen of the Year award is given each year to an individual from the community whose work has contributed to the stalwart uplift of their communities.  Mr. Emerson has also been the director of the city of Pasadena’s annual Black History Parade and Celebration, one of the largest in California, for nearly a decade.  Mr. Emerson’s love for community service and bridge building  is demonstrated in his  passion for and dedication to the people in and around the Jackie Robinson Community Center.

Responsible for orchestrating the program’s schedule of student talent and special guests, making this month so memorable, is community activist, classical pianist, community talent agent, and entertainment etiquette trainer, Ms. Betty J. Ford.  She invited a bevvy of individuals from the community to participate in this month’s story time.  Kenneth Thomas, Jr.–a student from San Rafael Elementary and at after-school enrichment program, Aspires West Pasadena–recited an ancient Chinese Proverb, reworded by Ms. Ford, “Be Aware of Your Thoughts, They Become Your Destiny.”  With her art work and custom stationery on display and available for purchase, young entrepreneur, Elyse Sharp, a sophomore at John Muir High School, gave a mini talk describing her creative art making process.  Sharp also presented a cute and smartly edited community service announcement video that she created in 2012 about pet adoption.  Seiji Mitchell played a snazzy jazz piece on the alto saxophone that had the audience bopping to the beat.

PUSD Board Member and City Council candidate, Tyron Hampton, and actor, filmmaker, playwright-producer, Jose Turner

Dr. W.H. and Mrs. Ranza Trotter, pastors from Pasadena’s Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church traveled from their home in Ladera Heights to enjoy the program.  Tyron Hampton, Pasadena Unified School District board member and Pasadena City Council candidate, congratulated the student performers and expressed his fondness of story time as he is a new father himself.  Actor, producer, and playwright of stageplay, A Fight for Love, Jose Turner, attended with his two beautiful children.  Parents from San Fernando Valley’s, Parents of African American Children (PAAC), also visited.


Armory Center for the Arts facilitated a drop-in art workshop.

Much gratitude goes out to all of the volunteers and partners for this month’s special story time!  A big thank you goes out to the library staff of La Pintoresca Branch Library:  Branch manager, Pat Smith; librarians, Rosa Cesaretti, Jessica Viray, and Darryl Banton; and Léeme un cuento, Spanish-language story time leader and librarian, Lupita Barajas.  Also, thanks to both of the staff members who help to set up each month. Lilia Hernandez, Director of Community Programs from the Armory Center for the Arts organized this month’s art activity and was a pleasure to work with for this special anniversary story time. Thanks to San Rafael African American Parent Council parents Staci Mitchell, Sabrina Gray, and Nacole Johnson and grandmothers, Jackie Johnson and Barbara Lindsey for their volunteerism and help this past year.  Also a special thank you to Miguel Endara and his wife Nora de la Torre from Nora’s Music Class who, over the year, took time out from their weekly music program to bring their daughter and students to visit and help set up and clean up.

Cheese and crackers, veggies and dip, chocolate treats and sweet potato pie from 27th Street Bakery were all donated by retired school teacher, Barbara Lindsey.  Ms. Lindsey was also in attendance–all the way from Inglewood–helping to set up the food and work with the student talent.  Pasadena residents Laniece and Krystal Dickson donated 4 dozen of delicious and beautifully decorated chocolate frosted cupcakes.  And Ms. Ford blessed the anniversary event with a three-layer chocolate cake for all to enjoy.

Chocolate Storytime is on the last Friday of the month at 4:00 p.m. in the Community Room of La Pintoresca Library.  For pictures from the latest Chocolate Storytimes and activities, visit the Photo Albums tab.

The Bethune Urban Book ClubBudNotBuddy2

Because of the special Black History Month program at Chocolate Storytime, the Mary McLeod Bethune Urban Book Club will meet in March.  They will review chapter book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, as well as this month’s book Bud, Not Buddy (in English and Spanish) by Christopher Paul Curtis.

The Bethune Book Club is sponsored by the San Rafael Elementary School African American Parent Council (AAPC) and meets the last Friday of every month, from 5:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., following Chocolate Storytime.

Chocolate Storytime February 2015 Booklist

Below are the books that we read at this month’s Chocolate Storytime. Ms. Ayesha read the first two books and Mr. Emerson read and read from the rest.  Some of the books have been purchased from Eso Won Bookstore in Los Angeles or Vroman’s in Pasadena, or checked out from the La Pintoresca Branch Library.

Art From Her HeartArt from Her Heart:  Folk Artist Clementine Hunter

by Kathy Whitehead and illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Can you imagine being an artist who isn’t allowed into your own show? That’s what happened to folk artist Clementine Hunter. Her paintings went from hanging on her clothesline to hanging in museums, yet because of the color of her skin, a friend had to sneak her in when the gallery was closed.With lyrical writing and striking illustrations, this picture book biography introduces kids to a self-taught artist whose paintings captured scenes of backbreaking work and joyous celebrations of southern farm life. They preserve a part of American history we rarely see and prove that art can help keep the spirit alive.  -Good Reads

Reviews: Good Reads

The Skin You Live InThe Skin You Live In

by Michael Tyler and illustrated by David Lee Csicsko

With the ease and simplicity of a nursery rhyme, this lively story delivers an important message of social acceptance to young readers. Themes associated with child development and social harmony, such as friendship, acceptance, self-esteem, and diversity are promoted in simple and straightforward prose. Vivid illustrations of children’s activities for all cultures, such as swimming in the ocean, hugging, catching butterflies, and eating birthday cake are also provided. This delightful picturebook offers a wonderful venue through which parents and teachers can discuss important social concepts with their children. -Good Reads

Reviews:  Amazon

KneesWhose Knees Are These?

by Jabari Asim and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

In this book, playful rhymes answer the title question. Knees like these/don’t grow on trees. Ten little lovelies/all in a row./ Whose toes are those?/ Do you know? On each spread, viewers get a glimpse of the youngster in question. On the final spread, the book takes a vertical twist to show the whole, laughing child. The story is sweet and simple, and children will enjoy bending knees along with the protagonist. The illustrations were sketched in graphite and painted digitally; they are warm and lively with swirls of color and friendly animals looking on. The text refers to knees so brown and so strong. The title will add welcome diversity to board-book collections. -Library School Journal

Reviews: Goodreads

Grandpa's FaceGrandpa’s Face

by Eloise Greenfield and illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Tamika and her grandpa love each other very much, and they spend tons of time together. They would go on “talk-walks” and laugh together all the time. Since Grandpa is an actor, she attends all his plays with her family and loves watching his different facial expressions. One day as she goes into his room to ask him to tell her a story, she sees him practicing for a play and makes a face Tamika has never seen before. His face looks angry and like it could never love. At dinner time Tamika tries to do all the things that would make grandpa angry to see if he would do that awful face. She even spills her drink all over him! Grandpa decides it is time for a talk. -Amazon

Reviews: Goodreads

The Entrance Place of WondersThe Entrance Place of Wonders:  Poems of the Harlem Renaissance

by Daphne Muse and illustrated by Charlotte Riley-Webb

A remarkable and much-needed collection for the youngest lovers of poetry, Entrance Place of Wonders: Poems of the Harlem Renaissance features poems from the leaders of this cultural movement (1917-1935), such as Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, and James Weldon Johnson, as well as many newly discovered writers. These celebratory, life-affirming works will inspire children, parents, and educators while paying homage to one of the most exciting and significant times in American history. -Goodreads

Reviews:  Goodreads


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