February is Black History Month and Chocolate Storytime’s 4th anniversary. So this time of year is very special. During this special month, Chocolate Storytime partners with the City of Pasadena Community Services Department supervisor, Jarvis Emerson, who recommends the special guest from the Black History Celebration Planning Committee.
It was a multigenerational storytime at La Pintoresca Branch Library. Chocolate Storytime opened up with “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” sung in unison and accompanied by talent coordinator, Ms. Betty J. Ford, on the piano.
Emerson, director of the Black History Parade, the largest and longest-running in California, was the featured story time guest. He read Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall, a book about bravery, perseverance and a father’s gentle support. Emerson engaged the children with his own personal anecdotes. This was a special time for him because his whole family was there–his wife, Elaine; daughter, Marjani Forté-Saunders and son-in-law, Everett Saunders; and his toddler grandson.
Emerson has deep roots in community service. He worked as a director of the school board health clinic and youth services for the Watts Health Foundation, director of the Save Our Sons program for the AME Church Southern Conference, and as a field representative for Assemblyman Anthony Portantino. In 2013, Emerson was honored by Zeta Tau Chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Inc., and was presented the chapter’s Citizen of the Year.
Ms. Ford brought in talented teen trumpeter, Tatiana Tate, a freshman at California State University at Fullerton, who played a rendition of the gospel song, “Praise Is What I Do” for the packed room. Afterwards, Tate led an interactive touch and play session giving burgeoning musicians a chance to learn the mechanical parts of the trumpet and experiment with sound by pressing its keys and blowing it. Tate credits her mother, a Sunday School teacher, for her rapport with children.
Tate has played the trumpet since the age of seven and also plays drums, trombone and is learning bass guitar. She graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School and was a part of their Grammy Signature Music Program. She was the 2016-2017 drum major of the Poly High School Marching Unit, played trumpet in their prestigious Jazz “A” Jazzband, and was a soloist in the Poly Jazz Combo III Symphonic Winds Orchestra.
Tate has been recognized as an outstanding soloist in several festivals and competitions including the Reno Jazz Festival, Irvine Jazz Festival, and The Next Generation Jazz Festival. She was awarded the “Best Performer Award” at the Western State Jazz Festival. Tate received an Ernest McBride, Sr. scholarship from the Long Beach Branch NAACP and was an ACT-SO Discovery of Arts participant.
Accomplished vocalist of classical, contemporary and sacred style music, Allisonne Crawford of Allitunes, led the kids in a rhythmic clapping song before reading the book, Maggie Sinclair, Will You Please Fix Your Hair? by Gabrielle Howell and Hilary Dixon. The book, a Chocolate Storytime favorite, is about a girl who loves her natural hair, and whose grandmother will eventually come to learn that you don’t need to fix something that is not broken. Along with a Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance from Chapman University, Crawford is an educator with 2 Masters degrees in education, and who teaches for the Pasadena Unified School District when she is not performing locally. Crawford lives in Pasadena with her daughter.
Bill Gould, program officer at First 5 Los Angeles, and lecturer at USC’s School of Social Work, read The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds. Gould, who has a background in child advocacy, social work, foster care and educational outreach is an active member of San Rafael Elementary’s African American Parent Council. He shared an intriguing story about his paternal great-great grandfather, William B. Gould I, who had escaped from slavery to fight in the Civil War and talked about his upcoming documentary.
Moving from a book about words, to a presentation of words, Ms. Ford directed a spelling performance with students from the Pasadena Aspires West program. Donned in a princess tiara, the caller was 8th grade student, Kennedy Hackett, from Marshall Fundamental School, and the speller was 4th grader, Kelan Adams from Longfellow Elementary School, who showcased his exceptional orthographic skills.
Ms. Ford invited Mr. Michael D. Coxson to assist with the spelling performance and to provide any assistance, if needed. Mr. Coxson is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. He majored in political science and minored in urban studies. A well traveled and well read individual, Mr. Coxson received an academic scholarship, studied very hard, and says that what made him interested in reading was classic comic books and autobiographies. He wanted to attend UPenn because W.E.B. DuBois was also a student there. An Agusta, Georgia native, Mr. Coxson traveled to southern California after a stint with the oil business. He currently lives in Altadena and has been volunteering at the Pasadena Senior Center for 2 years.
Girl Scout Troop 4601 was on hand selling cookies while Chocolate Storytime STEAM & Creative Crafts Director, Alicia Randall, and Caltech administrator, freelance event professional, and mother of 3, Tiffani Walker, led a wind socks craft. Materials included repurposed paper, photos from the 2018 Los Angeles African American Heritage Month booklet, ink pastels, and Pan African colored streamers.
Guests feasted on delicious, nut-free chocolate chip cookies from Ms. Alice of Cookie Blessings. The other chocolate treats and snacks were donated by Barbara Lindsey from Inglewood, California on behalf of the Sarah Priscilla Sears Kelley Moving Forward, Upward and Around Foundation and Ms. Betty J. Ford.
There was something there for everybody. As a part of the City of Pasadena’s Black History Month lineup, many special guests from the community came out to enjoy the afternoon. Among them were Horace Wormely, Director for the Human Services and Recreation Department, NAACP Pasadena Branch president, Delano Yarbrough, and the Master of Words from the Pasadena Senior Center.
For a compilation of short, amateur video snippets and photos from the event, visit here and below.