Mbife, Whats in our Name?
Seinabo Sey is performing in Stockholm today! (I'm ridiculously excited!)
If you haven’t heard her songs yet. Just. Do. It,
find her on Spotify or iTunes or better yet watch her on YouTube.
I've always been a fan, since I discovered her a few years go,
we've had her on rotation at home... she gives you those powerful lyrics, gorgeous melodies and inspiring videos that are totally fun for me and the kids to dance around the living room.
how does this all relate to my books, well here is the story...
I’ve already shared on my post how the lack of diversity in our community impacted my then four year old daughter . My worry, and anxiety around that situation, coupled with microaggressions led me to a sad and lonely place without me realizing it.
I had the privilege of attending Seinabo Sey’s video pre.release event where she spoke about exactly these feelings I was having and how songs like 'Breathe' were born from the need to find that safe space where one can just be.
the lyrics, the music, the sisterhood and beautiful images from the Gambia made my own struggles come to the fore.
I went home that night in tears,
I felt my own self esteem crumble
like if I didn’t do anything about the situation I would just pack up my bags and leave Sweden, the world is large out there.
The next morning, I decided start working on the books for my kids.
it felt like a concrete way to provide counternarratives for people and children like me.
If I couldn’t change my own existence , I had to make steps towards changing that of our children.
The name Mbife, is from a language called Bambara, spoken the Mali, West African where my mum is from.
Mbife means "I love You".
The books are an act of love,
they are born from my love to my kids.
It made perfect sense
I had actually started plans to write children’s books a few years ago with a brilliant entrepreneur and self-starter friend of mine called Harr who lived in the Gambia.
we were very much in the planning stage when she died very suddenly, in her 30s.
I dropped the idea
it burned the tips of my fingers to hold on to something that I had wanted to share with someone who was no longer there.
I hadn’t thought about the books since then
It was that night thanks to Seinabo sey that I found my way back to something that meant so much to me,
something so powerful.
I want to remind you that it is not by accident that there is low representation of diversity in children’s books.
many western societies still operate on racist /colonial attitudes that we have inherited and normalised today.
for so many decades we have accepted that here are no meaningful experiences of stories outside the west and our libraries reflect that.
we have inherited stereotypes around how minority groups are, and we continue to reproduce that today on the pages of our books.
Even though I am referring specifically to race here, the same applies to ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs.
This is why multicultural books are so important.
They provide tools to promote values around the concept of diversity such as mutual respect, acceptance, and equal rights.
multicultural books help minorities with their own identity formation and an understanding and appreciation of characteristics, norms and behaviors which differ from their own.
Since researchers tell us that, ‘everything we read constructs us and makes us who we are”. then what we read to our children must be of the utmost importance.