To adapt to ongoing safety concerns related to COVID-19, VMFA will host this year’s AARI event virtually with prerecorded videos of community readers and educators presenting on our website.
This program celebrates children’s literature and art created by African and African American artists. Experience works from the permanent collection by watching engaging videos that will provide looking prompts and a short story read by a Community Reader. Complete your experience by creating an abstract collage inspired by work Procession by Odili Donald Odita. Be sure to share your completed work on social media using the #VMFAAARI.
What is African American Read-In?
During the month of February, schools, churches, libraries, bookstores, community and professional organizations are urged to make literacy a significant part of Black History Month by hosting an African American Read-In. Sponsored by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and NCTE, and endorsed by the International Literacy Association, the goal the Read-In is to document readers making a celebration of African American literacy.
Opening Reading – “Life Doesn’t Frighten Me” by Maya Angelou
Reader: Dekonti Mends-Cole
Dekonti Mends-Cole serves as Vice President for the Mid-Atlantic at JP Morgan Chase Global Philanthropy overseeing strategic grant making in the greater Washington region. Dekonti is an economic and community development practitioner having worked on the ground in the country’s most distressed communities. Prior to joining JP Morgan Chase & Co., she served as the Director of Policy at the Center for Community Progress, a national non-profit based in Flint, Michigan, that equips communities with the tools and resources needed to effectively address abandonment, blight, and vacancy. Additionally, Dekonti served as a Deputy Director at the Detroit Land Bank Authority, the country’s largest land bank, and as a fellow with the White House Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative embedded in the City of Detroit. She brings international experience and best practice to her grant-making role having previously worked on local economic development projects in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa including infrastructure investment strategies in Iraq and Zambia for the United Nations and community development projects tied to the 2012 London Olympics. She holds an MSc from the London School of Economics in Urban Regeneration and Affordable Housing, a Juris Doctor from Georgetown Law Center, and a BA from University of Miami in International Studies and Economics.
Reading – The Spider Weaver, A Legend of Kente Cloth by Margaret Musgrove
Reader: S. Ross Browne
S. Ross Browne is a professional studio artist with more than 27 years of experience. With an emphasis on painting, he has exhibited domestically and internationally in over 70 gallery and museum exhibitions and is in many private, public, and institutional collections including the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and The Valentine Museum. He has been awarded various fellowships and grants, most recently from VMFA and the Gottlieb Foundation. Media credits include many local and national outlets, including Huffington Post, Washingtonian, Ebony, the Richmond Times Dispatch, Richmond Free Press, The Washington Post, and PBS. Ross was the Art Specialist for the VCU Health System practicing art therapy and teaching art to patients. He was art educator for various support groups including Living Well for pediatric cancer support and the Richmond Brain Tumor Support Group.
Moonlight Marine, 1885, Edward Bannister
Reader: Amanda Lynch, MA, CTP-E
Amanda Lynch, MA, CTP-E, is a writer and career educator specializing in Self-Care, Mindfulness-Based Trauma Informed Practices, and Restorative Justice. For nearly twenty years, she worked as an educator throughout the Richmond Metro area. She loves introducing communities of color to meditation, yoga and sound healing therapy. She is licensed teacher, Certified Trauma Practitioner, Certified Advanced Peacemaking Circles facilitator, Koru Mindfulness Teacher-In-Training and ACE Interface Master Trainer. She lives with her husband, Marcus and her very busy children, Justin, Ava, Hazy and Rosebud in Glen Allen, Virginia. She is also the author of The Mindfulness Room and owner of Rethinking Resiliency LLC.
Counselor’s Staff, mid-20th century, Akan, #86.200a-c
Reader: Tarneshia Evans
Tarneshia Evans is an award-winning environmental educator and advocate for nature-based early childhood education. She works as a Children’s Program Developer and educator at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Va. In 2017 Tarneshia was selected as a National Outstanding Educator by educational nonprofit Project Learning Tree for her use of outdoor education to improve student learning and foster environmental stewardship. In 2016 she received the Virginia Outstanding Educator Award. When she’s not teaching you can find her volunteering at community events, shopping for antiques, clothing and other hidden treasures at her favorite thrift and consignment shops. Tarneshia enjoys seeing children engaged in nature. She adores teaching and sharing her love of the outdoors with kids brings her great joy.
Tell us about your experience during the Virtual African American Read-In for Families by clicking here.