CELEBRATING AFRICAN AMERICAN CHILDREN’S LITERACY THROUGH JOYE FORREST, TREE OF LIGHTS AMBASSADOR AND CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHOR
Enriching African-American kids’ literacy was on display at Wednesday, Nov. 17’s author’s event at The Salvation Army’s Ferguson Community Empowerment Center.
Joye Forrest, the first Black Miss Missouri and an ambassador for The Salvation Army’s Tree of Lights campaign, visited the students of SPARK Academy at the FCEC, where she read her first book, Dance with Joye, to the 3rd and 4th graders, signed autographs and took pictures with them afterwards.
Attendees included Ferguson Mayor Ella Jones, who sat in on the book reading and talked with fellow area residents, and President of St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature, Julius B. Anthony.
“I’ve been working on this book for over four years, actually, when I started studying abroad,” Forrest said. “I went to nine different countries within one year. In some of those countries, I didn’t understand the language. What I did know is that my love language is dance.
“I can communicate and figure out all I need to know about culture and movement through dancing,” Forrest said. “If I was going into a restaurant, I would just sign-language my way through it. It worked for me. That’s my fundamental message to young people, is to find what works for you. Be able to bring that bridge to other cultures, backgrounds and really love on one another.”
The class of 20 SPARK Academy kids listened to Joye’s reading and asked questions afterwards, in addition to dancing with the group and hearing positive messages.
Forrest spent two years as a professional dancer for the Los Angeles Lakers, a coveted position that built on her lifelong love for dance.
In Dance with Joye, she writes of global adventures meeting different cultures with dance. Her travels bring her through Australia, Ghana, and other countries and cities around the world. Learning dance styles and traditions is her way to relate.
Other people in the community stopped by to meet and greet with Forrest and buy an autographed book before she travels in several days to Tulsa, OK, to compete in Nov. 29’s Miss USA pageant.
The Dance with Joye books sold out in 40 minutes.
Mayor Jones said of Wednesday’s event, “It’s great for the community because The Salvation Army has been around for years and years. It has always supported the community. Especially in Ferguson, they are doing a phenomenal job with the after-school program for the kids. They’re working in the apartment complexes. We do need them in this area.”
Major Jones added, “The most important thing is working with our youth. They’re laying the foundation for them, not only to be here as a SPARK Academy, teaching them that when they get older, they can give back to their communities. It’s going to make a difference.”