Last night the Tambassadors left Tamarind Towers and decamped to City Hall where Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, was hosting an event to celebrate black entrepreneurs and the contribution of black businesses to society. After an introduction from the Chair for the evening, Tim Campbell, founder of Bright Ideas Trust (and the first ever winner of The Apprentice!), an esteemed panel of black businesspeople including Ade Sawyerr, Damon Buffini (co-founder of Social Business Trust), Natasha Faith (co-designer of LA DiOSA, Young Ambassador to The Prince’s Trust and the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund), Sonia Brown (director of the National Black Women’s Network) and Ric Lewis, spoke about their experiences in the world of business and gave their advice for the audience of experienced businesspeople and young people looking forward to business careers. On the subject of embracing failure as well as success in business, Mayor Boris Johnson was typically entertaining, noting, ‘A man called Chumba Wamba once said, “I get knocked down but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down!”’. The assembled audience was too polite to point out that Chumbawamba were in fact a band comprising at least eight members in 1997 when the single from which he was quoting, Tubthumping,* hit the charts . . . !
It was heartening to see so many young faces in the audience and we hope they were as inspired as we were by the panellists and news of the work being done by young black businesspeople to provide opportunities in their communities. One of the main issues voiced was how to break through the barriers that prevent black businesses from penetrating markets outside of their traditional consumer base to compete on a global stage. Whilst there are no easy answers to this question, the panel were in agreement that the explosion of connectivity provided by communications technology is a golden opportunity for black businesspeople to take their products and services to billions of consumers around the world.
Tim Campbell brought the meeting to a close perfectly by explaining that the biggest concern for black businesspeople should be the biggest concern for all businesspeople: to provide the best quality product possible. At Tamarind, that has always been our biggest concern and it will continue to be as we move into the next 25 years of the imprint.
*The irony of the title of this single is not lost on us . . . An unintentional blunder or a really clever joke? You decide.
You know a story is good when you get phone calls from your colleagues who gush about how they couldn’t put it down. And then they confess that they were so moved by the story that they were crying tears on the tube journey into work, snotty tissues and all.
This year, Shell celebrates the 10th anniversary of its staff African Network. As part of the celebrations, Tamarind and various African and Caribbean exhibitors were invited to sell at the Shell African Network Expo yesterday. After spending two hours in security (!) we set up a stand with lead titles and discounted overstocks for sale. Staff on their way to the cafeteria or the company gym stopped to admire the stalls and buy art, fashion, furnishings and of course, books. The network’s chair led by example, buying over £30 worth of books for her children. Over the lunch period we sold 112 books, including 15 copies of the Barack Obama biography.
Tamarind catalogues will also go into goody bags for another network event tonight, where the star of one of our biographies, Attorney General Baroness Scotland, will be speaking.
At a recent event managed by Waterstone’s, Pelican Post supporters bought 120 children’s books for schools in various African countries. Among them were 20 copies of Amina and the Shell, which have now been delivered to the children at Dwabor School in Ghana, shown below. Find out how you can send multicultural books to African schools via Pelican Post.
Friday July 9th saw Brighton’s Balfour Infants School in for a treat – not only did they get a visit from their newly-elected local Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, but also Tamarind illustrator Karin Littlewood! The Year 1 and 2 pupils listened cross-legged to a great speech from Caroline about biodiversity. She explained that if you imagined the world as an apple, only a quarter of it would be land, and the rest water… and only a half of that bit of land was habitable! So you can imagine how important it is to protect that relative slither of land we live on.
After Caroline spoke, Karin gave a brilliant reading of The Day the Rains Fell. The book explores the idea of how the watering holes appeared in the savannah desert and celebrates the diversity of the animals living in the plains. One by one, each animal lends its colours to Thandi’s beaded necklace until she has a rainbow assortment of colours! After the reading the children decorated their own beads with all the patterns of their favourite animals.
The children enjoyed the arts and crafts no end, but the event had a serious message. Caroline Lucas said “…young people need to learn about the earth’s fragile state. We’ve taken the biosphere for granted for too long. The global climate talks last year in Copenhagen failed to tackle climate change in any meaningful way so time is running out.”
Caroline also praised the book, saying “The Day the Rains Fell is the best book I’ve seen for younger children – and for parents who want their children to enjoy and learn at the same time – about why humanity and every species on the planet is threatened.”
More of Tamarind’s ‘green’ books:
Equipped with a range of beautiful Tamarind picture books, Verna Wilkins visited Whitefriars School in Harrow. The head teacher Lynne Pritchard requested the visit because she is aware of “the importance of adequately meeting the educational needs of all the children, regardless of their ethnic origin.”
Tamarind books focus on universal themes, making them accessible and engaging resources for use all year round, and not only to be dusted off in Black History Month each October. Verna highlighted the curriculum topics, early socialisation themes, shared experiences and family life in the books. One powerful example, The Silence Seeker is popular because of the interwoven themes of migration, the value of silence, noisy city life and friendship without words. The lyrical writing and stylish illustrations widens its appeal to older children.
With the Tamarind range on board, the teachers felt able to deliver a truly multicultural curriculum. The head teacher was so inspired that she bought 44 Tamarind titles for the school and for her charity Red Earth, which trains teachers in Uganda. Through working with Tamarind, Lynne has become excited and equipped to integrate multicultural books across the curriculum. Lynne’s particularly keen to take The Day Rains Fell to Uganda on her next trip, and to take Verna too!
Verna founded Tamarind to address the issue of inclusion in early years education. Her work with schools over 20 years has shown how much personal value children feel when they see themselves reflected in their learning materials.
It was a sleepy Friday afternoon when Nick from children’s book charity Pelican Post visited our Ealing office. He’d driven across London in weekend traffic, but that was nothing compared to the journey he had in mind: Nick was picking up 10 Tamarind books and starting their journey to a new school in the Sudan! The Pelican Post send donated children’s books to schools in various African countries. They take care to reflect the children in the books that they receive, and include Tamarind titles among the books they send. However, the package for the Sudan would be a special undertaking, off the beated track for the charity. The Grace School, 17 hours by road from Khartoum, is the only secondary school within a 300-mile radius. In poor condition and on the point of closure a few years ago, British couple Richard and Claire Budd fundraised an amazing £90,000 to rebuild the school from scratch. Opening in the first week of May, the school has classrooms and pupils and teachers, but not a single book. The staff at Tamarind were overjoyed to donate the first package of books to the new school. Nick will track its journey by air and road until it reaches the school. Congratulations to all for making this happen!
It’s a mouthful, but December is BBBAGIWP month. It’s an event inspired by black author Carleen Brice, to welcome people from a non-black background into the sometimes segregated shelves of books by black authors.
Click for fiction suggestions from Carleen.
“Fiction at its best isn’t just enjoyable. It measurably enhances our abilities to empathize with other people and connect with something larger than ourselves.” – Keith Oatley, novelist and psychologist