Munson Steed at 1st African-American Family Book Expo
The children’s book author will be among 60 African-American authors at the Northwest Activities Center Sunday
In the new children’s book, “Little Professor Skye Favorite Things,” author Munson Steed created a “Magic Closet” for a young African-American girl, Skye, to try on outfits that would transform her into a scientist, doctor, engineer or professor, like her father.
“In the Magic Closet, we can use our imagination to go everywhere and do everything we dream,” she says in the story.
Steed, publisher of Rolling Out, the largest chain of African-American-owned weekly papers in the United States, says the closet breaks gender stereotypes about careers and encourages young girls to “take control of” their future.
“The closet is all about young girls knowing the options, and putting on everything they can consider as a career,” he says in an interview from New York City during a book tour stop.
Steed, who resides in Atlanta and Chicago, will be among 60 African-American authors at the first African-American Family Book Expo at the Northwest Activities Center in Detroit 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. The 55-year-old is touring during Black History Month to promote his self-published book released last July, with forthcoming installments for a series.
The vibrant illustrations by Kareem Kenyada showcase diverse characters — including a robotic pink dinosaur named Cutie Pie — with Skye as the focal point. Steed was intentional about making a young girl interested in math and science the protagonist.
“She’s breaking that glass ceiling that many women are coming through,” says Steed, referring to Skye, a character inspired by his 7-year-old goddaughter of the same name. “This is the next generation of ceiling breakers. As we even go into March (with Women’s History Month), these are the history makers. She has that black girl, white girl, hispanic girl, Asian girl magic. We want women to have the magic.”
Steed says he’s in the Motor City about once a month on business, and has met many engineers and computer scientists who work in the city, but it’s the next generation that will continue the “success and evolution of Detroit.”
“There’s 150,000 Little Professor Skyes already in Detroit... that are going to be the engineers, that are going to move the city forward,” he says.
Janeice Haynes, CEO of the online bookstore DetroitBookCity.com, is heading Sunday’s expo that she plans to host annually.
She says her goal is to bring families out to see the “who’s who” of African-American book authors from Detroit and cities like Baltimore and Nashville. Attending authors include motivational speaker Jonathan Edison (“Success Strategist”), Detroit Association of Black Storytellers past president Mary Grant (“My Daddy Taught Me To Read”) and leadership speaker Odis Bellinger (“7 Steps to Promote the Success of Young African American Males”).
“We organized this event because we are in need a local, cultural outing that connects black book authors to their reading audience,” Haynes says. “I believe that purchasing books from people in our image can help preserve, increase and improve readership among African-Americans in Metro Detroit.”
Steed says he’s looking forward to chatting with families at the event and hopes his story exposes young girls to all career options.
“The robotics, the technology, the math, the science — it’s all there (in the book),” he says, “but also just having a great time learning and having the skillset that makes success possible for every young child.”
African-American Family Book Expo
Northwest Activities Center
18100 Meyers, Detroit
11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $3 for ages 13 and older; $1 for ages 5-12