Author Spotlight: Big Words to Little Me’s Sakina Ibrahim

Name: Sakina Ibrahim

Book: Big Words to Little Me: Advice to the younger self

What is your ethnicity? African American

Where are you from/ Where did you grow up? Was it a diverse community? Were you exposed to other cultures? I grew up in Springfield, MA it was a diverse community there are a lot of Black and Puerto Rican people in the city. I grew up learning Spanish and Mandarin in lower elementary and middle school. I went to a arts high school in the suburbs which was not diverse at at all and I was one of 5 black girls in the entire school, but we did have African Dance and Drumming in the curriculum which made a difference in my socialization because it validated my African roots and gave me a space to culturally identify.

What led you to authoring a children’s book? What were you doing before you wrote your book? Upon writing Big Words to Little Me: Advice to the younger self I had completed my Masters of Fine Arts in Dance, my research was on Dances of the African Diaspora and Black Youth Empowerment. While in my research process I realized a lot of my students were in deep pain and complicated life situations concerning self-esteem, family issues and school. I would give my students advice and kept saying I wish someone would have told me this stuff… eventually I had my “AHA” moment and decided to create a tool that would help young girls develop a positive sense of self and a sense of determination for their success in life.

What was the inspiration for writing your book? The inspiration was first my own healing as a woman and realizing that as I begin my journey to heal, others would also heal. I want us to recognize that life is full of obstacles but we can develop a mentality that we can transform every single one! Seeing the social issues that affect black girls and women disproportionately inspire me to want to do my part, by sharing this book and facilitating empowerment workshops with organizations and schools. You would be surprised how some of the girls and parents I have met have been impacted by having someone listen to them and help demystify some of their experiences.

Is there anything from your personal life that influenced the characters in the book? The entire book is drawn from my personal life, the character Little Me is a symbol for our younger selves. I literally wrote down 8 of the challenges I faced and drew from that, I created steps based on reflection and action. Sometimes as parents or educators we don’t know what to say to advise young people because we haven't done our own healing, I wanted to speak from a place of experience and actual proof shown in my life.

Why do you think exposure to other cultures is important for young children? Human beings are made up of so many different experiences, we wouldn’t expect flowers in a garden to all be the same, so why should we have that expectation for humanity. Children have to be taught unity, love and appreciation for all people, by centering and uplifting voices that have been marginalized we gain a sense of power and respect, while realizing our commonalities and differences. The world is getting smaller as we know it and there is so much access to information, sharing culture and diverse narratives is a beautiful process, it’s sort of like an unfolding of the mysteries of life.

Why is representation of all colors and backgrounds important for children to see? What makes the world a beautiful place is that it’s made up of all colors and backgrounds, each voice is valid and worthy. We have to do the work to create and share these wonderful, complicated, difficult stories of life experiences. I want to read and introduce books that help us to open our minds about what it means to be alive in different parts of the world. I think the largest benefit from this would be empathy and compassion for each other. We need to teach children this, but we have to exemplify it first.

What do you want children to get from reading this book? I want children to develop a strong sense of self-love for themselves. I want black girls to know if there is no one believing in them and holding them accountable for being great “Little Me” is. We can’t assume a child will grow up thinking they are worthy and can accomplish anything if no one has ever told them or affirmed their greatness. Meanwhile society and the media are doing everything to make girls and women of color ignorant, devalued and disrespected. No! I want my little readers to say I am in control of the path of my life NO MATTER WHAT (with three snaps and a head roll)!

For information on books and workshops visit sakinaibrahim.com follow me on instagram @sakinas_world like us on facebook @bigwordstolittleme or visit my author page on https://www.amazon.com/author/sakinaibrahim

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