BUFFALO, N.Y. — Since the mass shooting at Tops, just over a week ago, people from around the world have been showing an outpouring of love and support for the Buffalo community, looking for ways to help.
Sheletta Brundidge is a mother of four and children's author from Minnesota. Having experienced the trauma of George Floyd's death in her own community, she knew after learning about the shooting at Tops, that she had to find a way to help this community as best as she could.
"When I realized it was a hate crime targeting the African American community at the only grocery store in their particular community...people just trying to live their lives...shot and now this community is terrorized and will never be the same - I was devastated," Brundidge shares.
After learning that one of the survivors, Zaire Goodman, started a book wish list on Amazon with his mother Zeneta Everhart, Sheletta knew then just how she could support Buffalo.
"I saw Ms. Everhart's story about how she wanted people to donate children's books. And I thought That's it. I am a children's book author, I have three books, and I am going to send my books to her. Because what she is doing to erase racism through reading is exactly what I'm doing here," Sheletta continues.
Fighting racism with reading is something Sheletta has been trying to do for years and says in their own way, especially with kids, books have a way of making a difference.
Sheletta tells 2 On Your Side's Liz Lewin, "In Minnesota when George Floyd died. I went out to the site where he died. My children and I went down there, and we start seeing a lot of white moms bringing their babies down. They were crying harder than I was. And so I went up to them. And I said, 'Well, what is going on?' I just really didn't understand what was going on. And they said, 'we're trying to use this moment to educate our children as well. So they can be allies.' And that touched my heart."
So, in response, what did she and other black authors in Minnesota do?
"At least once a week, sometimes twice a week, we will go down to George Floyd Square, and every white parent that we saw we would give them copies of our children's books, for free, just to say, 'hey, we don't want your kids to leave and not put something in their hands.' And that made a big difference," Sheletta explains.
The hope is by sharing their books, and other black literature by black authors, more children and families can start having inclusive and real conversations about racism. .
"Diversity in children's books is so important," Sheletta stresses. "When I was passing out my book at George Floyd Square, I realized that there were a lot of white kids who didn't have black friends. And so my books, the children, my children in these books became their black friends."
Sheletta's three books celebrate black children who have autism, just like three of her four children.
"We intentionally, in all of my books, put our entire family in the book. So that white kids, when they get the book, see that my children have a mother, a father, they have siblings, they have friends, they have neighbors, they have teachers. All three of my four children have autism. So the books are about autism," Sheletta shares.
Part of healing is learning. Learning what to do the next time to stop the pain in the first place and books have a way of opening, not only our minds, but often our hearts.