A YouTube storytelling channel dedicated to Black stories for children has launched with the aim of celebrating African and Caribbean heritage through tales.
Tàta Storytime enlists award-winning Black actors to tell the tales, and was created by Okezie Morro, who is also an actor. All the story hosts want to use their experiences, faces and voices to inspire, whilst showcasing stories that broaden children’s understanding of cultural diversity.
Inspired by his daughter, Okezie wanted to create a show that allowed her to feel represented through both the stories and the storytellers.
‘I want this show to educate and entertain children all over the world and bring more on screen representation to children’s TV,’ says Okezie.
‘When no one’s story is left untold we inspire children to feel confident to not only be a part of the story but to also enjoy telling their own stories.
‘Tàta Storytime is creating the bridge between play, culture and education. With the stories brought to life, in a way for everybody to enjoy.’
One of the authors whose story was selected to be read on the channel is Vese Aghoghovbia Wolu who wrote Who Do I See in The Mirror? after being inspired by her two-year-old daughter Philly.
As a self-published author, she said the opportunity to have her story read on the channel and the chance to reach a wider audience was a huge boost.
‘It means a lot when a stranger – at the time – buys into your vision and supports your brand,’ Vese tells Metro.co.uk. ‘Since being on Tàta Storytime, our website sales have increased significantly.
‘Our children need Tàta Storytime. My daughter loves it so much. It’s fun, entertaining and the theme song is very catchy too.’
Vese says that it’s incredibly important for Black stories to be heard, and that too often the positive elements of Black history and heritage are hidden away.
‘African and Caribbean heritage is so beautiful – full of colour and rich in culture,’ she tells us. ‘The world has been robbed of experiencing its beauty. The narrative has been short-changed with only the negatives highlighted in the news and media.
‘We need to tell our stories. If we don’t, no one else would. For example, did you know the richest man ever to live was Mansa Musa, the 14th Century West African ruler, King of Timbuktu – Mali Empire?
‘But Africa is almost synonymous with poverty in the mainstream media. These little stories need to be told in a fun and engaging way for our kids and we hope that Philly & Friends and Tàta Storytime will contribute to telling them.’
Black writers are in dire need of better representation, coverage and opportunities.
Between 2007 and 2017, 1.96% of children’s book creators were British people of colour. In the same period, white children’s book creators had around twice as many books published compared to creators of colour.
‘Black writers are often misunderstood, ignored or reserved for the Black community,’ says Vese.
‘The world hasn’t taken the time to learn about, study or embrace Black culture. This has meant books by Black authors have struggled to be accepted as mainstream or seen as commercially viable.’
Vese tells us that she pitched an idea to a literary agent last year, they liked the story but didn’t think it was ‘commercially beneficial’ for them to take on, and that it wouldn’t suit the ‘mass market’.
‘Representation matters,’ she says. ‘There’s nothing like seeing someone who looks like you win. It’s more than just actors reading the stories. It’s a subtle message to the kids to let them know that they matter and they can achieve anything regardless of what they look like – mainly because there are people who look like that achieving those things too.
‘Okezie gets it and that’s why he enlisted the support of his actor community. He could have read all the stories himself, but he chose to show a range of authors to show the kids and the world that there are many Black people doing great things.
‘These kids will grow up and see the people they watched reading stories to them acting in movies, TV shows or theatre. It sends a strong message.’
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