Cummins Inc. supports racial equity initiative to make African-American literature available in classrooms nationwide
Cummins Advocating for Racial Equity (CARE) partners with The 15 White Coats and Black Worldschoolers Mobile Bookstore to launch the Resilient Readers Book Club for students in the Martindale-Brightwood schools of Indianapolis
Powered by Cummins Inc. and its employee volunteers, The 15 White Coats and Black Worldschoolers Mobile Bookstore all came together on March 6 to launch The Resilient Readers Book Club at KIPP Indy Legacy High School located in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The club is a book gifting initiative for school age children that provides access to culturally relevant literature. Uniquely designed book boxes are filled with books and placed inside youth centered organizations, inspiring the youth of tomorrow with age-appropriate, high-quality black literature. Teachers, students and community partners attended the inspiring ground breaking event along with Cummins’ leadership, employees and CARE representatives.
“Not only am I proud to be here today representing Cummins, but I also take great pride in the fact my family has a long-time history in this community,” said Tavonna Harris Askew, Executive Director & Social Justice Co-chair of CARE at Cummins. “Cummins has a deeply rooted history of fighting for social justice, serving its communities and living its core values of diversity and inclusion. This initiative, in partnership with these two outstanding organizations, along with our community partners, is making a great impact in driving change and helping kids read. It's providing children and families access to enjoyable books, powerful stories and meaningful community interaction that will cultivate a joy for reading, a healthy sense of self, fruitful lives and future aspirations.”
A memorable event
Employees from Cummins Community Involvement Team (CIT), along with volunteers within the partnering organizations, delivered and assembled the 20+ three-tiered book boxes, designed by The 15 White Coats and Black Worldschoolers Mobile Bookstore. The boxes make available 15 curated books for children in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade. Along with Harris Askew, Dr. Russell J. Ledet, Co-founder and President, The 15 White Coats, and Natalie Pipkin, Founder & CEO, Black Worldschoolers Mobile Bookstore, shared the history of their respective organizations and provided an overview of the purpose of the book club to the students, teachers and community partners in attendance.
Recognizing the need
Being able to read is critical to success and part of our everyday lives. Only half of the adults in the U.S. are proficient in reading, and, according to experts, 3rd Grade is the key milestone. Seventy-five percent of students that do not read proficiently in 3rd Grade will never reach proficiency. According to Indiana’s National Assessment Educational Progress (NAEP), only 33% of fourth graders in Indiana read at or above a proficient level, with Black students among those suffering most. The NAEP results reflect the reality of educational inequities created by centuries of systemic racism that are still present today. High-quality, culturally relevant books that can serve as mirrors and motivation to a historically left out population is a great start in addressing the need. The Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood of Indianapolis has a scarcity of books in places where Black children are present and a lack of stories that positively reflect the youth within the communities.
Organizations taking action
In October 2020, Cummins Advocating for Racial Equity (CARE) launched so Cummins could take a leading role in the work to dismantle systemic discrimination against the Black community in the U.S. As a first step in this journey, CARE brings together all Cummins' capabilities – its people, balance sheet and philanthropy – to drive racial equity and combat the impact of racism on its people, communities, and economy. Through CARE, Cummins is taking decisive action to address and spearhead change throughout targeted CARE communities in the U.S.
The 15 White Coats, established in 2019, is an internationally recognized non-profit organization whose mission is to diversify medicine through mentorship, literacy accessibility, and economic assistance. The organization started after a photo of 15 Tulane School of Medicine African-American medical students, dressed in their white coats, posed in front of plantation slave quarters went viral. The organization has assisted over 2,000 students with over $500,000 in scholarships to help with entering the healthcare field. Moreover, nearly 10,000 15 White Coats photos have been distributed to schools, students, institutions, and businesses worldwide.
Black Worldschoolers Mobile Bookstore is a bookstore on wheels sharing stories that uplift Black life, Black heritage, and Black joy. Described as a “bookstore on wheels with ice cream truck energy”, owner, Natalie Pipkin is on a mission to provide access and awareness to Black stories as well as excitement and engagement around reading. In June 2022, Black Worldschoolers Mobile Bookstore debuted as Indiana's first bookstore on wheels and is the first of its kind in the region.
Cummins Community Involvement Team (CIT) volunteers and the initiative partners are planning to deliver the three-tiered book boxes and read stories aloud to children at site locations throughout the year. The locations in the Martindale-Brightwood community were identified by the Edna Martin Christian Center, Kipp Indy and other local partners. Moreover, the partnership will host a literacy event in collaboration with Kipp Indy Schools later in 2023 to bring in the Mobile Bookstore and National Book Award Finalist, Children’s Book Author, Derrick Barnes.