SPOTLIGHT: Diversity Books Bless East Hartford Children

SPOTLIGHT: Diversity Books Bless East Hartford Children


First Congregational of East Hartford (CT) Donates Diversity Books to Enrich East Hartford Public Schools

Sample of diversity books donated by the First Congregational Church of East Hartford

“Children’s books feature a plethora of white, often male, characters leading the way. In fact, in 2018, 50% of children’s books featured white characters, 27% animals and 10% black characters. Asians and Native Americans even less.” Rev. Kelly Jane Caesar, pastor of the First Congregational Church of East Hartford, preached over zoom on July 19, 2020, citing an article by the Huffington Post. She encouraged the congregation to, “imagine the liberation that can be had if children and adults learned more about the resistance both blacks and whites took to overcome slavery and racism through the centuries. Children of color see themselves as strong and brave. White children see that they can have a place of love and compassion in the fight for racial equity. All are inspired to act for justice and real, deep, everlasting peace.”

The message resonated and an anonymous donor asked to give $600 to get more diverse books in the hands of children. The congregation’s Ministry for Racial Justice challenged the congregation to match the donation. Members of the congregation, many of whom are active or retired teachers, raised $850 in order to provide a total $1,450 for the Diversity Book Initiative. The flash fundraiser was a natural fit for the congregation with a strong history of supporting education for local children, including hosting a preschool for underserved children and housing and mentoring young adults conducting a year of service in the public schools.

Nine East Hartford Public Schools have each received a gifted wrapped box of books affirming and celebrating a wide range of diversity, including characters of color, children with disabilities, and families with same-sex parents. Candy Guastamachio, Ms. Gus to her decades of music students, was instrumental in coordinating with the East Hartford Public Schools, as well as collecting all the books in her home before distributing them to the schools. Books were purchased through Amazon and from Usbridge books (which offered a discount for the cause). Some books were donated in appreciation for guest speakers who have recently spoken at the meetings of the First Congregational Church of East Hartford Ministry for Racial Justice.

The congregation hopes that the 135 books serve to help students celebrate the beautiful diversity that surrounds them in East Hartford.

{Story originally released as press release from First Congregation of East Hartford}

You may reprint this story by including the following line in your article:  Reprinted with permission from Southern New England Conference, United Church of Christ, Spotlight


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Kelly Jane Caesar

Pastor of First Congregational Church of East Hartford.

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