In the six and a half years that I’ve been natural, there has been an increase in natural hair events and products. Some events have been more child-friendly than others but still mainly catering for adults. Even more limited are the books that feature black and other ethnic minorities. This summer Black British author Casey Elisha filled that niche. Two weeks ago I attended the Children’s Empowerment & Literary Festival she hosted at Deptford Lounge, London, under the banner of Casey Elisha Books. The event was aimed at children aged 11 and under and consisted of free workshops around empowerment and literature. To my knowledge this event was the first of its kind in recent years. CELF 2016 was a good event and look forward to seeing it grow from strength to strength.
Casey Elisha kindly issued me one adult and one child ticket to attend CELF 2016. However, I brought along friends on the day. At the cost of £12.50 for a family ticket, we had access to any of the workshops carded for the day as well as the panel discussions. Good value I thought. We arrived in time for the ‘Path to Self Love’ workshop at 1 pm, main hall, but didn’t realise until after what was actually going on. So, to settle in we walked around the hall checking out the products on sale. There was small but good variety of vendors from hair care to educational subscription boxes to toys and more. To name a few brands present, there were: Curls-Au-Natural, Mane Divas, Crème of Nature, Readaware, My Magic Scarf, Liberty Box, Butterfly Books, Sankofa Creative and Bonding School.
After our walk about, the children joined in ‘Snuggle Munsters Story Time’ workshop. Here again it was a bit hard to follow. The children sat in a circle listened and took part. Angelo was awarded a small prize of a mechanical pencil. He was very pleased. As for me, in the audience it was hardier to follow due to the din of chatter. The breakout sessions were better. Being away from the noise the kids could focus better without distraction. I was also able to follow proceedings better. Angelo, his friend Miss B and her older brother attended ‘My Empowerment Journal’ at 2 pm. It was a twenty five minutes session. Just enough for attendees to think and write about what they were good at and words to describe themselves, then share it with the class. For Angelo it was an excellent forum to practice his writing skills and reading back what he wrote to a group. I really liked that session and it reminded me that I had planned to get him his own journal (note to self: must make journal for Angelo) Of course moving a breakout room brings another challenge of splitting oneself. I left Valentina with Mrs B (Miss B’s mum) and she sat in on the ‘Toddler Book Reading’. The book was Trish Cooke’s So Much unfortunately I forgot to ask Valentina about her story time experience because I dashed back to join her and Miss B for the ‘BEATiful Barbie Makeover’. I was impressed what could be achieved with a few pipe-cleaners and water. Participants didn’t have enough time to give their Barbies a full curly-do makeover but the demonstration was sufficient for us to complete it at home.
It was a long day for the little ones unfortunately I was unable to stay for the Panel Discussion. It was meant to be around the importance of empowering children at a young age and promoting diverse literature. Panellists included: Verna Wilkins founder of Tamarind Books, Karen Allen founder of ‘Dare to Dream’, author Sade Fadipe, motivational speaker Samuel Speaks and author Nicola Tenyue. This segment was especially for adults. It was run in at the same time with the ‘I CAN Workshop’ which was in a breakout room for ages 4-9. Therefore parents, carers and other adults who wanted to attend the discussion could do so without disruption.
CELF 2016 was a good family day out. I applaud Casey Elisha for her insight to run such an event. I hope to see more in the future. Nonetheless, there is always room for improvement. I note the following as constructive criticism:
- The venue was lovely but it was hard to find.
- The sessions were spot but the noise level in the main hall was a distraction at times.
- Vendors and volunteers should not have been allowed to take part in raffles or competitions.
Come 2017 I want to see CELF bigger and better. Me and mine will surly be there God our lives, as we say. Visit Casey Elisha’s website for her write up on the day or to purchase her books online.