rochelle riley

Clarence Tabb Jr, Detroit News

December 26, 2022

Detroit unveils 30-foot-tall Kwanzaa Kinara in Campus Martius

The city’s third cultural monument was unveiled Monday in the heart of downtown as gatherers celebrated the beginning of Kwanzaa. A 30-foot-tall Kwanzaa Kinara was displayed in Campus Martius to honor the seven-day celebration of African American culture and heritage that will continue through Sunday.

Detroit's Kwanzaa Kinara. Photo by Alkebu Lan Village

December 8, 2022

Detroit is getting the world’s largest Kwanzaa kinara

For years, Detroit has celebrated the holiday season with an enormous Christmas tree and a 26-foot-tall Hanukkah menorah in downtown’s Campus Martius Park. But one of the largest Black-majority cities in the nation has not celebrated Kwanzaa with a large kinara — until now.
Robert Smalls. Photo by Library of Congress

Originally Posted on the Root

Which Slave Sailed Himself to Freedom?

Just before dawn on May 13, 1862, Robert Smalls and a crew composed of fellow slaves, in the absence of the white captain and his two mates, slipped a cotton steamer off the dock, picked up family members at a rendezvous point, then slowly navigated their way through the harbor.

Author announces major photo exhibit to celebrate African American greatness in history

In honor of Black History Month All Year, Church Street Media is inviting parents to help their children become icons for a new exhibit featuring selected photos of children embodying the spirit of Black heroes. The exhibit was inspired by “That They Lived: African Americans Who Changed The World” by Rochelle Riley, featuring photographs by Cristi Smith-Jones.

Parents and teachers are encouraged to share with their children and students the history of the African Americans they choose, African Americans that all children should know. Then they are invited to help their children dress as these icons and be photographed for a major exhibit in Detroit.

“If we want to change the way America deals with race, we must teach all children all of American history.” – Rochelle Riley

Send photos shot in black and white – and the photo that served as a model – and a letter granting permission for the photo to be included in a public exhibit – to:

Bankable Marketing info@bankablemktg.com

Deadline is September 1, 2022
Questions? rochelleriley1619@gmail.com

That They Lived book cover, by Rochelle RileyThat They Lived: African Americans Who Changed The World

In February 2017, Rochelle came across a series of black-and-white photos on social media of four-year-old Lola Smith-Jones dressed as different African American women who had made history. Rochelle was immediately smitten. She was so proud to see this little girl so powerfully honor the struggle and achievement of women several decades her senior. Rochelle later reached out to Lola’s mom, Cristi Smith-Jones, and asked to pair her writing with Smith-Jones’s incredible photographs for a book. That book became “That They Lived: African Americans Who Changed The World.” It features Riley’s grandson, Caleb, and Lola photographed in timeless black and white, dressed as important individuals such as business owners, educators, civil rights leaders, and artists, alongside detailed biographies that begin with the figures as young children who had the same ambitions, fears, strengths, and obstacles facing them that readers today may still experience. The duo hopes this book will teach children on the cusp of puberty that they can be anything they aspire to be, that every famous person was once a child who, in some cases, overcame great obstacles to achieve.
 

That They Lived is an instant classic. Words and images, the past and the future, weave back and forth in a stunningly original children’s book, until we see and hear the American Dream becoming an American reality as the young people depicted—and the young people reading—come to know their history and their power. People of all ages will enjoy this brilliant, necessary, charming, and inspiring volume. Parents and teachers will find inspirations for endless activities inspired by these pages.

– Alice Randall, professor of African-American children’s literature at Vanderbilt University and author of The Diary of B. B. Bright, Possible Princess (winner of the Phillis Wheatley Book Award) and Black Bottom Saints.

“There is no other book about African American lives like That They Lived. Riley and Smith-Jones have revisited twenty-one historic figures to demonstrate that whatever fame or greatness one achieves, everyone was a child once. How wonderful to learn of the childhoods of icons from Douglass to Obama, Wells to Hamer, and so many more. The book gleams with the sheer variety of black life and ambition. The photographs are magic. This is for young readers, but really for all of us since we all came from somewhere.”

– David Blight, author of Pulitzer Prize-winning “Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom” and the Professor of African American Studies, History, and of American Studies, and Director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University.

Buy That They Lived

The Burden: African Americans And The Enduring Impact of Slavery

The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery is a plea to America to understand what life post-slavery remains like for many African Americans, who are descended from people whose unpaid labor built this land, but have had to spend the last century and a half carrying the dual burden of fighting racial injustice and rising above the lowered expectations and hateful bigotry that attempt to keep them shackled to that past.

Buy The Burden

Please enjoy the National Reading of Excerpts from “The Burden”

Please enjoy the National Reading of Excerpts from “The Burden” celebrating the paperback edition of the book. Presented Nov. 17, 2020 with a 40-second opening that allowed audiences to enter. Get your copy where books are sold.

Welcome to the digital home of force of nature, author, essayist and arts advocate Rochelle Riley. She spent nearly a quarter century as a columnist when she left the Detroit Free Press in 2019 to become Director of Arts and Culture for the City of Detroit. But Rochelle remains a writer by trade, warrior by necessity. She is at work completing her first novel and her third book on race.

Letters To Black Girls

“Black girls are under constant attack from racism and sexism. But they can survive. Better: They can thrive. Black women can help girls be healthy and whole if we approach them with love, honesty and vulnerability. There is no more powerful ally for a black girl than a former black girl.”