“Give the youth the building blocks of life.”
Each month we highlight a community program that aligns with the values of SoulVision Magazine. We believe engaging with one’s community is critical to fostering positive change in the world.
For our July issue, we highlight Clever Communities In Action (CCIA), a nonprofit organization based in Norfolk, VA that focuses on educating and empowering youth and communities of color. Starr Armstrong, the founder and executive director of CCIA, has civil advocacy in her DNA. She is the granddaughter of Freedom Fighters. “Many of CCIA’s programs center around promoting literacy and closing the achievement gap. I am an author, motivational speaker, and youth program development consultant,” she says. With two locations in Norfolk, VA, her Razor Sharp Readers program is an incentivized literacy program that focuses primarily on African-American boys reading in barber shops for credit and eventually a free cut. “The program helps close the literacy gap and inspire lifelong readers,” she explains.
Starr Armstrong and CIAA highlight “culturally affirming literature” which are books with African-American characters and stories that are relatable to African-American children and written by African-American authors. Barbershops are a place for young and old generations to connect. At one of their locations, Kinetic Kutz and Stylez, CIAA kicked off the summer with a community cookout that emphasizes the importance of literacy. In addition, throughout the summer, guest readers will read to children and engage in a dialogue about books. “We take pride in providing an atmosphere in which children can learn outside of school and receive positive reinforcement for reading. Soon, it will be time for our back-to-school ice cream social and book giveaway. Cool treats and cool reads. We can’t wait!” Starr Armstrong says.
Starr has her eyes on reaching a larger audience with a planned literacy expo. “Clever Communities In Action’s first annual African-American Children’s Literature Expo is an opportunity to expose the community to culturally affirming literature and its value. There will be black authors showcasing and selling their books. We will have multiple panel discussions around the literacy gap that exists among African-American children and how we can use these books to help close gaps. The Expo will also feature a conversation with a nationally renowned author,” she says. The Expo will have interactive book readings, arts and crafts projects for children, face painting, free haircuts, a food truck and a variety of books for sale. “We are elated to put on this event and to work with Norfolk Public Schools, various community partners and all of the talented authors. It is a tremendous win for the community,” she says. Starr Armstrong is working on a children’s book and is available for speaking engagements.
To find out how you can give your support to Clever Communities In Action, visit their website clevercommunities.org/team/starr-armstrong, and follow their Instagram ccia_org or follow Starr Armstrong on Facebook Starr Armstrong and Instagram @starr__armstrong.