Author to children: Read Black history to find your purpose

Dr. Artika Tyner (Dwight Hobbes/MSR News)

Dr. Artika R. Tyner, attorney at law, is living proof that lawyers are people, too. In a spirit of altruistic activism, she has launched a drive to fund the creation and publication of Making A Difference: The Story of Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire, a children’s book that indeed makes a difference.

Its purpose is to offer a product addressing a compelling issue, the lack of reading material geared to minority youth. As the Cooperative Children’s Book Center notes, in 2014 more than 3,000 children’s books were published in America, only nine percent of them by diverse authors and a mere 11 percent focusing on characters of color.

Also, it doesn’t take scholarly research to observe that reading, fundamental as ever, is essential to all children acquiring an education. Author, educator, public speaker, justice advocate and founding CEO of Planting People, Growing Justice Leadership Institute, Tyner wrote Making A Difference to help change this.

She has developed leadership educational materials from K-12 to college and grad school, faith communities and nonprofits with Making A Difference, designed to make international impact. A global tour kicks off in both of the Twin Cities and will wrap up in Ghana, where she traveled with students last summer and distributed a limited-edition 1,000 copies free of charge.

This invaluably informative book is a tidy eight-page primer young minds can readily digest and on which they can reflect and comment in a single sitting. The premise takes a charming adventure of discovering self-worth and connection to community as young Justice, nurtured and encouraged by her grandmother, is empowered to dream of and aspire to realizing her full potential in life. This through her exposure to historic figures whose iconic accomplishments provide priceless role models.

For instance, an excerpt reads, “Justice spent the rest of the afternoon reading about Ida B. Wells, a woman who wielded her pen for the advancement of racial equality and racial justice. She skillfully waged war through her publications and work as editor of Memphis Free Speech and Headlight.

“She continued to advance social change while serving as a journalist with Chicago’s Daily Inter Ocean and the Chicago Conservator, one of the oldest African American newspaper publications in the United States. Justice was amazed by how Ida B. Wells used her pen to write for justice.”

Among other heroes here are the more or less mandatory, such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as not quite as famous but nonetheless groundbreaking forebears like Wells; Shirley Chisholm; lawyer, singer, actor and professional athlete Paul Robeson; and Dr. Wangari Maathai, “who organized the Green Belt Movement with the hopes of restoring trees in her home country, Kenya.”

Tyner states, “I chose the figures in the book based upon some of the historic figures who have influenced my life. Each represents a dimension of my work: legislative advocacy [Chisholm], writing as advocacy [Wells], community organizing and civic engagement [Robeson] and lawyer as leader [Charles Hamilton Houston].”

At the conclusion of little Justice’s journey of exhilarating enlightenment, “Finally Justice was sure. She knew she could make a difference in the world by becoming a lawyer. Now, Justice could see herself more clearly. She was determined to use her education in the struggle for justice. Justice would live up to her name.”

Said Tyner, “Over the years, I also published a blog series entitled Profiles of Courage, which provides a profile of each of these leaders.” This in keeping with a lifelong dedication to social progress that has been characteristic of her career, including writing The Lawyer as Leader: How to Plant People and Grow Justice (ABA Book Publishing) and The Leader’s Journey: A Guide to Discovering the Leader Within (ABA Books).

Dr. Tyner pointed out in a previous MSR interview, “History has shown us lawyers have been at the forefront of social change movements. Whether it be Nelson Mandela, who fought to dismantle the racial caste system of apartheid, Mohandas Gandhi, who admonishes us to be the change we wish to see in the world, or Marian Wright Edelman, who has committed her life’s work to standing up for children and ensuring that no child is left behind.”

A principal part of the production process and primary cost is contracting noted illustrator Jeremy Norton, who states at his website, “My work reflects my experience of being a child growing up. The essence of what I do is in the mood and emotion; of joy, adventure and discovery, universal feelings that most people share when they’re young. I want to portray that sense of wonder in the world.” Additional funds will be used to cover curriculum development, production and printing.


Contributions to this vital initiative are welcome online at Dr. Artika Tyner’s website ( or at KickStarter or Nidiggo or by pre-ordering Making A Difference: The Story of Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire.

Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.