ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: DEBORAH YOUNGER-MITCHELL
Happy September and Labor Day to all my American friends and family! Can't believe we are here already. Where'd the summer go?!
I hope y'all are ready for something wonderful and NEW! As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I will be doing a monthly artist spotlight featuring an extremely talented creative who has agreed to be interviewed! I've been blessed with many free features and help with getting eyes on my work, so I wanted to give back and help others do the same too! So many people expressed interest that we'll be featuring new artists for some time to come. I figured I share so much of my day to day and business updates on social media that I would use the Blog Posts almost exclusively for artist spotlights.
This first creative named Deborah Younger Mitchell is someone who you will love. Though we are separated by years and time, we both are graduates of Tufts University and are fellow Jumbos (Tufts mascot). We connected by chance when I posted my own book on an Alumni Facebook page, and she commented with praise and her own work. Everything took off quickly from there, and since then she's become not only a wonderful resource but a great friend! She's a talented author with an eye towards: tradition, the importance of family, and storytelling, so without further ado...check out her work and interview below!
1.) How did you get your start with your practice? Tell us a bit about who you are, where you’re from, and what you do!
I am from Boston, though I grew up in Mattapan at the age of thirteen. Before that I lived in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury. Now I reside in Natick, MA which is a hub of cultural activities in a small Massachusetts town. I graduated from Tufts University in 1983 in Medford, MA with a degree in Child Studies and French.
I felt early on that a career in teaching was not the way for me. I never saw myself as a traditional classroom teacher, even though I was a Child Studies major. I intuitively knew my path would be more global, able to reach a wider range of people. My book is in several countries including Uganda, China, Bermuda, states throughout the USA, and in many libraries and two bookstores. Starting at a young age, I knew that I was a creative and artistic person. I found my passion specifically through music. I could find the perfect song that could move people's souls. I grew up steeped in Christian teachings. My first artistic bend, however, was dance. I sang in the church as well, mostly praise and worship songs. Soon after, I was asked to join a secular singing group, and later found myself singing in a High School band. I have a knack for finding talented artists and promoting them as well. As a result, I merged the sacred and the secular by forming my own ministry called "Women of Influence and Purpose". There were no African American librarians and the children's programming seemed to be lacking in diversity.
Under my umbrella organization Women of Influence and Purpose, I brought authors of color into the library.
I started writing children's books after one of my Aunts passed away. I come from a very large family of community activists in Boston. I took a class at the Cambridge Adult Center in Cambridge, MA. My inspiration and support came from God first, and my influential family. In particular my Dad, James Younger and my Aunt Mildred C. Hailey who was a national leader in housing rights.
2.) Who or what, if anything, inspires your work the most?
A photo of Deborah's Aunt Mildred who inspired the launch of her African American Saturday School!
My elders inspire my work the most. My Mother inspires me a great deal. My book is loosely based on my family and the values that I was taught as a child. My first book Poppin Beans is illustrated by a relative named Karen Penn. She is an illustrator and publisher of Extreme Overflow Publishing's children's division. Yolanda Lewis is the CEO of Extreme Overflow Publishing. Her mother is Karen Penn. My whole family contributed to this project including: my sister, nieces, and nephews, in particular. Ralph Jason Younger a.k.a. Chef Ralph, the owner of Simply Black and White Catering, added the culinary touches to the family tale and came up with the idea to include the coloring pages in the back of the book.
3.) As creatives, we all struggle. What’s been your biggest hurdle to achieving your own personal “greatness”? On the other hand, what’s been your proudest moment or greatest achievement?
My biggest struggle to overcome has been trying to write my second book. The first book was so successful. I want to continue to honor my ancestors, but it has been a challenge to do this. My proudest moments have been seeing the joy expressed on so many people's faces when they see the cover and after they read my book. It is truly a timeless tale that everyone can relate to regardless of race, creed or national origin.
4.) What, if anything, do you think your work communicates? What’s the biggest takeaway that you’d like to see for viewers?
A photo of Deborah's beautiful family!
My biggest takeaway is my love of God, as well as my love for my family. I think the family is important, especially today when our values are changing everyday. The values of love, respect, kindness, patience, sharing, and caring are important to me. I want to pass them down to the children who read my book.
5.) What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on embarking on a book tour in the libraries where I live. I have also been certified library support staff by the American Library Association. I know a lot about the field and have extensive connections with professionals in it. I want to make an impact on libraries and the programs that they offer. One of my goals is to establish an African American Saturday school teaching everyone about African American culture and achievements. My next goal is to complete my second book about my paternal grandmother which I have titled, "Nana's Means Collard Greens'. My goal is to pass down my family history to the next generation in children's books.
6.) Where can the good folks at home see more of your work?
You can view my work on my website www.poppinbeans.com. You can also find my work on my Facebook/Twitter and Instagram pages. I often sell my books at the Farmer's Market in Natick. Each year I participate in Multicultural Day in Natick. I offer resources for children on my website including Bible and French lessons, and African American history.
Thank you so much to Deborah for her time and willingness to share! I hope you enjoyed this artist Spotlight, and I can't wait to share the next few artists with you too!
Lots of love,