Miss Cherry is a co-founder of The Center for the Healing of Racism, which provides workshops to kids and adults that spark important dialogue about race and racism. She’s also tauthor of “Bread is a Simple Food: Teaching Children About Cultures”, which explains her student-given nickname, The Bread Lady. Miss Cherry is dedicated to healing people of all ages of their racism-based trauma and teaching kids about spreading kindness and accepting others.
It’s so important to have candid conversations about race and racism. How do you teach youth about these broad, intimidating topics?
One of the things I focus on with kids is what we have in common. It sounds silly, but everyone eats bread. The bread looks different depending on its culture, but it’s still bread. I went out to see how many kinds of bread I could find in Houston, and found breads in all shapes, sizes, and colors. In the workshop, the kids are excited to try all the options and I explain to them how people are like bread: we might look different but we are all part of the same human family. I ask the children to promise Miss Cherry that if they ever hear someone making fun of the way a person looks because of their skin color, religion, hair, or anything to respond, “That’s not true because all children are beautiful and we are all human.” The bread is a fun way to relay that message to them and keeps them engaged. For our older students, I have them write down racial stereotypes that they’ve heard down on a notecard. One by one, we break down why those stereotypes are wrong and why we shouldn’t believe them. It helps us connect to our common humanity.
What has the experience been like for your organization being in Texas where legislatures are trying to eradicate critical race theory from schools?
My business is all about bringing workshops on race into classrooms, so I was incredibly upset when the bill passed. There is nothing in my lessons that makes children uncomfortable, but because the word “racism” is in our name, it’s very possible I won’t be allowed to go into schools anymore. I’ll transition into working with Boys & Girls Clubs and afterschool programs if that happens. Houston is very diverse, and it’s important that our children are taught about race and racism while they are still at an age where their opinions aren’t fully formed.
How do you educate people on how to be allies for other races?
Ally building is something I teach to adults. Our hallmark program is called “Dialogue Racism”– we have all sorts of people come together to have an authentic conversation about racism. Our mission says that education leads to empowering and healing ourselves. Being an ally means that you can sit with someone of a different race and know the shoes that they’ve walked in and acknowledge the racism they’ve faced. Racism really has affected everyone in some way, regardless of how you look. Our program looks at how racism is perpetuated, institutionalized racism, internalized racism, cultural racism– we go into everything. I like to say we are a one-stop shop for healing whether you are 5 or 50 years old.
What is the best part of your job?
I love creating the workshops. It gives me an opportunity to further my learning about other groups of people and the hurt they have experienced. I also love delivering the workshops. When kids have that lightbulb moment it’s so powerful. There’s so much joy in helping people connect and heal. We recently started doing our programs in Spanish so we can reach even more people with our workshops. I even got on TikTok to try to reach more young people. I could deliver workshops all day long, it’s so uplifting.