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Sitcom Star, Children’s Author Teaches Teachers at John P. Parker

Actress and author Karyn Parsons, best known for her role as Hillary Banks on the TV sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” joined John P. Parker School staff for a special professional development focused on representation in children’s literature. 

Parsons is the founder of Sweet Blackberry, a foundation dedicated to sharing little known stories of African American achievement with children. The books and films have featured notable people including inventor Garrett Morgan, ballerina Janet Collins and aviator Bessie Coleman.

Dr. David Childs, Northern Kentucky University’s Director of Black Studies, joined Parsons and John P. Parker staff in the school’s library as they discussed Black history, the importance of representation in the classroom and behind the scenes information about life on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” including her favorite scenes and biggest bloopers.

Karyn Parson at JPP“If we can do what we can to have them (children) represented in stories, they can recognize themselves and go, ‘oh, she looks like me,’ or we show them real people in history who accomplished incredible things and they can recognize that, ‘oh I’m capable of doing that,’ and they can see that these challenges are actually opportunities for greatness,” Parsons said. 

Dr. Kimberly Mack shared the intentionality to ensure all children are represented in John P. Parker and Cincinnati Public Schools curriculum materials. 

“It’s important that when kids come in the building, they see themselves. When they open up the book, they see themselves. When they’re watching a video, they see themselves so in every area of teaching, our kids they see themselves,” Dr. Mack said. “It’s not just themselves, but also other people that may not look like them, that may not believe the same things that they leave, but they learn to have a respect and tolerance for other cultures.” 

Parsons believes sharing these stories of achievement when children are young will change how they value themselves. 

“It can change for all children. Children who aren’t Black and Brown can value their neighbor as well. It can change the landscape of race for children if they come into the world knowing these stories of celebration,” Parsons said.