EASTERN SHORE, Va. (WAVY) — An Eastern Shore native is using her talents to honor women in Black History and inspire young children to follow their dreams.
Vashti Harrison, who is an author and illustrator, published her first book “Little Leaders, Bold Women in Black History” in December.
Harrison says the idea blossomed last February when she challenged herself to draw and post it on social media daily for the entire month.
“When Carter G. Woodson started Negro History Week in 1926, he wanted to highlight the stories that have been long neglected throughout history. I wanted to focus on women in particular because they’ve been doubly neglected,” she said.
Harrison says she researched everything on her own and wanted to include a diverse number of leaders for children.
“I want little girls and children everywhere to see themselves in each of their stories and identify that they don’t have to be one thing,” she said.
Harrison says her favorite to draw was Bessie Coleman, who was a famous pilot in the early 20th century.
All of her drawings show their characters with a sense of serenity on their faces.
She says it was done that way to reflect black girls in a positive light.
“I read all these studies that say that little black girls are seen as more adult and less innocent as girls in the same age range and that just breaks my heart. I don’t do very much in the world. I draw pictures. If in my work I can remind people that kids are kids and all kids are innocent, I’ll do that,” she said.
Little Leaders has already gained a lot of popularity.
In January, Harrison won an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Children.
Harrison says knowing her work has been received well is the icing on the cake.
“To have validation that other people recognize and value it is amazing but the thing that means the most about it is seeing little kids have it and running into people in the streets with it. That’s what it was for and I care a lot about how kids are responding to it,” she said.
Harrison says two years ago, she never would have expected all that she’s done within a year.
Harrison says at that time she was let go from her job working for a TV show and after applying to around 200 jobs, she moved back in with her parents in Onley.
After submitting her work for an illustration competition and winning, she got an agent and moved to New York, where she now lives.
The passion for her work drove her like it did the others inside her book.
It’s those stories of struggles and victory she wants to bridge kids to so they’ll know nothing can stand in their way.
Just like nothing could hold the “Little Leaders” back, nothing is holding Harrison back.
She has a “Little Leaders United Kingdom Edition” coming out in March.
Other books she’s illustrated, “The Festival of Colors” and “CC Loves Science,” will be out this year.
Harrison says she’s also working on sequels for “Little Leaders.”
“I just want to tell stories and draw pictures. I’m very excited about where I am. There’s a lot more coming on the horizon,” she said.