RICHMOND, Va. -- Carylee Carrington is a storyteller.
The circumstance of how she became one, however, still stings.
"My first book, 'Everyone Just Like Me' was actually inspired by my son. Unfortunately, when he was in kindergarten, at just five years old, he was told by a classmate that he shouldn't be playing with children of the same skin color," Carrington said. "He came home to me and I wanted to find books that would be able to teach him the lesson that, you know, that's not how we operate. That's not how we should think. And I couldn't find anything on his age level."
Carrington said her mother's words inspired her.
"If you can't find it, write it," she said.
Now, Carrington has written several books about diversity and inclusion, including "Pretty Hair" and "Maya Sings Country," two books she said encourage children to embrace their appearance and live beyond their stereotypes.
“I want to make sure that we’re getting in front of community leaders and parents and guardians to ensure that we have books that have the representation that are needed. If they’re not going to be in our schools, in our libraries, they need to be in our home libraries," Carrington said.
She passed down her spirit of entrepreneurship to her two young sons, who started selling t-shirts at pop-up events Carrington attends.
That same spirit of entrepreneurship radiated through Black Village of RVA's third annual Juneteenth Block Party.
Roughly 70 different Black-owned businesses set up outside of Diversity Thrift hoping to make sales and share in the celebration of Juneteenth.
"It's a celebration, not just because we're Black. But it's just a celebration. You're free," said Darrick Hanks-Harris, the founder of Black Village RVA. "This is our Fourth of July."
It's something Pastor Bruce Johnson Jr. said he preaches about. When he first learned about the story being Juneteenth celebrations, this was his reaction: "I think the first thing that went through my head was, 'Wow, we have more power than we think.'"
"We have a greater history than what we were exposed to in school, unfortunately. I think this type of event, and the knowledge that we get, it should cause us to take more pride each year in our people. So, I'm proud of that," Johnson Jr. said.
The story of liberation is one Carrington said she will continue to share with her sons.
"They are the leaders of tomorrow and their legacy will live on," she said.
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