Student book project sheds light on racial literacy
March 20, 2021
At just five years old, Taylor Richardson (‘22) developed a love for space and the stars. She has attended multiple United States space camps and aspires to be the first Black woman to land on Mars.
These dreams, however, are coupled with her more serious goals of eliminating racial inequality.
“I will continue to face racism in every facet until those who feel differently change it,” Richardson stated in an email. With much racial tension existing in the world today, Richardson just wants to be judged for herself. “If I am to have any legacy, it would be not what but who I impact, engage, inspire and, most importantly, leave a seat at the table [for].”
To accomplish her goals, Richardson implemented drastic change in the community with projects such as launching 18 GoFundMe campaigns, raising over $250,000, and donating over 11,000 books internationally. However, she believes her advocacy work is far from over. “Until all people, especially those who look like me and [those who are] marginalized and oppressed, are treated equally and fairly, there will always be work to do,” she said.
Richardson continues to inspire change today with her latest project, The Black Friend Book Challenge, a proposal of racial literacy and education that began on January 15, 2021.
The idea sprouted after Richardson first read The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person, a book by Frederick T. Joseph. The text contains a collection of the author’s personal stories that spotlight racial inequality. “I related to everything that was being said and felt that this book would be a great resource to read for our generation,” she commented.
With the ambition of collecting 100 copies of Joseph’s book to donate to local middle and high school libraries, Richardson created her GoFundMe page. Before a week had passed, she had already raised $16,000. “I was completely surprised how quickly the campaign funds grew,” she said, “but that also told me that there are good people of all races who feel like I do.”
Interestingly, Richardson’s history with Joseph began long before her latest project. He grew inspired by one of Richardson’s first major projects, a screening of Hidden Figures for low-income girls, and decided to start his own fundraiser entitled The Black Panther Challenge, which shared a similar goal of taking children in Harlem, New York to see the trending Marvel film. In the end, his project collected over $50,000 via GoFundMe.
According to Richardson, after learning about her project to promote The Black Friend through social media, Joseph gave Richardson “his full blessing.” She said, “He’s such a nice man. He’s like a big brother now to me.”
Richardson’s fundraiser recently achieved its latest goal of $22,000, but she continues to reach for the stars. “I’m working to get the author [Joseph] to do a The Black Friend panel with me in late March,” she said.
Furthermore, Richardson aspires to instill the book’s reformative power into the Bolles curriculum. She stated, “My big goal would be to make this book a required summer reading for incoming ninth graders. Still working on that one, but I got a year to make it happen before I graduate next spring. So fingers crossed.”
Richardson’s passion for community service has run in the family for generations. “My mom is known as the connector of people; she literally knows everyone. And I’ve been volunteering with my Nana since I was six years old,” Richardson said. “So you can say community service is in the Richardson blood. Three generations of it.”
However, Richardson’s role models include more than just family members. Other than a handful of people who each influence her in a different way, a community Richardson says her mother entitled “the village,” Richardson idolizes Mae Jemison, the first Black astronaut to travel to space. She recalled, “I’ve now met her twice, and her drive, determination, and perseverance inspire me every day. And it’s not that she is the first [Black astronaut in space], but that she works hard.”
At Bolles, her primary goals match those of a determined student and leader. “I am grateful to the teachers and faculty who are teaching us and challenging us to put our best foot forward academically, and so my biggest accomplishment is ensuring I make them and myself proud of the work I do academically and the character of being a good student and friend. That’s what I think the Bolles Way should be.”
Richardson emphasizes that Bolles must continue working to form a legacy of racial equality synonymous with the school’s academic and athletic prestige. “My mom recently said we have to be on the right side of history. I think Bolles is trying, but as James Baldwin said, ‘How much time do I need for your progress?’”
While she has individually initiated a plethora of service projects, Richardson believes it takes a united community to end widespread racism altogether. She encourages everyone to “find a cause or purpose and go after it yourself to make change. Whether you raise $22,000 like me or $22 for two books, it all matters and is equally important.”
To anyone who is eager to foster change within the community, Richardson’s advice is to “put yourself out there. Let’s face it. The world is changing and we, youth, are not waiting to change the future; we are changing it now!”