AUSTIN, Texas - After the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, an Austin mother turned entrepreneur wants to help parents discuss racial inequities and systemic racism in our country.
Kelli Mason is using Ripple Reads, her new book club subscription, to fulfill her mission and her quest for social justice. "Do you want to go up? Up into the sky with your toes?" Mason says to her 16-month-old son Henry, as he swings on the backyard playset of their West Austin home.
Her son is in diapers now, but this year’s racial movement has prompted her to stand up for her son who’ll one day grow up into a black man.
"Parents, in particular, were saying how do we talk to our kids about race? A lot of parents didn’t feel comfortable having the conversation regardless of their background but they also knew that they had to have a conversation." Mason says. "We can’t keep avoiding uncomfortable conversations or we’re going to keep finding ourselves repeating these patterns."
Mason's goal is to put a stop to racial injustice, beginning with the youngest generations.
"All right Jason what do you think about the cover?" Mason asks her nephew about the packaging Ripple Reads comes in. She says every part of her business has been thought out.
"There’s a lot of people," Jason responds.
Mason says the goal is to have children observe a variety of different backgrounds, people, races, and languages. "How can we make it so that parents and caregivers know what to say, know the questions to ask," Mason explains about the book club.
Each month, children and parents get a packet with a book addressing issues surrounding race.
"What do you think when you see this?" Mason asks her nephew.
"I think it’s very diverse in different languages," Jason responds as they flip through this month's book.
"Ultimately, our goal is to help families, regardless of their racial background, build an identity as a family that stands up for racial justice," Mason says.
Ripple Reads also looks at the historical aspect, the roots of systemic racism.
"Even though they [black and brown people] technically have the right to vote there were also things that kept them from exercising that right," Mason says, flipping through one of the Ripple Reads Books.
"How?" Jason asks.
"Well, I'll show you. Actually in this magazine we’ve got one of the things that were put in place is called the literacy test," Mason says, showing one of the literacy tests many Black citizens were put through. "Write right from the left to the right as you see it spelled here."
"What does that even mean?" Jason asks.
Through sending materials like this, Mason says it is one way kids can understand.
Mason has had her hands in many career paths, this latest venture is a culmination of her life’s work.
"I’ve done a few things, I used to be a lawyer, but after leaving law, I got into workplace inclusion and so I spent a lot of time, several years talking to adults about bias, about micro aggression's, about racial justice, about gender justice and sexual orientation justice," Mason says. "I realize through that work, that is still is so important, but if we could reach kids when they’re younger and get them excited and get them educated and empowered then we’re not going to have to have these conversations."
It’s her way of facing her own fears of the difficult conversation on race, she grew up in a bi-racial home. Now she's making sure the young black boys in her family, grow up in a more equal and fair world.
"To me, I feel good that I'm conquering that fear and then I'm putting this out there because by having these conversations instead of letting kids make their own conclusions, which they’re going to do right? Kids want to make sense of the world around them, we all do!" Mason says. "Instead of having them struggle with that alone, internalize racism or internalize inequity and not see privilege whatever they’re grappling with from their own perspective, instead of having them do that alone we’re tackling that stuff as adults, as people who care about racial justice and saying, 'I’m going to have the honest conversation. I’m going to step out of my comfort zone and hopefully we’re going to grow together.'"
Mason is a partner at Notley, an Austin company investing in social good projects like Ripple Reads.
The book club has consulted with professors at the University of Texas who focus on research surrounding how to have conversations about race and inclusion with children.
If you want more information, head to www.RippleReads.com, use GOODDAY20 for 20% off orders.