The Girl Behind The Black Friend Challenge

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

#What is the Black Friend Challenge?

In January of 2021, Jacksonville teen Taylor Richardson started a GoFundMe campaign and reading challenge called #TheBlackFriendChallenge in the hopes of starting a dialogue to combat racism. Her original goal was to get 100 copies of The Black Friend by Frederick Joseph. She's since raised over $22,000 and has distributed books to schools and libraries in over 30 states and 40 US Embassies. The Jacksonville Public Library accepted #theblackfriendchallenge and Taylor's generous donation - ensuring that the book would be available for pickup at all 21 Library locations.

UPDATE: Taylor will be moderating a Lit Chat with author Frederick Joseph over Zoom on Wednesday, March 31 at 7pm with fellow teens Jakhye Wilkins and Yasmeen Ibrahim. Learn more and register by clicking here. Taylor believes that The Black Friend book should be in every school, every library, and put in as many teens' hands as possible.

More from Taylor:

#The Book

“The Black Friend is THE book everyone needs to read right now. Frederick Joseph has written an essential window into the movement toward anti-racism. Read it, absorb it, and be changed because of it.” — Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give

In the "Introduction" to The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person and throughout the book, the author makes clear who he wrote it for and why. "My aim is to help you go from being a person who is learning and unlearning things about these problems created and perpetuated by white people... to someone who actively works to solve them." He believes that there are white people who do care... and who want to make change. "But these same  [people] often don't understand the negative impact they're having..." 

More than anything, author Frederick Joseph wants to make a friend. In story after story, he relives some of his own painful experiences with racism and white supremacy. However, he balances these harsh truths and open wounds with lots of joyful or sometimes funny moments. He talks about family, music, food. "I think people become friends by sharing moments, by laughing together, hurting together, learning together..." Simply put: he is trusting the reader with his pain, his joy, his hopes and dreams... all in an effort to become that Black friend so many people need. "Because when there's trust between friends, they can have those hard conversations." 

#Who is Taylor Richardson?

Taylor Richardson aka Astronaut StarBright is a 17-year-old high school student who attends The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Florida. She is also an "advocate, speaker, a disruptor for good" and aspiring astronaut. The focus of her advocacy and philanthropy has historically been about shining a light on inclusion and diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

Taylor knows the power of books to change lives. When she was in the second grade, a librarian handed her a book about Dr. Mae Jemison - the first Black female astronaut. Taylor had been relentlessly bullied in the first grade and here was this story about a successful Black woman who had overcome bullying and made it to the stars. She developed a love of reading, STEM and space as well as a personal mission that day.

You may know Taylor as the #gofundmechallenge kid. She's definitely lived up to that title with several other successful campaigns like the #HiddenFiguresChallenge, #CaptainMarvelChallenge, and #BlackGirlsLEADChallenge. At 14, she raised $100,000 to send young girls to see the movie A Wrinkle in Time and to give them copies of the book. For more on that, read this great NPR article.  

Taylor also is a lifelong and regular library user, Space Camp alumna, and a student space ambassador with Generation Mars (she's determined to visit Mars one day). 

#Who is Frederick Joseph?

You may know Frederick Joseph as the man who started #BlackPantherChallenge and raised over a million dollars to help 75,000 children worldwide to see 'Black Panther’ movie for free. It was one of the biggest GoFundMe campaigns in history, actually. Frederick is also an award-winning marketing professional, activist, philanthropist, and author. Frederick consistently writes about marketing, culture, and politics for the Huffington Post, USA Today, NowThisNews, The Independent, AdWeek, amongst others. He's also one of the many people Taylor Richardson counts as a friend and mentor.

Taylor and Frederick take a selfie
Taylor and Frederick taking a selfie.


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