March 31, 2017
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This college student created a directory of books with people of color as main characters

Get inspired by these three stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

Kaya Thomas is a senior in college, and the developer and designer behind 'We Read Too,' an directory of books by authors of color. Photo courtesy of Kaya Thomas

Book smart: Earlier this week, Dartmouth College senior Kaya Thomas launched a crowdfunding campaign dear to her heart: She is requesting $10,000 to help run We Read Too. Since 2014, Thomas has run the app, which serves as a “mobile directory of books with (people of color) main characters written by authors of color.” Thomas found herself overwhelmed by recommendations from readers; as the designer, she and another volunteer had to vet hundreds of books for inclusion in the directory. The crowdfunding campaign, which reached its goal in less than 24 hours, will allow her to hire an additional helper and redesign the app. “When I was a teenager I began to realize that a lot of the books I read didn’t have characters that looked like me,” Thomas wrote on her Indiegogo page. “Realizing that made me feel invisible and affected how I perceived myself. After learning to code in 2013, I wanted to put my new skills towards solving this problem.”

Global flavor: A nonprofit in Washington, D.C., is dishing out a special new project. In collaboration with D.C.’s Capital City Public Charter School, the nonprofit 826DC, which focuses on literacy between the ages of 6-18, is publishing a book featuring students’ family recipes. According to NPR, a large proportion of the school’s students are “first-generation Americans with backgrounds spanning the globe, from El Salvador to Nigeria to Vietnam.” The project led these students to connect with their families on the topic of food, inspiring conversations about their heritage. Each student was tasked to write an essay around the dish they chose. Read five of the new book’s recipes here.

Working together: Affordable housing is a huge problem in New York, where rising rent prices are driving out poorer residents. So when ten individual nonprofits kept running into difficulties, they formed JOE NYC, a single trust to oversee acquisitions and pursue new affordable housing projects. JOE NYC, which stands for joint-ownership entity, is a way for New York’s housing groups to pool their resources, allowing them to apply for loans at lower rates and make property acquisitions in greater numbers. By the end of next year, they hope to have acquired 3,000 new affordable housing units.

Mikhail Klimentov

Mikhail Klimentov is a contributor for The Renewal Project.