The aesthetic may change but the fact remains that chocolate, in all forms, is undoubtedly sweet.
Instilling confidence into every chocolate girl is Stephanie Fleary, an elementary school teacher, entrepreneur, single mother and author. Publishing “Chocolatey Brown” in February this year, Fleary has crafted a book to push girls of darker skin and all shades that they are beautiful no matter what.
“I think the fact that chocolate comes in all shades and all flavors, I really try to push that aspect so I can reach all of my brown girls. Chocolate is sweet no matter what shade it is and when I’m teaching and doing readings or book signings I tell them that all of us are ‘Chocolatey Brown,’” Fleary said.
The Grenadian descendant has always known she is beautiful. Her parents fostered a strong sense of pride, drive for excellence and most importantly, the fact that she is beautiful no matter what. The inspiration for Fleary’s second book came straight out of a familiar setting: the classroom.
During a discussion centering around topics related to Black History Month, the second grade teacher at Mary Queen of Heaven school servicing K-8 grades — the same school she attended as a young girl — led to a young Haitian-American girl inquisitively asking why she was black and her mother was white. Fleary identified that her student meant to ask why she was darker than her parents to which the young girl revealed that she disliked her darker shade of skin.
“‘Chocolatey Brown’ basically came about from a discussion in the classroom I was talking to my students,” she said. “It was Black History Month and we were talking about slavery and that it doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white, everyone is important and should be treated equally. One of the little girls raised her hand and said. ‘Ms. Fleary, how come I’m black and my mommy and my sister are white?’ I had to explain to her that they are African American and she said ‘well, I don’t like my dark skin.’ That just hit my soul. I knew there were books and T.V. programs out there dealing with this issue for adults but it starts at childhood. So I came up with the idea for ‘Chocolatey Brown.’”
Colorism is a major problem plaguing African and Caribbean American communities. Oprah Winfrey dedicated two special programs titled “Dark Girls” and “Light Girls” exploring the multifaceted problem and how it effects women and girls today.
Fleary’s student’s revelation provided a sense of urgency to create a book to develop a strong sense of self through relatable characters. Colorism effects women of all ages and Fleary believes opening the discussion at the early development stages in children will help in destroying the stigma and stereotypes tied to complexion. The teacher character, Ms. Honey, in the 30-page book is based completely on Fleary channeling what it is she does daily as both a mother and educator.
“The teacher in the sotry is me just teaching the children in the class, Chocolatey Brown in particular, that they are beautiful no matter what. It is all about self-belief and confidence and instilling these things as soon as possible into children,” she said.
With her second book in shelves and a third focusing on young boys in the works, Fleary’s mounting plate has forced her to close a chapter in effort to start a new one. The seasoned teacher will conclude her career at the end of the school year to focus on her entrepreneurial pursuits — Empowered Stilettos. empow
“I’m currently transitioning to be a full-time entrepreneur so this will be my last year teaching,” she said. “That’s a big thing for me especially because I am a single mom but I have so much faith in what I’m doing that I won’t let anything stop me. My company is called Empowered Stilettos and it is a personal development company. I specialize in personal development training for women and children.”
“Chocolatey Brown” is meant to be used as a change agent to encourage all women and girls to look within themselves to find their inner confidence versus waiting for an external source. “I hope it will be a household name. It will reach those children and even those adults because a lot of women suffer from those colorism issues and actually teach them to look within for that affirmation they look to get from the outside sources. I want it to spread where people will look internally for their confidence,” she said.
“Chocolatey Brown” is available for purchase at Fleary’s website www.choco