'Creativity is Currency' Black Kids Can Learn to Use, Says Crayola Exec

Crayola Creativity Week, celebrated January 23-29, gives Black youth and their families a chance to start their own creative journeys.

Embroidery hoop with image of a Black child holding up a paint brush.

Amanda/#blkcreatives for Kindred by Parents

Crayola Creativity Week returns for its second year to support teaching and learning in homes and classrooms. From January 23-29, Crayola will provide free-virtual events, resources, and opportunities for kids to win prizes. This free week dedicated to creativity will provide limitless opportunities for kids around the globe who have internet access, whether they are learning from their school or their living room. Black children and families may also see Crayola Creativity Week as a chance to learn how to leverage creativity to benefit themselves, their community, and the world.

Kindred spoke with James Wells, Education Manager at Crayola and host of “Creativity Tips," a video series on Crayola Education’s Youtube channel. Wells says he hopes those who participate in Crayola Creativity Week gain the understanding that they can use art-making to connect learning to other areas of their life. “Creativity is innate in all of us. We all have it: it’s just important for us to cultivate it,” he says. “And I think in our Black communities in particular, we really have to lean into the many forms of creativity.”

Unfortunately, often Black youth lack access to access to creative pursuits and extra-curricular activities. Having access is programs like Crayola Creativity Week can make a difference. The program aims to engage and inspire all, especially youth ages 7-11, with various activities.

Black communities are often associated with being artistic. Historically this has been exploited for entertaining others, but creativity has limitless forms and presents endless possibilities for Black kids. As a Black educator and parent, Wells feels strongly that the ability to think creatively aids in problem-solving and that those who can use their imagination constructively gain advantages.

Black youth participating in this year’s celebration will find inspiration for expected forms of creativity—like writing or illustrating their own projects. But they will also find opportunities to dream bigger, more impactful projects like starting a business or working to solve a community problem.

This year’s Crayola Creativity Week is expected to be well attended. By Dec. 19, close to 12,000 participants had registered.  

Wells encourages his children to discover answers through play and experimentation and encourages other parents to do the same. “Creativity is currency,” he says, noting for Black youth, having this kind of currency is crucial. “Creativity is important for our kids to be competitive, to be relevant, and to continue to be successful in this world that we’re in.” 

Wells also believes representation is a big part of what makes learning more accessible for kids. The slim representation of Black males in education is not lost on Wells. He knows the value of children seeing a Black man coming to the schools as Crayola’s Education Manager. “Children need to see people who look like them doing what they want to do,” he says. He enjoys being the face of Crayola’s online “Creativity Tips” for similar reasons. 

He adds this is why a big part of Crayola’s Creativity Week includes diverse stories and perspectives. The team of celebrity creators and authors also includes Darryl DMC McDaniels, the co-founder of the hip-hop group Run DMC and the author of Darryl’s Dream, a biographical picture book that shares McDaniels’ early aspiration to use his voice creatively. McDaniels’ book shares how leaning into his creativity led to a legendary career. 

But the product of creative pursuits may not lead to celebrity—kids need to know that’s okay too. Wells wants youth to see the value of creativity beyond monetary gain and notes there’s immense value in the process of creating. He believes educators and parents need to move away from focusing on the “products of educational experience” and pay more attention to the educational experience itself. “Creativity provides an opportunity to inject some joy into the learning experience,” he says. Youth are better prepared to tackle challenging concepts and material when they view creativity as part of their education, not in opposition to it. 

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles