'Gracie's Corner' Creator Says This Is Just the Beginning

The educational YouTube channel was inspired by creator Dr. Javoris Hollingsworth's daughter and Black music he heard as he traveled around the country.

Graceyn of Gracie's Corner and her family
Photo: Courtesy of The Hollingsworth Family

Known for its catchy beats that entice parents to get up and dance, the Black-owned YouTube channel Gracie's Corner highlights Black culture worldwide through more than 40 short, educational videos. The videos cover everything from the ABCs, counting, and colors, to everyday tasks and holidays and, since they debuted on June 22, 2020, they've taken off.

"[The 600,000 subscribers] has been completely unreal. Just unreal," says creator Dr. Javoris Hollingsworth, Ph.D., of Houston. "It feels like just yesterday we only had 100 followers or subscribers."

The channel features popular songs like "Phonics Song," "Wheels on the Bus," and "The Counting Song: Count to 50."

Gracie's Corner
Gracie's Corner/Youtube

For Kids, By a Kid

If you're wondering who the singer is, it's Dr. Hollingsworth's oldest daughter, Graceyn, who is 9 years old and says "singing is what I love to do." The channel is named after Graceyn, who goes by Gracie for short, and asked her parents to start the channel. She also has a place in the creative process.

"I really want to nurture her creativity so when she makes these little suggestions, I try to incorporate it. I never want her to feel like she doesn't have a voice in this whole process," says Dr. Hollingsworth.

Dr. Hollingsworth, a former collegiate organic chemistry professor, writes and oversees the production of the animated videos.

It was hard to find educational YouTube videos where Black kids had the main roles, Dr. Hollingsworth says. That lack of Black representation in online educational children's videos was the reason his family decided to create the channel. He struggled to find appropriate videos for his kids to watch during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There needs to be something where children of color are at the forefront. That's why I'm very intentional about how we portray the different characters and who's featured. Even showing a full family trying to counteract a lot of these different types of stereotypes that people try to place on people of color in general," says Dr. Hollingsworth. The channel has gained so much traction this year, that Dr. Hollingsworth quit his job in May.

"I came down to a decision where I had to choose either letting go of Gracie's Corner or letting go of the professor gig," says Dr. Hollingsworth. "I saw a greater impact from what we were doing with Gracie's Corner. We're reaching children and families across the globe so it was kind of easy to weigh those options."

Honoring Musical Influences

The impact, Dr. Hollingsworth says, is multi-faceted.

In the "ABC Song," each letter is accompanied by an affirmational phrase, such as "'A,' I'm amazing. 'B,' bold and beautiful. 'C 'I'm courageous, determined to meet my goals." Dr. Hollingsworth says that idea came from his wife Dr. Arlene Gordon-Hollingsworth, Ph.D., who is a psychologist.

"She was like there's some studies that show that children of color don't receive as many positive words of affirmation compared to their Caucasian counterparts," Dr. Hollingsworth says.

Unlike many of the other educational videos on YouTube, the videos on Gracie's Corner often highlight Black culture. For example, the animation on "Count to 100" resembles HBCU marching bands and the "Bingo (Second Line Remix)" song—Dr. Hollingsworth's personal favorite—which resembles a second line seen in New Orleans.

The beats might be what the channel is most well known for. They vary from Afro Beats to Soca to something you'd hear in a nightclub, like the "Money Song."

Much of the music reflects the different places Gracie's parents have lived while chasing their careers. Dr. Hollingsworth received his master's and doctorate degrees from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"That's also (where) you see some of the influence in the music. Like 'Bingo' and all these different songs where you see Gracie at Mardi Gras. I give little shoutouts into different things," Dr. Hollingsworth explained, adding that he is originally from Jeffersonville, Georgia, a small town outside Macon, Georgia and his wife is of Black and Filipino descent.

Moving to the Next Level

Dr. Hollingsworth believes the messaging, characters, and beats are all reasons why parents have been sharing the videos on social media. Its YouTube subscriber base went from around 50,000 subscribers in December of 2021 to more than 600,000 in July.

"I really want to thank the people that are putting love on our channel," says Graceyn "Gracie" Hollingsworth. "It makes me feel very happy."

In May, the Shade Room posted a video of a mom dancing to Gracie's Corner's "Count to 50" like she was at a nightclub while dressed in a robe and watching her baby in a walker in her living room. That Instagram post received 302,000 likes.

There have also been some critiques, especially of the "Phonics Song." Teachers have complained that some of the sounds for the letters are incorrect. The comments section for that video has since been turned off.

"The issue is we're singing the sounds and singing letter sounds is not ideal," says Dr. Hollingsworth, adding that they plan to make another phonics song where Gracie will instead say each letter's sounds versus singing them.

"I do value the feedback people provide, especially the teachers," Dr. Hollingsworth shared.

Dr. Hollingsworth hopes to take the channel to the next level. He's hired an animation team and a publicist.

"I still feel like we have yet to even scratch the surface. I feel like a lot of people in the world don't even know about us," Dr. Hollingsworth says.

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