John Steptoe Honored With Street Renaming

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Bweela Steptoe in the middle holding the sign with her father's name. Her twin daughters Asha on the left and Ayanna on the right holding Proclamations given to them by Elected officials Darlene Mealy and Velmanette Montgomery.

After a three-year long journey all of the hard work has paid off.

Earlier this year, on August 27, 2016, the day before my father John Lewis Steptoe, an award winning author and illustrator passed away 27 years ago, Monroe Street, on the corner of Ralph Avenue, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, N.Y., was co-named after him-- to John Lewis Steptoe Place.

This was his childhood street. He also lived here for a large part of his adult life where he created many books and shared his stories with the neighborhood children as well as the world.

John Lewis Steptoe was born in Brooklyn on September 14, 1950. He began drawing as a young child. In 1969, at the age of 18, his first book "Stevie," story based on his experiences growing up at 840 Monroe Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant received national attention when it was published in its entirety in Life magazine. It was hailed as "a new kind of book for Black children."

John Lewis Steptoe began work on "Stevie" at the age of 16. In his 20-year career, John Lewis Steptoe illustrated 16 picture books, 10 of which he also wrote. He received many honors and accolades during his career.

The street co-naming celebration would not have been at all possible without the loving support of all of the wonderful business and community members that help to make this celebration an ever lasting memorable tribute. I would like to publicly thank all of the people who played a key part in contributing to making the John Lewis Steptoe Street Co-naming a great success.

The celebration event kicked off with Dr. Valarie Durrah giving her blessing to the street co-naming. The neighborhood children enjoyed a variety of different activities. They lined up for face painting by Dorothy LeTang and Megan World-Mitchell. We also had beautiful Henna designs by Saddaf Padder.
Tish World Copeland created the wonderful balloon arch that stood in front of Mr. Steptoe’s homes. Meredith Iszlai & Braun Serra from Craftsman Art Store on Broadway did arts and crafts and made patches with the kids.

Aneesah Saleem from Our Children Leaders Day Care Center provided a clown as well as donating food and her time. Many award-winning authors and illustrators came to give their support and share their stories: Javaka Steptoe; Pat Cummings; Cheryl Hanna; Marshalla Ramos-Inde; and Wade and Cheryl Hudson from Just Us Books.

Harper Collins and the Macon Branch Brooklyn Public Library sent representatives. The neighborhood barbershop located on Monroe Street and Ralph Ave., King Kutz, gave out free haircuts.

Chanelle Dorsett at Idalias Beauty Bar also donated her salon services. Many community business donated food for the event: Bedford Hall, Brooklyn Baby Cakes, Foodtown of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Damian Hamblin, Denise Hamblin at Lilly Pad Daycare Center, Ms. Dahlias, Angela’s, Patty Hut and Wilfredo at Trader Joe’s.

Music and performance were provided by DJ Desone, Ayo and Brandii from Black Orfan, and Kwasi Hygh. Some of the school supplies were provided by Andrew at Volunteers of America.

We would not have been able to get our feet off the ground without the help of Julia Shaw, Asha and Ayanna Johnson Steptoe, Iman Essiet, Marcia and Sean Steptoe, Audrey Weaver, Nicole Frith a member of the Soka Gakkai International - NY, Robina White of Hibiscus and Renwick. The celebration was recorded by photographer Milton Walters and videographer Alonzo Hammond. We could not have had the celebration without all of the wonderful attendees.

This is just the beginning.

We plan to make this an annual event. We will preserve my father's legacy and share his dreams by creating The JOHN LEWIS STEPTOE FOUNDATION and THE JOHN LEWIS STEPTOE CULTURAL CENTER. This will provide the public, especially children and their families in John Steptoe's childhood community an alternative Artistic and learning environment.
With the neighborhood changing and year's passing we cannot forget the people who were here before us. The people who made a difference in many lives.

By creating the foundation we set a firm mark on who we are and where we're going. We want the future of our culture and community to remain embedded in the community. I have the support and encouragement of State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Council member Darlene Mealy and her staff, Arna Lipkind and Lawrence Saunders, Brooklyn Board 3 District Manager Henry Butler in this new venture and also attended the celebration.
I am grateful to have such a wonderful heritage.

I look forward to sharing my gifts as well as my father's gifts with the community in the near future. In the spirit of my father I quote: “I am not the exception to the rule I am the rule. Meaning there are many others like me where I come from.” The foundation will operate in the spirit of John Lewis Steptoe.

For all of the fans of John Steptoe’s Caldecott Honor award wining book Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. We are happy to announce the Dallas Children's Theater third season 2016 to 2017 national tour of it’s original musical adaptation of Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters. Please visit the John Steptoe website for showtimes, locations and dates.

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