Richmond author promotes African American scientists, inventors

Nearly two decades ago, when Tamara Shiloh was using Microsoft Publisher to create small pamphlets and booklets for a business owner, she received an email that contained a short story about African American inventors and scientists.

The email profoundly affected the Richmond native. While Shiloh considered herself an educated African American woman, she had never heard of these influential inventors and scientists.

She questioned why such little exposure has been granted to the works of historically-significant African Americans who helped build the nation.

And so Shiloh, 67, of Point Richmond, decided to create a little pamphlet for her grandson’s upcoming birthday to identify these figures — a small project she didn’t realize at the time would lead her to becoming an author of a series of children’s books, one of which is being used in a local nonprofit organization’s literary course.

This Sunday, Oct. 15, Shiloh is set to hold a signing for the first, newly launched book of her five-book series, ‘Jaxon’s Magical Adventure with Black Inventors and Scientists’!, at the Shops at Hilltop from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. The book signing will take place on the second floor near the center court.

Ahead of the event, we were lucky to snag a conversation with the author, asking her in part how the pamphlet for her grandson inspired her to write an educational series.

“I did some initial research and thought this is unbelievable,” Shiloh said. “Let me go to the library…and there were a couple of resource books, and, oh my gosh, I got pissed. I really got upset because I didn’t know any of these influential black people. My kids didn’t know them, my grandson didn’t know them. It was pretty incredible.”

There was so much important — and in some cases widely unknown — information, Shiloh decided she needed more than one book to write the series. She knew the writing had to be fun and engaging for kids to want to read them.

“You don’t want to write a history book,” she said.

Her children’s series launched with the release of the first book in September. The project was a livelier revision of earlier works she had completed prior to retiring last year. To further spread the word about black scientists and inventors, Shiloh released companion books to the first book that include a coloring book, activity book and Jaxon’s Journal

By 2018, the author anticipates the release of the remaining four books: Jaxon and Kevin’s Black History Adventure Downtown, Let’s Hear it for the Women Inventors and Scientists, Jaxon’s Black History Trip to NASA and Jaxon Meets Black Cowboys from the Old West

Shiloh’s first book and companion books have already received local praise, with an official at the nonprofit at Girls Inc. of West Contra Costa County describing the series as must-reads for all students.

“Not only do they enhance historical literature in a fun and engaging way for students in the information age, but the propagate the idea that all people deserve a place in the history books,” said Cristal Banagan, associate director of Girls Inc.

Shiloh confirmed that she didn’t only write the books for African American students.

“Kids need to know this. Everyone needs to,” she said.

And this education, Shiloh says, can provide a platform for black youth to understand they can be, like those before them, inventors, scientists, doctors, nurses and politicians. She also wants her books to inspire more black youth to pursue careers in STEM, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“If I get just one child interested in STEM, I’m happy,” she said. “If I get them interested in reading, I’m happy.”

To learn more about the author, visit her website here.