January 17, 2024
Apple unveils 2024 Black Unity Collection supporting grantees that inspire resilience and creativity
REJI grantee Shout Mouse Press elevates underrepresented voices in children’s literature
In Washington, D.C.’s historic Dupont Circle neighborhood, the office of children’s literature nonprofit Shout Mouse Press is abuzz with the voices of passionate young people sitting before countless stacks of books on tall white shelves. Last year, Apple awarded Shout Mouse a grant through its Racial Equity and Justice Initiative (REJI) in recognition of the nonprofit’s commitment to amplifying diverse youth voices.
With the launch of the 2024 Black Unity Collection, Apple is awarding grants to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Studio Museum in Harlem, Battersea Arts Centre, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Ghetto Film School, and the National Museum of African American Music. Apple’s support for these organizations is a continuation of REJI grants that resource organizations committed to providing economic, educational, and creative opportunities in communities of color around the world.
Founded in 2014, Shout Mouse was established to address the lack of diversity in children’s literature by engaging young people in communities underrepresented in publishing.
“The name ‘Shout Mouse’ started with the idea of how can we make visible and concrete something that was not being heard, and give it a megaphone,” says Kathy Crutcher, the nonprofit’s founder. “Apple’s support has allowed us to deepen our investment in young people — to provide technology, professional development, and most importantly, affirmation and amplification of their essential perspectives.”
On this brisk afternoon in late December, Shout Mouse has convened three alumni authors — Sasa Aakil, 20; Andy Pina, 19; and Sholachauntel Shoda, 25 — and one of its illustrators, Ian L. Springer, 25, for a brainstorm on character development. The topic of discussion: Who is missing from today’s youth literary canon of Black history?
“A lot of times we see Black History Month just from one lens, or from three or four different historical figures,” Springer says to the group.
“Even the stories of Black women in Black history specifically — they were so pivotal but so often not talked about, besides Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks,” adds Aakil, a poet and the coauthor of Shout Mouse’s award-winning I Am the Night Sky, who writes about the intersectionality of living as a Black Muslim American woman.
Through its writing workshops, the books it publishes, and speaking opportunities held in partnership with youth-centered organizations in the D.C. area, Shout Mouse is harnessing the creativity and resilience of young people, and equipping them with the skills needed to navigate the publishing industry and beyond.
“Oftentimes young people are told that they’re not the experts of their own experience, or that they aren’t yet equipped to comment on or impact the world around them,” explains Alexa Patrick, Shout Mouse’s programs director, who is leading the afternoon’s brainstorm. “So what we seek to do is invite young people into a space where they’re able to be the experts of their own experience and to share their stories.”
Sasa Aakil, who was awarded Youth Poet Laureate of Montgomery County in Maryland and is a current college student at Howard University, participated in Shout Mouse’s writing workshop with Muslim American youth. For 10 days, she and nine peers gathered to brainstorm, write, and create content about their lived experiences.
“Me and my fellow artists really felt like we had to make a statement of who we are,” Aakil says. “I really wanted to highlight that being Black American and Muslim was okay, and not only okay, but that it was a thing, because a lot of people like to erase my people. So the mission statement that we came up with was really just taking up space.”
I Am the Night Sky, the anthology that resulted from the workshop, is just one example of Shout Mouse’s ambitious intention to amplify stories by and for members of the communities the nonprofit reaches.
Since its launch, Shout Mouse has published 59 books, all produced in collaboration with young people and local community-based partners. There are currently more than 125,000 Shout Mouse books in circulation, which can be found in D.C.-area schools and nonprofits, as well as in schools, libraries, bookstores, and homes in every state in the country. The nonprofit also helps put the books in the hands of immigrant children separated from their families.
Many of Shout Mouse’s books were conceived, written, and illustrated by youth in response to the cultural moments of their time. Thanks in part to the work of Shout Mouse, these moments have been captured in literature that all children can read and enjoy as part of modern American history.
“When we don’t have diverse stories and diverse voices, we miss things,” Aakil says. “There are so many experiences that we’ve just never gotten to experience because we are stuck to our own bodies. So it’s so important to have stories, because that’s one of the easiest ways to empathize with each other. And when we can empathize, we can make space for one another.”
Apple Celebrates Black Resilience with New Black Unity Collection
The new Black Unity Collection introduces new expressions inspired by the resilience and beauty of the Black community. Blooming flowers and vibrant colors represent Pan-Africanism and symbolize generations working together to address injustice and dismantle systemic barriers.
The Apple Watch Black Unity Sport Band features an arrangement of flowers molded abstractly across the band utilizing red, green, and yellow colors. Inspired by the rich cultural diversity of Black communities around the world, Apple used a unique layering process for the flowers to create tiny variations in each band’s design, ensuring no two bands are exactly alike. The pin of the band is coated with a durable diamond-like carbon finish that features an etching of the words “Truth, Power, Solidarity” alongside one of four symbolic flower emblems.
The Unity Bloom Apple Watch face showcases a beautiful floral design that signifies a lasting commitment to the pursuit of a more equitable world. Users can choose between a full-bloom or single-bloom arrangement, and when they raise their wrist, the flowers begin to bloom and fill with vibrant hues. iPhone and iPad users can also show their support with the new Unity Bloom wallpaper for their Lock Screen, which presents an outline of flowers that fill with color when the display is active.
Pricing and Availability
- The Black Unity Sport Band is available for order on apple.com and in the Apple Store app starting today, and will be available in select Apple Store locations beginning January 23 for $49 (U.S.).
- The Black Unity Sport Band is available in 41mm or 45mm, and S/M or M/L, worldwide.
- The Unity Bloom watch face will be available next week, and requires Apple Watch Series 4 or later running watchOS 10.3.
- The new Unity Bloom iPhone and iPad wallpaper for the Lock Screen will also be available next week, and requires iPhone Xs or later running iOS 17.3 and iPad (6th generation and later), iPad mini (5th generation and later), iPad Air (3rd generation and later), 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2nd generation and later), 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and 11-inch iPad Pro (1st generation and later) running iPadOS 17.3.
About Apple’s 2024 REJI Grantees
Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Boys & Girls Clubs of America is developing the next generation of innovators and community leaders by designing opportunities for members to code, create, and connect with community. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America know the power of offering opportunities to young people by helping them build technical and real-life skills to successfully enter and shape the workforce of tomorrow. Boys & Girls Clubs of America is based in Atlanta, with locations across the U.S., on Native lands, and on military bases around the world.
Studio Museum in Harlem
The Studio Museum in Harlem is the nexus for artists of African descent locally, nationally, and internationally, and for work that has been inspired and influenced by Black culture. It is a site for the dynamic exchange of ideas about art and society. The museum is equally engaged as a cultural anchor in Harlem, and as a presiding influence and thought leader for the international art world.
Battersea Arts Centre
Based in London, Battersea Arts Centre creates welcoming and inclusive spaces where communities, artists, and audiences can connect and be creative.
Art Gallery of New South Wales
The Djamu Youth Justice Program at the Art Gallery of New South Wales supports Indigenous people in the youth justice system by creating meaningful connections to art and culture. Forging positive relationships between these young people and members of the Aboriginal and Great Oceans arts community, the Sydney-based program provides mentorship and vocational pathways post-release.
Ghetto Film School
Ghetto Film School educates, develops, and celebrates the next generation of great storytellers through film and media, with locations in New York City, Los Angeles, and London.
The National Museum of African American Music
Located in Nashville, Tennessee, the National Museum of African American Music is the only museum of its kind dedicated to educating the world through preserving and celebrating the central role African Americans play in creating the American soundtrack.
Eric Hollister Williams
Apple Media Helpline
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