Local entrepreneur teaches sweet lessons to children about diversity and inclusion
By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Oklahoma City entrepreneur Tracy Jackson speaks to children as young as preschoolers about the simple message of not judging people by the way they look. She is using candy to do it.
Jackson, founder of iCelebrateDiversity.com, is a social justice advocate who is passionate about promoting diversity and inclusion.
She says her Diversity Beans product look like ordinary jelly beans, but they can produce unexpected results.
For example, a red jellybean might taste like licorice and a black jellybean might taste like coconut, revising the old adage, “Don’t judge a book – or a bean – by its cover – or its color.”
“Many schools use them as part of their anti-bullying and teaching tolerance curriculum,” said Jackson.
“It’s a simple but resonate message that translates from the classroom to the boardroom,” she said. “From Apple to Disney to Starbucks, corporations committed to diversity have utilized Diversity Beans as a training tool to bring awareness to subconscious stereotyping and hidden biases.”
ICelebrateDiversity became a dream for Jackson in 1995 with the birth of her first daughter.
“As a new mother in a multiracial family, my eyes were opened to the lack of diversity in books, toys, art…pretty much, everything,” said Jackson.
“From that time on, I have been passionate about finding products that reflect and respect, the inclusivity of all people.”
The website iCelebrateDiversity.com officially launched in August 2001.
Jackson added, “We have grown from not only being a resource for parents, but with the addition of products such as Diversity Beans we have become a leading resource for corporations and schools looking for unique teaching tools to assist in teaching about diversity, stereotypes, bullying and team building.”
RDF Executive Director Joan Korenblit said, “Diversity Beans are a fun, creative and tasty dialogue starter. We, at the Respect Diversity Foundation, have enjoyed using Diversity Beans at student and teacher workshops, anti-bullying conferences and exhibit galas.
“The colorful beans are a sweet metaphor showing that one cannot judge a person by one’s looks. It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
While schools and corporations are an ideal place for training, Jackson aspires to reach a much younger audience with her new, specially branded product, “Human Beans.”
Human beans have been used by organizations such as The Respect Diversity Foundation, The Rainbow Center, Angels Foster Family Network and United Way.
Jackson says the beans are the same, but utilize different packaging making them more appealing to parents and candy stores.
“I wanted to create a way to encourage adults to talk to children about diversity,” said Jackson. “Research shows that young children are hard-wired to notice difference and parents are often afraid or don’t know how to talk about it.
“Created with simple talking points for parents and free lesson plans for educators, Human Beans make it fun and easy to talk about how we’re all different, yet very much alike.”
Human Beans come in six colors and twelve flavors all mixed in one bag.
“Let’s face it, we’re all different, one-of-a-kind, and it’s imperative that we learn to embrace the unique qualities in ourselves and others,” she said. “Just like Human Beans, we don’t know anything about a person without experiencing them first.”
Jackson took her message to the popular fundraising site Kickstarter.com to raise money for packaging and awareness of Human Beans and its free resources.
While Jackson has raised just over half of her $6,000 goal, her deadline of November 27 is fast approaching. She is hoping people will jump to her support so Human Beans can spring into action.
To make a donation, or for more information, contact Tracy Jackson at 405-428-9706 or email@example.com, or visit icelebratediversity.com/kickstarter/.