Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz is an award-winning Associate Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research focuses on racial literacy in teacher education, Black girl literacies, and Black and Latinx male high school students. A sought-after speaker on issues of race, culturally responsive pedagogy, and diversity, Sealey-Ruiz works with K-12 and higher education school communities to increase their racial literacy knowledge and move toward more equitable school experiences for their Black and Latinx students. Sealey-Ruiz appeared in Spike Lee’s “2 Fists Up: We Gon’ Be Alright”, a documentary about the Black Lives Matter movement and the campus protests at Mizzou. Her co-authored book [with Dr. Detra Price-Dennis] Advancing Racial Literacies in Teacher Education: Toward Activism for Equity in Digital Spaces was published in April 2021.
Her first full-length collection of poetry Love from the Vortex & Other Poems (Kalediscope Vibrations LLC) was published in March, 2021, and her sophomore book of poetry, The Peace Chronicles will be released in Summer 2021.
We Empower Magazine got an exclusive interview with Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz.
Tammy Reese: When you first began to write Love From the Vortex & Other Poems what impact did you intend to make?
Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz: I didn’t set out to write a book. When I wrote the poems, it was my way of trying to think through, understand, and cope with what I was experiencing.
Tammy Reese: What feedback have you received so far?
Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz: The feedback has been incredible. In one year, the book has sold 5,000 copies — that is a lot for an independent publisher and a sole-person marketing team (me). I just learned yesterday that in two months, the book’s Audible Album on Amazon has sold 100 copies. People continue to email and text, as well as post on social media about how the book is helping them through a very difficult time.
Tammy Reese: How has being a writer made an impact on you personally?
Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz: I appreciate that question because it pushes me to claim my identity as a writer. Being able to use my pen and my words to understand my life is a complete blessing. It offers me relief in very stressful and sad times. It also brings me great joy in moments of happiness.
Tammy Reese: Let’s chat about racial literacy. What intrigued you about the cause?
Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz: Growing up in public schools, then becoming a teacher and scholar, who studies what happens in schools, led me to find a theory, and eventually create a model based on the theory to make sense of what is, and offer a way forward of what can and should be in racial literacy. Especially when it comes to the education of Black and Latinx children.
Tammy Reese: What else are you currently working on?
Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz: I just co-authored an academic book, finished my second full-length volume of poetry, and completed work on two edited academic books on education. I am also working on a few book chapters and articles.
Tammy Reese: It’s mental health awareness month. What are some of your best self-care practices?
Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz: I have a few: talk therapy, prayer, a meditation practice, a healthy sleep schedule, and diet, and my intention is to get regular again with my exercise, including yoga with my friend Derek who owns DK Yoga Studio.
Tammy Reese: Anything else you would like our readers to know about the work that you do?
Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz: My work is focused on Racial Justice and Educational Equity. My goal is to use my life to help right the wrongs that Black people have experienced in this country, and very specifically, the racist violence and neglect they have experienced in schools.
Tammy Reese: What advice would you leave our readers who aspire to become writers to heal themselves and others?
Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz: First, know that you need to heal, and name what you need to heal from. That is the first step. The next step is to develop a plan and commit yourself to it. Slow and steady wins the race.
For more information please visit www.yolandasealeyruiz.com
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Multimedia Creative and Personality Tammy Reese is an award-winning Writer and Journalist. Writing and Directing short films on social issues to spread awareness through the arts gained Tammy the Makers: Women Who Make America Award honor on International Women's Day 2019. Tammy currently serves on the Communications Committee for New York Women In Film and Television. She is also the Founder and Owner of Visionary Minds Public Relations and Media.