Where did you grow up: I was born in Hyderabad, India and moved to the United States when I was very young. I spent my youth in Dallas, TX, Austin, TX and Jacksonville, FL. I feel like I am still growing up! 🙂 Post high school I lived in Gainesville, Miami, Dominica, New York, Seattle and now here :).
Town you live in now: I live in Juno Beach, FL
Why you love living there: We have lived in the area for about 2 years! My favorite activity these days is our “Family Sunday Tradition” which includes going for a morning beach walk, grabbing coffee and breakfast outdoors and catching up on connectedness. We are so grateful for the opportunity to live here for many reasons including: the close proximity to our families, the year round sunshine and ability to be outdoors, and the community we have found and cherished over the years. Prior to moving here, we lived in spaces that were so far away (4-14 hr plane rides) so being able to live here where our families are as close as 5 minutes is a blessing. Moving to a new space always comes with the desire to find your community, your people. Upon moving here, I was able to meet like- minded people in education almost immediately through the power of social media and technology. Those with a commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism (DEIA) work in the PreK- 12 space, for both adults and children.
Tell me about your kid/s:
Rohini Ray Skomra; meaning rising sun, star, the God who sees me. She is my heart. My inspiration. My everything. Fist has been up in the air since that very first ultrasound as my tiny activist in the making.
She is named after my annama (grandmother in Hindi), who was a lover and steadfast advocate for children in India, mentee to Freedom Fighter Sarojini Naidu, and ultimate protector of her family.
She has taught me the beauty of patience, celebrating every victory no matter how small, embracing the losses, and breathing through every moment over the 8 months of having her. I look at her face and feel the internal warmth and optimism that sunshine brings. She is the strongest human being I’ve been gifted of knowing.
Favorite things to do with kids locally:
We’ve been home a lot (since much of her life has been during the pandemic) or in the Readery while we were preparing for opening! But in either space, I love dancing with her. I love watching her eyes look up at the trees while we go for nature walks around either location. I love bringing her to Rohi’s Readery where she stares at beautiful covers of diverse characters, each with an important story to tell. I love sitting with her each morning and saying positive affirmations. I want her to always know that she is worthy of love and belonging. That there is power and beauty in her being.
What’s your ‘day job’? How did you get started with it?
I am the grateful, proud owner and founder of Rohi’s Readery. Rohi’s Readery is a social justice driven children’s bookstore and learning center committed to critical literacy that promotes inclusivity and diversity. It is a space where we honor and uplift the everyday experiences of historically marginalized communities through the pages of a book. Whether they are books that are showing characters in beautiful shades of Black and Brown, those who identify with the LGBTQIA+ community, characters with disabilities, or information that has historically been presented inaccurately, the goal of the Readery is for you to see yourself in the pages of a book or learn about the stories of those you don’t know. Providing opportunities for windows and mirrors for our youngest learners and ultimately a space for building community and accessibility.
“Native American author and activist Vine Deloria Jr. once stated,”Every society needs sacred places. A society that cannot remember its past and honor it, is in peril of losing its soul.” I think of this quote often when thinking about the idea of what Rohi’s Readery means to me. What does a sacred space do for a child. What power does it have for a child to feel seen, valued, loved and belong in their full identity and being.
The idea has been manifesting itself in many ways. Long before the days of beginning my career and journey in education, teaching and founding school systems on the East and West Coast. When my family moved to the US, we encountered many experiences of oppression and racism in the professional and educational space. My parents are incredible, they fought for the American dream, all while being kept out of it, for me. And while I many not have realized it then, as I have grown I have been able to reflect on the wrongs of the past and realize that my identity, or lack thereof, was definitely formed by the experience of feeling invisible, attempts to assimilate and simply not seeing myself in the places my family and I considered to be safe- like school. We know that schools were not traditionally built for People of Color and so how could one feel embraced in their being by a place that meant to keep them out.
We’ve been talking about many of the issues coming to light recently in the past year for a long time in education. A LONG time. But no one heard our voices. Talking about dismantling the practices that contribute to oppression in the classroom. Changing the libraries and curriculum to honor all communities. And if you work in education, you know that there are many hoops, walls, barriers to break down to get something passed. Many statements have been made around anti-racism, but yet, the work doesn’t change. And as an educator it is frustrating and feels all encompassing of emotion.
So the Readery came to fruition right after my daughter was born 8 months ago while thinking about how to make change around the system when the system won’t let me. How to share the breadth of beautiful books and learning when challenges arise you also have a space to create community in this. Advocacy and learning together. Educational programming accessible to all. When you can share a common space to be unapologetically you, it furthers the human connection and has the power to build conscious citizens of us all.
What is your best parenting advice. Lay it on us.
OOF! I am SO new to this game! Be gentle with yourself and know that you matter. Your feelings are valid. They are honored. And you aren’t alone.
Come to the Readery if you want community. If you want a space to breathe and be. I’ll be there waiting 🙂
What do you do for self care?
Does wine count? Just kidding! But a glass of wine at the end of the night is magical. I feel like self- preservation takes form on different ways each day. Listening to a really good song one day. Having a delicious masala chai tea that my mummy makes another day. Seeing sweet faces and meeting kind human beings at the Readery. All of these, and more experiences, create more space for love. Which is what I hope for each time I complete an act of self- preservation.
Anything else you want to share?
I am SO grateful for the opportunity to share and meet wonderful people like you! I have moved from city to city over the years and I as an adult am always yearning for a place to feel authentically myself. In Seattle, it was a place called Estelita’s Library. In Harlem, it was The Studio Museum in Harlem. I hope anyone who is reading this, from the new neighbor in town to the generational community member, knows that Rohi’s Readery is for you to build and be amongst community.