An Extraordinary Q&A with Dr. Kami J. Anderson (Bilingual Brown Babies)

Dr. Kami J. Anderson has published extensively in both English and Spanish in scholarly and trade journals as well as in national US news publications. She has traveled to 17 countries across the globe for academic and professional endeavors. She is a strong advocate for study abroad in particular for students of color. A loving mother to four wonderful, bilingual children, Kami has a vested interest in the construction of identity with bilingualism. She has published the book, Language, Identity and Choice: Raising Bilingual Children in a Global Society (2015, Lexington Books) which talks about her own experiences raising her children bilingual.  

Dr. Kami J. Anderson has published extensively in both English and Spanish in scholarly and trade journals as well as in national US news publications. She has traveled to 17 countries across the globe for academic and professional endeavors. She is a strong advocate for study abroad in particular for students of color. A loving mother to four wonderful, bilingual children, Kami has a vested interest in the construction of identity with bilingualism. She has published the book, Language, Identity and Choice: Raising Bilingual Children in a Global Society (2015, Lexington Books) which talks about her own experiences raising her children bilingual.  

1. What inspired you to create Bilingual Brown Babies?

My children, namely my oldest son, inspired me to start Bilingual Brown Babies.  My husband and I made the conscious choice to raise our children bilingual in English and Spanish and we were killin' it in that respect!  Babies speaking Spanish, code-switching and reading in two languages.  You couldn't tell us anything!  But one day, my oldest son did.  He told me he didn't want to speak Spanish anymore because none of his friends did.  And he was right.  Not a single Black child at his school (even though he was at a dual immersion school) spoke Spanish to the extent he did.  I decided then and there, I would make a community for my children by helping other families become bilingual too.

2. What makes what you're doing extraordinary?

What I'm doing is extraordinary because when it comes to foreign language learning, especially bilingualism, NOBODY centers the Black child.  My mission is to increase the number of Black families and children who are fluent and biliterate in English and Spanish.  Sure, there are language programs that work with predominantly Black elementary schools, tutors, etc.  but each of the programs fall short of getting them to a point of bilingualism.  What I am doing with Bilingual Brown Babies has never been done before.

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3. How crucial is it to the future that our children become bilingual and do a lot of parents take this journey with their children?

The U.S. is already falling behind the rest of the world when it comes to language.  In an ethnocentric way, we as U.S. citizens have convinced ourselves that the reason why the rest of the world speaks English is because we are so powerful.  When the truth is, they're doing us a favor trying to level the playing field.  The problem with that is we still need other languages to compete.  Especially for Black children.  We know the layers that get stacked on them as they progress through education, get degrees, and then move into the workforce.  Bilingualism is quickly becoming yet another layer.  It is vital that our Black children stay in front by working on language while it is still a low priority nationwide.  In order for our children to be successful, parents HAVE to take this journey with them.  Constant exposure to language is what builds fluency and understanding and it's not constant if it stops as soon as they get home and on weekends.  My program works with parents so that they can get the confidence to build up Spanish in their children. The more confident the parents are, the more they will use the language with their children.  I feel they are interconnected.

4. Where do you see Bilingual Brown Babies 5 years from now?

 Five years from now, I see Bilingual Brown Babies as a movement that has upswelled to meet-ups in Spanish-speaking countries engaging with Spanish-speaking families within the African Diaspora. I see Bilingual Brown "babies" transitioning to Black Bilinguals and using their language repertoire to interact with the world in ways that support who they are as young people of African descent.  I see my children as free labor for this movement (LBVS), serving as language ambassadors, connecting with other children across the country, and virtually helping other children practice the language. They'll also share their stories through peership and helping to inspire other children to grow in language. More importantly, I see Bilingual Brown Babies as continuing to gain momentum and growing.

5. How can people support and get involved with what you're doing?

If you're are seriously interested in becoming a part of the Bilingual Brown Babies Family, you can contact me directly at bilingualbrownbabies@kamijandersonphd.com.   I have public and private Facebook groups: (private) Bilingual Brown Babies' Familia Bilingualita and (public) Bilingual Brown Babies.  I also have Twitter and Instagram.  You can also join our mailing list to get updates on workshops and virtual events for parents and individuals.