Awards & Features
2018 Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Community Advocate of the Year
Dr. Nosakhere Griffin-EL was recognized for his dedication to engaging children, particular young readers of color, and their families in reading. He engages parents in working to increase their children’s literacy skills, and approaches the children he works with a genuine interest in their future goals. Within the last year, Dr. Griffin-EL co-coordinated a monthly Young Dreamers Meet Up Read Up program at CLP – East Liberty; volunteered as a Reading Buddy at four different library locations; wrote blog posts for the Library’s Story Pockets blog; developed reading lists such as “20 Books That Inspire Black Girls To Strive Toward Greatness” that promote books featuring African American characters; and administered a Facebook page to share literacy information and book recommendations to area families. Dr. Griffin-EL was first spurred into action with the Library when his son was diagnosed with a speech delay. At that time, his family turned to the Library as a resource for learning and, of course, books. Currently, Dr. Griffin-EL is in the exploratory phase of founding the Dreamocracy Learning Lab, a nonprofit that will continue to partner with the Library “at the intersection of learning and dreams”.
90.5 WESA: 90 Neighborhoods 90 Good Stories
Nosakhere Griffin-EL, founder of the Young Dreamers Book Club, is an advocate of literacy, especially among urban youth. His organization challenges young people to strive for greatness while learning, and brings families together for fellowship over books. According to Griffin-EL, teaching young people to read gives them a key to access their dreams.“ Reading is just not a tool is just not a tool help develop your dream but reading is a tool to make the world a better place,” Griffin-EL said.
2018 Black History Achievement Award for Outstanding Service and Accomplishment
Dr. Nosakhere Griffin-EL received this award from The Second Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Church of God and Christ for his literacy work in libraries across the city of Pittsburgh.
Coro Center for Civic Leadership Black History Month Spotlight
Written on February 28, 2020
Today, we recognize Dr. Nosakhere Griffin-EL.
Dr. Nosakhere is a former Coro staff member who currently serves as the President and Chief Dreamocrat of The Dreamocracy Learning Lab. His work focuses on creating innovative solutions to the literacy gap affecting African-American children in Pittsburgh. We recognize him as an influential, black man.
Nosakhere Griffin- El’s Story
Note: This article appeared in Fall 2017 on the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Monthly Newsletter & on the organization website.
It may be a short bus ride from Highland Park to CLP-East Liberty, but for Nosakhere Griffin-El and his family it’s been a long journey.
After living and working as professors in Cape Town, South Africa for three years, the Griffin-Els returned to Pittsburgh in 2016, only to be confronted with a challenge. Their older son, Nosakhere Jr.(who was 3 at the time), was diagnosed with a speech delay.
“It felt like a gut punch,” Griffin-El recalls. “Our son needed our attention. He needed us to be his first teachers. So we made a family decision.” That decision called for his wife Eliada to continue her job as an associate professor at Robert Morris University while Griffin-El would take on the role of stay-at-home-dad, a role that included speech therapy appointments and intensive at-home practice sessions.
But the best part of the day was the trip to the Library.
Carrying kids (Nosakhere Jr. and Onyemachi, who was 18 months old), book bags, a diaper bag and plenty of snacks, Griffin-El would board the 71B bus and arrive at CLP-East Liberty 10 minutes later. Once inside, they would find themselves ready to dive into an ocean of books.
“Miss Amy (Children’s Librarian) would help me pick out books that would reinforce our phonics lessons,” Griffin-El says, “and then she would recommend biographies and books about Africa and African American history.”
That summer, the Griffin-Els signed up for the Library’s summer reading challenge. Taking advantage of book recommendations from library staff and searching the Library’s online system, they logged an impressive 600+ books by the end of the year. What started as an imperative to help his son has turned into Griffin-El’s own passion. He’s committed to reading to his kids every day and wants others to do the same—so much so that for Black History Month this past February, he hosted a Meet Up Read Up event for parents and kids at the Library as part of the Young Dreamers Book Club he started on Facebook.
Now Nosakhere Jr. is about to turn 5, and according to his dad, he’s expressing himself in new and exciting ways. “He’s very passionate. He loves Legos and building things,” Griffin-El says. “He wants to become an engineer.”
New Pittsburgh Courier's Editorial Board 2019 Primary Endorsement
Nosakhere Griffin-El is a no-nonsense brother. During the Vote School Board First! candidates forum on April 24 in the Hill District, audience members applauded his tough talk that he said would be brought to the nine-member Pittsburgh Public Schools Board, if elected. He is founder of the Young Dreamers Book Club, which advocates improving youth literacy. Griffin-El is a Pitt graduate who spent three years in South Africa as a professor before returning to Pittsburgh, who says that literacy is the “gateway to dreams.” The Courier is impressed by his passion, educational acumen, and knows that when he talks, people listen. He is our endorsed candidate for PPS Board District 2.
Rise of the Academic Activist
*Note: This article was published in the Summer of 2014 in the GSB Business Review, which is a South African Business based publication.
Read excerpt of the article
Activist academics can find meaning and comfort in the sense that their work contributes to the greater good, nourishing a sense of personal and collective purpose. UCT GSB lecturer, Dr Nosakhere Griffin-EL, is one such academic.
“In my life, I have always combined dreaming and acting, what I call dreamocratic action,” says Dr Griffin-EL. “I see this as a calling and believe I was placed on this earth to live a purpose-driven life. Honouring that purpose means I had to find out what I love doing and understand how it can assist in the development of a better world. My purpose in life is to assist individuals in articulating their dreams, while providing them with the support to pursue those dreams within a real-world context.”
Dr Griffin-EL teaches and mentors students through the Solution Space, and conducts research to understand how to make the world more inclusive through what he calls “the pedagogy of dreaming”.
“The Solution Space is a place where dreams meet courageous action,” he says. Experienced and aspiring entrepreneurs enter the space with innovative ideas and transform those ideas into inclusive businesses that create economic and social value. But it is not about creating businesses for the sake of creating businesses. For real value to emerge, Griffin-EL cautions that entrepreneurs must innovate with members of the socially and economically oppressed, not for them. Solutions must be embedded within a context.
“Disembedded innovations have the aspiration of meeting people’s unmet needs, but without a grounding in a specific social reality, the innovation will never have the intended impact,” he says. To achieve real impact, entrepreneurs must engage in dialogue with community members, and develop innovations grounded within that experience.
“The Solution Space experiment is too young to judge its impact. However, five years from now, our success will be judged on whether we have managed to create inclusive businesses that are both profitable and socially relevant,” he says.
Whether it works or not, he believes that, as an academic, the important thing is to try. “The work of academics has to go beyond publishing, it has to create the possibility for a better future.” For Griffin-EL, that future is “an Africa free of the contradictions that prevent its citizens from reimagining themselves and their societies as transformable through their concrete action”, but the field is wide open. The needs are great, the invitation to get involved is broad and the possibilities, in theory, endless.