African-American history has played an integral role in the shaping of politics, economics, and culture in the United States. Growing up, how did you learn about the accomplishments and struggles of African Americans? Were you in a classroom? Reading a book? Talking with relatives or friends? How has your understanding or knowledge of African-American history changed and/or developed over time? What do you think is the most effective way to pass along this rich and growing history to future generations?

Mark Griffin

JohnnyPump Tales were inspired by my role as a father. In 2011, I became a single parent to my 10 year-old son, Donte’. I looked at him one day and felt the full weight of responsibility for his young life, and wondered how I was going to teach him to be a good man.

I grew up in a tough part of Brooklyn without a father, and knew I would have to be a good role model for him. I searched my past looking for people who had inspired and taught me to be a better human being. I asked myself, “Who did I admire and how could I pass their best qualities on to my son?’ There was Mr. Roker, who lived in Bed-Stuy; He used to take me and other neighborhood kids to museums and baseball games, and paid out his own pocket.

He wanted to show us some of the world beyond our little slice of Brooklyn, and encouraged us to make our dreams real, whatever they happened to be. He passed away some time ago, but his spirit stays with me.

I also thought about what was beautiful and heroic in the world around me. What were my best memories? When I look back, what still felt safe and right? I realized that some of the best times I had as a kid were when we would open up the JohnnyPumps on summer days and run through the water. I began thinking about what the hydrants do, how they help fight fires, and keep the street safe. I imagined JohnnyPumps as invisible heroes who gave us kids some of the best things fathers could provide – a feeling of protection and play, a sense of safety, and a sense of adventure.

The story began to take shape. I’ve tried to bring all of these elements into the characters of JohnnyPump – his quiet heroism and playfulness, as well as belief in good manners, especially when making request to other members of his community. I’ve really loved writing the first part of the series. I hope there is something here you think might be valuable to share with children, and that it lights up a corner of the world and helps them see it anew.

Mark J. Griffin, Author / Owner
JohnnyPump Tales
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