Ghanaian-American author Rosemond Sarpong Owens celebrated the launch of her new children’s book, “The Extraordinary Educator: Dr. Delores Henderson” on Saturday alongside the person that inspired it, Dr. Delores Henderson, a retired school administrator with the St. Paul Public Schools.
Dr. Henderson was the longest serving school administrator in the state of Minnesota when she retired in 2018. She become recognized as the first Black National Distinguished Principal for the State of Minnesota. One of the fruits of her long career is current Saint Paul Mayor, Melvin Carter, a product of the Saint Paul Public Schools. Mayor Carter was among the guests present during the book launch.
Owens says she was at a civic event with her husband where Dr. Henderson was present and was awed at the reverence and respect directed at the longtime administrator. She said she waited patiently until everyone was done speaking to her so she could also meet her.
“I left that encounter quite inspired and determined that others who didn’t know her, especially young Black girls, would do, so they can see what is possible,” said Owens.
Owens, who spoke to Mshale after the book launch, said the book seeks to inspire the next generation of young girls and women to aspire to live life to the fullest because it shows a young determined Dr. Henderson rising from humble beginnings to a place of dedicated service and influence.
The author who is also a mother to three children says what she loved about Dr. Henderson was her love for the children and families she served.
“As a child, I suffered from many insecurities about my skin color, facial features, and hair texture. Not until my teens did I see someone who looked like me in a book. That narrative must change,” Owens said. “To see people who look like you makes you feel included, that you belong, and that can inspire and empower all of us.”
A turning point for Owens came when she was in Spain attending the University of Madrid. She needed reference materials on Africa and she was appalled at what she found at the university’s library.
“They only had material that described Africa in the prehistoric times,” Owens said. “I was left shocked because what the material was describing is not the Ghana I grew up in.”
She says she did not consider herself a writer at that point but she had a reputation as a good storyteller, recalling how in walks home from school back in Ghana, fellow students would be captivated with her tales that they would find themselves miles from home.
In later years, based on the reputation from her days growing up in Ghana, the author ascribed herself the moniker the “Lion’s Historian” in reference to the quote by famed African author, Chinua Achebe: “Until the lions have their own historians, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”
It was after her arrival in the United States where she has lived in the past two decades that she decided to put her stories and ideas into paper becoming an author. In the process, she also got involved with Books for Africa, the largest shipper of donated school textbooks to Africa and at one time serving as the first Black woman president of the board of directors for the storied organization.
“The Extraordinary Educator” will join the Heritage Collection, which is a series of children’s history books to retell the stories of Black and African ancestors to reduce the stigmas of internalized racism that stems from mainstream standards.
The Extraordinary Educator: Dr. Delores Henderson (The Heritage Collection) is available on Amazon for purchase in hardcover or e-reader.