African American Read-In Authors

Ty  Allan Jackson at 2020 Read-In



Ty Allan Jackson

Ty Allan JacksonTy is an award-winning children’s book author, literacy advocate, and captivating motivational speaker. In 2011 he founded Big Head Books, LLC, a literacy organization that aims to introduce children to the joys of reading. Ty travels around the country inspiring children and educating adults about the impacts of illiteracy.  A three-time TedX presenter, Ty believes that literacy is the foundation for a successful life and promotes it with humor and enthusiasm. Ty’s work as an author and literacy advocate earned him the Massachusetts inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. Content of Character Award, as well as citations from the Massachusetts Governor, Senator, and the House of Representatives. Ty’s books have been featured on CNN, NBC Nightly News, The Steve Harvey Show, PBS and countless other media outlets. In 2012, Ty’s books were gifted to former First Lady Michelle Obama by his hometown mayor. He is the co-founder of the Read or Else movement and Danny Dollar Academy.

Crystal Swain-Baites

Crystal Swain-BaitesCrystal Swain-Bates is a celebrated children's book author on a mission to positively reshape the way children of color all over the world see themselves. Fed up with the lack of black children's books on the market, Crystal founded Goldest Karat Publishing in order to address the lack of diversity in children's literature. 

With over 100,000 books sold, Crystal and her work have been featured in Forbes, CNN, Essence, the Huffington Post, and used as props on television shows such as BET’s “The Game” and “Being Mary Jane.” Known as a “Diversity Publishing Pro”, Crystal offers publishing courses to authors who want to bring their books to life through self-publishing.

A native of Atlanta, GA, Crystal holds a Master's degree in International Affairs and is an avid world traveler.

Here is her list of book titles:

  • Big Hair Don't Care
  • The Colorful Adventures of Zoe & Star: A Coloring and Activity Book 
  • I'm A Pretty Princess
  • I’m A Pretty Princess: An Empowering Coloring Book for Girls 
  • Naturally Me
  • The Colorful Adventures of Cody & Jay: A Coloring and Activity Book 
  • Color My Fro: A Natural Hair Coloring Book for Big Hair Lovers Of All Ages 
  • I'm a Big Brother
  • I'm a Big Sister
  • Supermommy
  • Black Fairy Tales: A Coloring and Activity Book
  • Brown Girls Club
  • I Hope You Know: A Celebration of Magical You



Rev. Abraham L. Funchess, Jr.

Rev. Abraham L. Funchess, Jr.Rev. Abraham L. Funchess, Jr., is the oldest son of Abraham and Bernice Funchess of St. Matthews, South Carolina.  Recipient of many awards and recognitions, Funchess is most proud of receiving the W.E.B DuBois Award for Social Activism from Hampton University in Virginia and the Bishop James S. Thomas Leadership Award from former Bishop Julius C. Trimble of the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  Funchess is currently pastor of Jubilee UMC ( and executive director at Waterloo Commission on Human Rights.

Funchess has worked in state government with two governors during the Tom Vilsack and Chet Culver administrations; he has served three episcopal bishops - Gregory V. Palmer, Julius C. Trimble and Laurie Haller - of the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church; and he’s worked with two Mayors – Buck Clark and, of course, Quentin Hart, the first African-American mayor for the city of Waterloo.

Married to Veronica McGee with one son Solomon Diara at Iowa State, Rev. Funchess is author of a children’s book entitled Rise! and is the founder of  MLK New Jerusalem LLC.


Ryan JoinerRyan Joiner

Mr. Joiner is the consummate lover of reading. He can think of few activities more enjoyable. He's equally passionate about creating new ways to make reading fascinating and more accessible to children. He holds a B.A. in Elementary Education from the University of Northern Iowa. He also teaches and makes his home in Iowa. Contact Mr. Joiner at