Dallas

Donation Leads to Lessons in Black History

Mila Vincent of Dallas celebrated her 6th birthday by donating books about a Black artist to the Oak Cliff Cultural Center

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A little girl's act of kindness on her birthday has turned into something good in celebration of Black History Month.

Mila Vincent of Dallas turned 6 the other day. It's her tradition to celebrate by giving back to others and showcasing those making a positive impact in the community.

She calls it the Be Kind Birthday.

"Because if I get to be treated kindly, then I think others should be treated kindly," the kindergartener said.

"We started this when Mila turned 1. I knew I wanted to do something special, I didn't know what," said Shayna Vincent, mother of Mila and her 2-year-old sister, Viva. "One day it popped into my head, 'let's take this day to celebrate Mila,' so that's what me and my family do, but how can we make it bigger? How can we extend these celebrations and such a happy time? So, we decided to take this day to give back to the community, give back to those in need, also highlight any organizations or people who are making a positive impact in the community."

This year for Mila's birthday, that kindness was shared with the Oak Cliff Cultural Center.

Mila donated 10 copies of a book called "Beautiful Shades of Brown: The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring." A friend wrote the book about this little known Black artist, and Mila got to attend an event where the author read the book.

"My favorite part of the book is about whenever she gave the mints so they could stay still, 'cause I like mints. I eat one every day," Mila said. "So, the artist gave mints to the people that she painted so they would stay a little bit longer and be more content, and that was Mila's favorite part," she explained.

Oak Cliff Cultural Center
Mila Vincent, 6, donates books to the Oak Cliff Cultural Center in celebration of her birthday.

"Laura Wheeler Waring is such a trailblazer. She started painting with colors that represented her people. And she's important but not many people know about her. And we find out, this is one of, if not, the only book written about her. And it's a children's book," said Monica Luna, the cultural program coordinator at the center, a division of the Office of Arts & Culture for the City of Dallas.

The cultural center decided to share Mila's kindness and the history of Waring through a poetry contest. Artists, pre-K through 5th grade, are invited to submit a poem with the prompt Beautiful Shades of Brown. Ten winners will get a copy of the book Mila donated.

"We're inviting every child, especially elementary school-aged, to write a poem of any length about beautiful shades of brown. What do beautiful shades of brown mean to you?" Luna explained.

The contest runs through Feb. 19, and anyone interested in entering can email Luna at monica.luna@dallascityhall.com.

To take it further, on Wednesday, Feb. 10, the Oak Cliff and South Dallas Cutural Centers will host a virtual chat with author Nancy Churrin to further share Waring's inspiring story.

"My hope was that other kids could hear this story and be inspired as well. If their passion is art, they could hear the story and take it from there," Vincent said.

"I hope others see this and are inspired by it. They don't have to do something on a grand scale but just even the smallest things, the smallest act of kindness every day. Anybody can do something,"

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