By Laura Onyeneho
The COVID-19 pandemic might have been one of the worse pandemics in recent history, but it has birthed some positively life changing stories and business ideas.
In 2020, Dr. Javoris Hollingsworth and his wife Dr. Arlene Gordon-Hollingsworth (Ph.D) created the popular YouTube series called “Gracie’s Corner,” an educational cartoon for children featuring predominately Black and Brown characters, when they couldn’t find diverse, age-appropriate content to watch during the lockdown.
The channel introduces soulful nursery rhymes incorporated with elements of hip-hop, reggae, Afro-beat, and pop voiced by their daughter Graceyn Hollingsworth (Gracie for short).
The Houston family created content that highlights Black culture, breaks boundaries in education and empowers the masses in a unique way. In a short span of time, their videos have become the latest viral sensation capturing the minds and hearts of people all over.
Gracie’s Corner has reached 1 million YouTube subscribers and they are just getting started.
The Defender spoke to Javoris Hollingsworth, a former organic chemistry professor, to talk about diverse representation in education content and the creative process behind Gracie’s Corner.
Defender: Congratulation on gaining 1 million subscribers across YouTube and social media platforms. How does it feel to reach such a milestone in just two years?
Hollingsworth: It’s unreal honestly. The only people who were watching at the time were my mom and some of our relatives. I remember sharing it across my social media pages with friends and it was like almost pulling teeth to get people to check it out. But it was something that we believed in and just with time it skyrocketed around the early part of this year. I remember we hit 100,000 subscribers and I thought it was crazy. But then we hit half a million and just recently a million. It’s really happening fast and we are grateful for it.
Defender: You and your wife are both educators who launched this idea during the height of the pandemic. Why?
Hollingsworth: During the pandemic I was, but I’m no longer teaching at the university. I was a chemistry professor and normally with that job I’ll be in the classroom with students, but during the pandemic, everyone started doing it remotely. I was teaching from home. The kiddos were also doing school from home. So, everybody’s at home together seeing our daily routine. It gave me the opportunity to truly get to know my kids on a deeper level down to the content they consume.
What really stood out to me was that there wasn’t much representation out there as far as children of color and being at the forefront, like in times where we are shown it’s almost like an afterthought. I saw the opportunity to try to be proactive and address it. The [researcher side of me] did some homework to figure out what would be necessary to build it from the ground up.
I have a music background…My science career took me away from music but oddly I’m back in music and it’s so cool not because I have this young lady taking part as well where she does all of the vocals and singing. [We] built an at-home studio, started writing the scripts and she was singing and coordinating with the animator to bring the script to life.
Defender: When creating the series, how did you develop the concept?
Hollingsworth: My wife was kind of a part of the creative piece too as far as some of the messaging and things that needed to be in place. It’s kind of similar to the layout of Cocomelon like the short form music video type of setup, but we put out own spin to it. We started out with Gracie in her bedroom and then you notice in every episode she starts with imagining something. It gave us the opportunity to allow Gracie to go anywhere in the world ranging from Africa to South America.
With the timing of the pandemic where people were shut in for the most part, [we] wanted to show kids the power of their imaginations. Figuring out how to writing a script and building my own at home studio, those types of things I had no clue about. I went on YouTube and Google just doing research and then kind of pieced it together.
I had my doubts at first because when we started, she was 7 years-old. My mindset was wondering if she could handle doing different voiceovers and songs. It’s been crazy to watch the channel grow and also watch [Gracie] grow because of the confidence she has been building. It’s a true family effort to see it all come together.
Defender: Where do you see Gracie’s Corner in the future?
Hollingsworth: As far as the channel itself, one of the things that we have in the works is a long-formed version of Gracie’s Corner where we actually have full blown episodes. For that endeavor, it’s going to be full blown production. We’re just trying to find the right partners to push that forward. It’s going to give viewers an opportunity to learn more about Gracie as a person. Another thing that is also in the works is, I think probably by this time next year we should have a concert on the road like a live tour.
YouTube: Gracie’s Corner
Instagram: @Gracie’s Corner
Facebook: Gracie’s Corner