Anna Nyakana is an award-winning and best-selling author, speaker and entrepreneur. Her book “Niyah Zuri and the Pharaoh’s Throne” focuses on representation and bringing diversity to the classroom, truly turning the curriculum on its edge to ensure children of color learn about actual history beyond Black History Month . With a fearless black heroine leading the way, Anna’s Niyah Zuri mission also focuses on girl-empowerment, including inspiring young girls to love themselves and their natural hair. “Your hair is an extension of your spirit; a gloriously kinky and curly crown,” just like her main character Niyah Zuri as well as herself.
Tell readers about your new book Niyah Zuri and The Pharaoh’s Throne?
“Niyah Zuri and The Pharaoh’s Throne” follows my fearless heroine Niyah Zuri as she and her best friends, Miguel and Hugo Gonzales, time-jump throughout history. Readers build their vocabulary while being exposed to world culture and are empowered from seeing characters of color in the forefront. Moreover, young girls learn that they don’t have to play a damsel in distress role, they can be the hero’s in their own stories and save themselves by using their most beautiful and precious asset; their mind.
What is your favorite thing about being an author?
Connecting with my young readers! I have the privilege of creating empowering stories and motivating the youth. Opening their minds to their inner-strength, their history and essentially inspiring them to become their most optimal self!
What part of writing do you personally find most satisfying and most challenging?
I love the freedom of writing, there are no limitations to the creative mind. What I think, I can literally create, this keeps me fueled to be boundless and teach my readers to do the same one adventure at a time. In the same light, sometimes I’m challenged to write for a publication as an expert contributor and need to meet a word count versus when I personally feel satisfied with my written work. When this occurs, I remind myself that there’s no such thing as an obstacle, but rather an opportunity and I push through. That decision creates the space for growth in my skillset and passion.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Write, Every Day. You could write a single sentence or paragraphs at a time, the important thing is that you continuously work towards completing a written thought, a message, a novel. Not only will you sharpen your skills, but you will reveal to yourself the type of writer you are and learn to express your innermost ideas. So write your story, the world is waiting to hear it!
What inspired you to start your own business?
I am determined to change the narrative. There were no books with characters that represented me and the kids in my neighborhood. As an ESL (English as a Second Language) student, this discouraged my desire to read to improve my English and suppressed a discovery of self-love. What a generation we could create if we only empowered our youth to know their value through exposure to their rich history versus the suppression of indoctrination. I decided to not talk about it but be about it and I encourage everyone to walk purposefully to positively impact this world, the future is depending on it.
Any upcoming projects coming up that you would like to share with readers?
I am launching the official Niyah Zuri apparel in the coming weeks. This will be an exclusive drop, first for the youth and then adults. I am so excited to finally bring this dream to fruition, for my entire Niyah Zuri Tribe to physically wear my fundamental truths as affirmations in their day-to-day lives. I will also be dropping sneak peeks of the behind the scenes creation of my Niyah Zuri cartoon, so keep an eye out!!!
City or Suburbs?
City, I’m all about adventure!
Mansion or cabin in the mountains?
Cabin in the mountains. I love to be in nature, it’s my “happy place.”
For an all expense paid trip, which place would you like to visit?
That’s easy, I would go home to Uganda.
What life events shaped you into who you are?
Traveling around the world for personal and volunteer work throughout my childhood definitely molded me into the woman I am today. Even outside of visiting family, some of the most profound experiences occurred to me during volunteer trips and took deep root into my ideologies and inextinguishable fire to change the world. When I was 15, I volunteered at an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya. This orphanage was specifically to care for children who were HIV positive and abandoned by their parents who likely had the same disease or were already deceased. I developed a strong friendship with a few kids my own age as we had the same optimistic view of infinite possibilities; the same dream of bettering society. Within a few weeks, they all passed away. I visited their graves before departing back to the states and vowed to continue to live for them, that experience has remained with me for the past 18 years.
If you could meet any figure from history who would it be?
Bob Marley. He was before his time, a real revolutionary, a prophet and voice of the people. In the face of evil, he didn’t back down even knowing his fate. His mission was bigger than himself and so if mine.
Do you think your childhood was better or worse than other people growing up in a similar place and time?
I wouldn’t say the my childhood was better or worse in comparison to others as everyone is entitled to their own journey and my upbringing was destined specifically for me; it directly contributed to the adult that I become. Did my family and I immigrate to this country with only two suitcases? Yes. Did I grow up in the housing projects for the majority of my childhood? Yes. Was my school underfunded and disconnected to the community? Yes. Did I have childhood trauma? Yes. Now someone could see these points as a negative or a harsh upbringing. I see them as the foundation that taught me to grind, to execute, to problem-solve, to be resourceful and to elevate. I apply these qualities daily to fulfill my purpose of ensuring no child becomes a “product of their environment”, but rather excels despite their environment.
How can everyone keep in contact with you on social media?
Join the Niyah Zuri Tribe and follow me on all social media @NiyahZuri.