Cultivating Genius, One Stitch at a Time: Bisa Butler and Gholdy Muhammad

March 9, 2022

Cultivating Genius, One Stitch at a Time: Bisa Butler and Gholdy Muhammad

In this episode, we celebrate Women’s History Month and the power of women to transform our world, one stitch at a time. Host Suzanne McCabe, who is the editor of Scholastic Kids Press, talks with Kid Reporter Camille Fallen, 13, about a recent interview she conducted with celebrated textile artist Bisa Butler and Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, an educator and the author of the bestselling Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy.

Bisa’s vibrant textile portraits, which are inspired by black and white photographs she collects, tell the story of both ordinary and notable Black Americans. She uses the medium of quilting to interrogate the historic marginalization of her subjects, while conveying the subjects’ humanity and complex individuality.

“My work is a recording of what life is like for me as a Black woman and the way I see things,” Bisa says. “By creating these portraits, I’m giving other people a window into how Black people see themselves. It’s an insider’s view of a community that is not always paid attention to, a community that has been mischaracterized deliberately, lied about, or ignored.” 

Bisa, who had a solo show in 2020-’21 at the Art Institute of Chicago, will be honored this spring at the 60th Anniversary Benefit Gala of the American Folk Art Museum.

Bisa is a former high school art teacher. Gholdy, an associate professor of language and literacy at Georgia State University, has served as a school district curriculum director and a middle school teacher. Camille, who lives in Virginia, is a member of the award-winning Scholastic Kids Press team.


Storytelling Through Art: Watch the full video of Kid Reporter Camille Fallen’s interview with Bisa Butler and Gholdy Muhammad.

Art as Anchor Text: Access the exclusive curriculum that Gholdy created for Bisa’s art and other free resources from Scholastic Art magazine.

Scholastic Kids Press: Read stories by Kid Reporter Camille Fallen and our team of Kid Reporters around the world. If you know a student with a nose for news, the application process for the 2022-’23 school year is now open.

Learn More About Bisa Butler: This recent article in ARTNews describes how Bisa’s quilt portraits honor the Black experience.

A Conversation With Gholdy Muhammad: In a previous Scholastic Reads podcast episode, Gholdy talked with host Suzanne McCabe about the urgent need for anti-racism education.


“I gravitate towards stories because that’s how I learn, and that’s how people learn. We are just naturally attracted to stories, and stories about women’s history and Black history are so incredibly important.”

—Kid Reporter Camille Fallen 

“I hope that people who are not Black look at the work, and they still see themselves, and they realize that we are the same. Don’t be fooled by skin color or artificial constructs of race, class, money. I want them to see those people in my portraits and realize, ‘This person is a human being just like me.’”

—textile artist Bisa Butler

“We’re teaching young people about the beauty in themselves, in each other, and the world…. Black joy is really important because of a history of misrepresentation, underrepresentation, oppression, violence, racism, folks telling us that your language is not enough, your mind isn’t enough, your hair isn’t enough, your skin. And it is another reminder that we have to resist that.”

—Gholdy Muhammad, author of Cultivating Genius

Special Thanks:

Producer: Bridget Benjamin

Associate producer: Constance Gibbs

Sound engineer: Daniel Jordan

Music composer: Lucas Elliot Eberl

Coming Soon:

Helping Children Cope With Trauma • Autism Acceptance: A Conversation With Holly Robinson Peete • Aaron Blabey Talks Bad Guys  • Celebrating AAPI Month With Authors Gita Varadarajan and Debbi Michiko Florence 

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