The John Lewis Steptoe Cultural Center
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Mission Statment

THE JOHN LEWIS STEPTOE CULTURAL CENTER is proud to announce the obtainment of our

501c3 non- profit organization status! We invite contributions from partners, donors, and sponsors to work with The John Lewis Steptoe Cultural Center to bring cultural awareness to young people.

The Center is a non-profit organization, whose mission is to share the legacy and creativity of John Lewis Steptoe, an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator. Our goal is to instill a sense of self worth to residents of underprivileged communities by developing cultural workshops that will highlight John Steptoe’s contributions to the art world, children’s book literature and African American history. The Center provides art workshops, lectures and unique learning experiences to children, families and educational organizations in his childhood community and neighborhoods worldwide.

"I am not an exception to the rule among my race of people I am the rule. By that I mean there are a great many others like me where I come from.”

—John Steptoe

The John Lewis Steptoe Cultural Center
Board of Directors Presents

aturday, November 18th
1:00 pm to 3:00 pm

The John Lewis Steptor Cultural Center Launch Celebration 

Please join us at West Side Kids
498 Amsterdam Avenue at 84th
New York, NY, 10024

Bweela Steptoe will be on site to sign her father John Steptoe's award-winning book Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters. Bweela Steptoe is not only John Steptoe's daughter, but also one of the models for several of his books. Come meet with her in person!


The John Lewis Steptor Cultural Center Launch Celebration

THE JOHN LEWIS STEPTOE CULTURAL CENTER will showcase his books, illustrations, and artwork as well as provide classes for the community.

The Cultural Center will enhance community members’ lifestyle and unleash the creative spirit within. John Lewis Cultural Center’s menu of services will include:

ART CLASSES - will offer a variety of art projects, such as abstract art, painting, figure drawing, sculpture, comic book art, life drawing, landscape, collaging, manga and cartooning.

ARCHITECTURE CLASSES — study the different types of architecture around the world and how they relate to us. Students will learn to construct their own miniature unit.

COOKING CLASSES — on how to cook sustainably, using healthy alternatives for popular foods. Supporting and educating people about fresh foods and cooking.

LGBTQ COMMUNITY FOCUSED CLASSES — support, seminars, discussions and healthy safe living. Support towards all genders and sexualities for youth, adults and elderly.

FASHION DESIGN CLASSES — how to sew, drape and make a pattern. Under FASHION, we will also offer makeup and modeling classes.

HEALTH AWARENESS LECTURES— exercising, mental health awareness and sex education.

AGRICULTURE CLASSES — composting, sustaining a healthy environment, gardening and botany.

BOOK READINGS FOR KIDS - invite other authors and illustrators in to read their books.

LIBRARY — We will have a small library in the building for both kids and adults that will reference: Fashion, Health, Agriculture etc.

STAGING AREA We will also have a staging area for small performances.
SHOP — Steptoe books and artistic memorabilia will be sold in the center, a percentage of sales will be donated to other community causes.

Bweela Steptoe presenting the Life and Legacy of John L Steptoe at the Cleveland Elementary School NW, with the Open Book Foundation., May 2017.

Bweela Steptoe presenting the Life and Legacy of John L Steptoe at Cleveland Elementary School NW, with An Open Book Foundation, May 2017. Photo: Steptoe Family Collection.

Steptoe family, friends and fans celebrate the co-naming

Steptoe family and friends celebrated the success of the street co-naming petition in front of the new Brooklyn street sign. Circa 2016, Steptoe Family Collection.

Steptoe Center Links

A model for the classic book, 'Mufaro's Beautiful    Daughters,' will show her father's work at Dallas    Children's Theater
Advocates for Children of New York

Books by Bweela Steptoe

John Steptoe | Author & Illustrator | Creator of     Award Winning Books for Children
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters (The Play, 2011)    presented by Dallas Children’s Theater

Links updated September 21, 2017

Thank You from Bweela Steptoe

After a three-year long journey all of my hard work has paid off. On August 27, 2016, the day before my father John Lewis Steptoe passed away 27 years ago. Monroe Street between Ralph and Howard where John Lewis Steptoe, the award winning author and illustrator of children books grew up and lived most of his life. Was honored by having the street co-named after him to John Lewis Steptoe Place.

This would not have been at all possible with out the loving support of all of the wonderful business and community members that help to make this celebration an everlasting memorable tribute. I would like to publicly thank all of the people who played a key part in contributing to making the John Lewis Steptoe Street co-naming a great success!

Bweela Steptoe presenting the Life and Legacy of John L Steptoe at Cleveland Elementary School NW, with An Open Book Foundation., May 2017.

Bweela Steptoe presenting the Life and Legacy of John L Steptoe at Cleveland Elementary School NW, with An Open Book Foundation., May 2017. Photo: Steptoe Family Collection.

About John Steptoe

JOHN LEWIS STEPTOE was born on September 14, 1950, in Brooklyn, NY and was raised on Monroe Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant. John Steptoe began drawing as a young child and received his formal art training at the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan. In 1969, at the age of 19, his first book STEVIE, a story based on his experiences growing up, received national attention when it was published in its entirety in Life magazine. It was hailed as "a new kind of book for black children."

John Steptoe began work on STEVIE at the age of sixteen. STEVIE was published by HarperCollins in 1969 when he was nineteen, launching his career. During his twenty-two year career, he published 17 books, 11 of which he wrote and illustrated,5 that he illustrated and a final one. published after his death in 1989. He received honors and accolades including the American Library Association’s Caldecott Honor for children's book illustration for THE STORY OF JUMPING MOUSE in 1985 and MUFARO'S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS in 1988, He also received the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration, for MOTHER CROCODILE (text by Rosa Guy) in 1982, and MUFARO'S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS in 1988.

While all of John Steptoe’s work deals with aspects of the African diaspora experience, MUFARO'S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS: An African Cinderella story was acknowledged by reviewers and critics as a breakthrough. While accepting the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Illustration he said, "I am not an exception to the rule among my race of people. I am the rule. By that I mean there are a great many others like me where I come from.” John Lewis Steptoe was an inspirational artist, a visionary who highlighted the best of Bedford- Stuyvesant and African American culture with pride. Since his death in August of 1989:
• His artwork has been exhibited at the Brooklyn Transit Museum September 1994 to January 1995
• His name has been placed in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens Celebrity Path.
• Public School 181 was named the John Lewis Steptoe School of the 21st Century, Brooklyn, NY 1996.
• His name is etched in glass at the African American Heritage Center at the Macon Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn, NY.
• His artwork hangs in the Raymond Bush playground in Bedford Stuyvesant.
• MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS has been adapted as a play traveling nationwide, with over 150 performances. September 2016 to July 2017 was the most recent tour.
• MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS chosen by the children's librarians at the New York Public Library as one of the "100 Great Children’s Books/100 Years", 2013.


Please consider donating $20 for the 20 years of John Lewis Steptoe’s career.


We greatly appreciate your support!

Books, Awards & Honors


The JLSCC Free Summer Art classes at Sistas' Place with Our Leaders of Tomorrow Day Care, August 2017.

Board of Directors


The John L. Steptoe School of the 21st Century

Public School 181 was named the John Lewis Steptoe School of the 21st Century, Brooklyn, NY 1996. Photo: Steptoe Family Collection.

Future Activities and Programs

Since we are in the beginning stages of the organization, we will start with the classes and activities listed above. We also plan to expose community members to a variety of different music, be it inviting musicians or just listening to different types of music.


State Senator Velmanette    Montgomery
Council Member Darlene Mealy
Her staff Arna Lipkind and    Lawrence Saunders
Brooklyn Board 3 District   Manager Henry Butler
Borough President Eric L. Adams
Dr. Valarie Olivia-Durrah
Julia Shaw
Aneesah Saleem from Our    Children the Leaders of
   Tommorow Day Care Center
Asha and Ayanna Johnson
Javaka Steptoe
Iman Essiet
Cheryl Hanna, author, illustrator    and designer from Images &    Illuminations
Macon Branch Public Library
Award winning author and    illustrator Pat Cummings
Whitney Hu and Elise Ringo at    Strand Book Store
Megan World-Mitchell
Tish World-Copeland
Wade and Cheryl Hudson from    Just Us Books
Meredith Iszlai and Braun Serra    at Craftsman Art Store
Alexandra Cooper at    HarperCollins Children's Books
Audrey Weaver
Bedford Hall
Brooklyn Baby Cakes
Foodtown of Bedford-Stuyvesant
Damian Hamblin
Chanelle Dorsett at Idalias    Beauty Bar
Alonzo Hammond
King Kutz Barbershop and    Beauty Shop
Denise Hamblin at Lily Pad    Daycare Center
Marshalla Ramos-Inde:
  Children’s book author
Ms. Dahlia's Cafe
Nicole Frith
Angela’s Caribbean Cuisine
Pattie Hut and Grill
Robina White of Hibiscus
Saka Gakkai International – NY
Wilfredo at Trader Joe’s
Volunteers of America—Andrew
DJ Des One
Ayo and Brandii from Blak Orfan
Kwasi Hygh
Face Painter Dorothy LeTang
Henna artist Saddaf Padder,
Photographer Milton Walters
Renwick Simon
All the Co-Naming Celebration    attendees!

Rights & Permissions/Contact Us
For all permission requests pertaining to John Steptoe’s artwork, writings or the exploitation of any of the following rights, including foreign and domestic publication rights, including UK, translation, magazine, newspaper, book club, audio, paperback reprint, hardcover reprint, large print, television, motion picture (including props and set dressing), radio, dramatic, public readings, electronic reproduction, and other formats or any other rights not stated, please contact:

Phone 718-753-8544

Art Exhibits

To host an art exhibit of the work of John Steptoe at your school, college, gallery or museum, please us.

School Visits

THE JOHN LEWIS STEPTOE CULTURAL CENTER is available for school visits. We will focus on the important contributions John Steptoe made to books, art and African American history. Bweela Steptoe will share her experiences being his daughter as well as the model in many of his books. We are happy to use our New York City DOE vendor’s license. Vendor number on request. Please email us if you are interested in a visit.

Please note: It is highly recommended that your group be familiar with John Steptoe’s literary works, providing an insight into the author and his accomplishments.

Please note out of state or international visits vary in price according to details of the venue.

Bweela Steptoe with daughters in front of Steptoe's family home

John's daughter, Bweela Steptoe, with
her own twin daughters, Asha and
Ayanna, in front of the Steptoe family
home on Monroe Street in Brooklyn,
New York. Circa 1999.
Photo: Steptoe Family Collection.