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Dorothy Ferebee: legacy and literacy
Mother, professional and avid student, Dorothy Ferebee ’84 has delivered news, reviewed books, coordinated an independent film, created a website, written a book, and, most recently, overseen a progressive Philadelphia reading project. One thing is constant: her goal is always to learn.

Life offers plenty of lessons, but Ferebee loves to learn from literature and does all she can to
help others do the same. Her mother impressed on her the importance of reading. As a teen, Ferebee worked as a reading tutor and a bookbinder.

Named after her aunt, a professor of medicine, Ferebee says she had a lot to live up to. “Her name bears a heavy legacy,” Ferebee says. “With that comes a call to action.” So Ferebee followed her aunt’s lead and for 12 years, she worked in respiratory therapy. Eventuallly, though, she sought a change in her life and her profession.

Starting at Burlington County College, she transferred to Glassboro State to earn a degree in communication. In 1986, Ferebee began working at WHYY in Philadelphia. She parlayed a part-time job into a full-time post and In 1990, became station services coordinator for the award-winning radio show, Fresh Air.

Since then, Ferebee been a liaison responsible for maintaining station services relations with National Public Radio and 450 affiliate stations.“We pride ourselves on looking behind the headlines, so our guests reflect our quest to understand and appreciate the world,” says Ferebee, part of the staff that helped Fresh Air win the Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting.

At ease communicating in various media, Ferebee reaches people in other ways, too. In 1994, she served as Philadelphia coordinator for an independent film about a fashion model possessed by the spirits of Ghana slaves. Her involvement with the film led to guest lectures on African-American culture and youth issues.

Always reading, Ferebee wrote book reviews for the Baltimore Sun’s Jubilee magazine and the National Newspaper Publishers Association’s 200 black-owned newspapers, among others. She posts her reviews at her site, www.booksforblacks.net. “I sought to bring attention to the more noteworthy books and to rekindle interest in classic African-American literature,” she says.

In 2003, Ferebee had her first book published, How to Create Your Own African American Library
(One World/Ballantine). Last February, Ferebee’s expertise in African-American literature and literacy led to a keynote speaking engagement for the PBS series, African American Lives, a professional development workshop for educators. “It was a high point for me to give a lecture in front of so many teachers—people whom I respect very much,” Ferebee says.

Through her new project, Celebrating Our Right to Read, Ferebee asks for people to donate African-American books to prisons, schools, and libraries. “It is a continuing movement to stimulate a renaissance in reading,” she explains.

It’s fitting that Ferebee uses reading as a vehicle to continue the legacy her mother and aunt gave her long ago. “To be literate is to be able to understand and navigate the world we live in,” she says. “Reading is the gateway to knowledge and opportunity,”—which Ferebee proves is more than just book knowledge.

—Sabatino Mangini ’01, M’04

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