Diagnosed as Learning Disabled and Told he Wasn’t Going to College, Virginia Author Beats the Odds

Sidney self-published Amazon best-seller Nelson Beats the Odds, a comic book about a young man who struggles with the stigma of being placed in special education. Since releasing his book, Sidney has been featured on MicheLA, Fox and Friends Weekend and NBC 12 News.

Click here to order a copy of Nelson Beats the Odds, Tameka’s New Dress or Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One.

After being diagnosed as learning disabled and spending five years in special education, the last thing Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW thought he would become was an author. “When I graduated high school my goal was to become the next Puff Daddy. I wanted to own a record label, throw lavish parties and live the high life,” said Sidney. That all changed when Sidney switched his major from Business Management to Human Services at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. “Helping people came easy,” Sidney explained, “My father is a minister, my sister is a social worker and my mother is a nurse. I guess it runs in the family.”

Sidney, an author, therapist and entrepreneur, hails from Tapphannock, VA, otherwise known as the home of Chris Brown. On August 21, 2015, Sidney self-published Amazon best-seller Nelson Beats the Odds, a semiautobiographical comic book about a young man who struggles with the stigma of being placed in special education. Since releasing Nelson Beats the Odds, Sidney has been featured on MicheLAFox and Friends Weekend and NBC 12 News. Last week he released Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One, which includes his second graphic novel Tameka’s New Dress. The compendium  gives readers a chance to experience Nelson Beats the Odds and Tameka’s New Dress in one thrilling graphic novel.

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While attending Essex County Public Schools (ECPS), Sidney struggled academically and behaviorally. He spent five years in special education after being diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and a Specific Learning Disability (SLD). The stigmatization of special education created a lack of interest in school. In eighth grade Sidney was told by his Pre-Algebra teacher that he wasn’t going to college. “That was a pivotal moment in my life. I made up in my mind that I was going to prove him and everyone who doubted me wrong,” says Sidney.

Nevertheless, Sidney graduated from Essex High School in 2001, but with a 1.8 GPA. With limited options regarding four-year colleges, he decided to enroll in J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia. The following year, he transferred to Old Dominion University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services in 2006.

In 2011, Sidney enrolled in Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) School of Social Work program to learn how to better serve at-risk youth. At VCU he earned a 3.5 GPA and was inducted into the Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges. One year after earning his Master of Social Work degree,  Sidney self-published  Nelson Beats The OddsThe book became a platform for Sidney to share his childhood experiences and bring attention to the plight of students with disabilities.

Sidney, whose middle name is Nelson, hopes his books will inspire young people to overcome their challenges. “I want Nelson Beats the Odds to resonate with young people, particularly African-American males and students with learning disabilities,” Sidney explains, “I want the book to speak directly to their experience. I was in special education for seven years and I know exactly how it feels to be a struggling learner.”

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2016 MOVE Conference
Studies have shown that students with learning disabilities face difficult odds and experience poorer academic outcomes than students without learning disabilities. A 2011 study by the IDEA Data Center found that African-American students in Virginia made up 23.8% of the student population but represented 31.6% of students diagnosed with a specific learning disability. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, Black and Hispanic students with disabilities face much higher rates of school disciplinary actions, drop-out rates and experience lower rates of graduation.

Sidney’s second book, Tameka’s New Dress, features a familiar character from his previous book. Tameka is one of Nelson’s best friends, however, unlike Nelson, she is a well-behaved straight A student. Tameka’s poor grades and behavior at her old school alerts her principal that something was going on at home. Mrs. Ross, a character based on the author’s biological sister, is contacted by Tameka’s guidance counselor and investigates the abuse and neglect allegations. Tameka and her brothers were removed from their chaotic home environment and placed in the care of their grandmother by Mrs. Ross.
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In the United States, approximately  10 percent of all children live with a grandparent. Roughly 2.7 million grandparents had primary responsibility for grandchildren under the age of 18 who lived with them (Ellis & Simmons, 2014).

“I’m seeing more and more families where the grandparents are the primary caregivers due to parental substance abuse, incarceration and mental illness. The grandparents faced a number of challenges such as poor health, poverty and a lack of access to critical resources,” explains Sidney. His experience working with families headed by grandparents encouraged him to author and self-publish Tameka’s New Dress. “When young people read Tameka’s New Dress they will find characters and experiences they can relate to,” says Sidney.

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The success of Nelson Beats The Odds can be measured by its previous #1 rankings on the Amazon Best Seller list. When asked what it felt like to be a best-seller Sidney added, “It feels great! To come from a small town like Tappahannock, Virginia and inspire kids from all over the world with my book is humbling. My goal from the start was to encourage struggling students to beat the odds and that’s exactly what I’m doing.” Sidney credits much of his book’s success to his illustrators Imagine That! Design.

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After releasing Nelson Beats the Odds, Sidney was inspired to develop the Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator app for iOS mobile devices. The companion app allows users to customize photos and share them with friends on social media. Sidney also started #iBeatTheOdds, a popular Facebook social media campaign that gives individuals a platform to share stories about how they beat the odds. For inquires, please contact us at ronnie@creative-medicine.com. For more information about our services, please visit www.creative-medicine.com.

 

Simone Biles, Tameka’s New Dress and Why Grandparents Matter

Compared to other ethnic groups, African-American children are more often raised primarily by a grandparent. According to a Pew Research Center report, African-American children are twice as likely to live below the poverty line compared to children whose grandparents are not primary caregivers.

Purchase a copy of Tameka’s New Dress by clicking here.

Simone Biles earned four gold medals and one bronze medal during the 2016 Olympic games in Rio De Janeiro. Team USA selected the 19-year old American gymnast to be their flag bearer for the closing ceremony. With Simone’s rise to stardom came undue criticism about her traumatic past.  Sports commentator Al Trautwig publically shamed Simone by saying her grandparents Ron and Nellie Biles “may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents”. Simone responded to US Weekly exclusively by simply saying, “My parents are my parents and that’s it.”

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Simone’s mother, Shannon Biles, suffered from an alcohol and drug addiction. Shannon lost custody of Simone and her younger sister Adria due to her inability to raise them. Social services intervened and the girls were placed in foster care. Ron and Nellie Biles, Simone’s grandparents, adopted Simone and her sister on Christmas Eve in 2002.

A 2012 United States Census Bureau survey found that 10 percent of all children in the United States lived with a grandparent. Of children living with their grandparent, aged 18 years and younger, an estimated 2.7 million grandparents were the primary caregivers for the children. Compared to other ethnic groups, African-American children are more often raised primarily by a grandparent. According to a Pew Research Center report, African-American children are twice as likely to live below the poverty line compared to children whose grandparents are not primary caregivers.

Author-Therapist Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW believes grandparents raising their grandchildren is on the rise. “I’m seeing more and more families where the grandparents are the primary caregivers. Grandparents of color face a number of challenges such as poor health, poverty and a lack of access to critical resources,” says Ronnie. Ronnie’s experience working with families headed by grandparents encouraged him to author and self-publish Tameka’s New Dress. “When young people read Tameka’s New Dress they will find characters and experiences they can relate to,” explains Ronnie.

Tameka, a gifted Kemet Middle School student, is accused of pushing another student. When the principal mentions to Tameka that she may be suspended, Tameka starts to panic. Tameka’s fear stems from the abuse and neglect she experiences at home. Like Simone, Tameka’s mother suffers from alcohol and drug addiction. Also like Simone, Tameka is removed from her home by social services and placed with her grandparents.

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After coming home from school crying, Tameka’s grandmother sews her a new African wax-cloth dress. The dress gives Tameka a new-found confidence. The author was inspired to tell the story behind Tameka’s beautiful dress by his daughters. “My daughter Mali feels like a queen every time she puts on a new dress,” explains Ronnie, “It transforms her, all she wants to do is smile and twirl around in circles.”

Tameka’s New Dress features the author’s sister, Cherlanda Sidney-Ross, who’s a social worker and Family Services Supervisor. Mrs. Ross is contacted by Tameka’s guidance counselor and asked to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect. The social worker removes Tameka and her brothers from their chaotic home environment and places them in the care of their grandmother.

“My sister has always been a role model of mine. I credit her with inspiring me to enroll in Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social Work and pursue my Master of Social Work degree,” said Ronnie. He wanted to honor his sister and the thousands of other child welfare workers advocating for children every day.

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“It actually probably saved my life. It is the reason why I am where I am today because my grandmother gave me the foundation for success that I was allowed to continue to build upon. My grandmother taught me to read, and that opened the door to all kinds of possibilities for me.”

Oprah Winfrey, American Media Proprietor, Grandfamily

Both Tameka and Simone are strong young women with grandparents who love and support them. Their stories celebrate resilience and creatively empower Black girls to beat the odds. Most importantly, both Simone and Tameka illustrate the pivotal role grandparents play in the African-American community.

Tameka’s New Dress, the second installment of the Nelson Beats the Odds series is currently available for sale. The graphic novel is illustrated by Imagine That! Design and published by Creative Medicine: Healing Through Words, LLC. Please visit our website for more information about Tameka’s New Dress. For inquires please contact Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW at ronnie@creative-medicine.com.

We Need Diverse Books: African-American Author-Therapist Answers The Call

Sidney believes his book series can step in and fill a huge gap in literature. “I think it’s extremely important for children of color to have their truth reflected honestly in children’s books. Nelson Beats the Odds and Tameka’s New Dress features characters who overcome challenges such as learning disabilities, ADHD, trauma and bullying,” says Sidney.

In less than twelve months, Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW has authored and self-published two children’s books. Sidney partnered with Imagine That! Design to help him illustrate Nelson Beats the Odds and Tameka’s New Dress. Nelson Beats the Odds, the author’s first book, is a semiautobiographical graphic novel about an African-American boy who struggles with the stigma of being placed in special education. The book is based on Sidney’s personal experience in special education.

In 3rd grade I was referred to special education. My parents were told that I was too hyper and needed to be placed on medication,” says Sidney. The stigmatization of special education created a lack of interest in school for the author. Nevertheless, Sidney graduated from Essex High School in 2001, but with a 1.8 GPA. Sidney went on to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services from Old Dominion University and his Master of Social Work degree from Virginia Commonwealth University.

“Nothing was given, everything was earned through hard work,” explains Sidney, “After earning my MSW I wrote Nelson Beats the Odds to inspire exceptional educational students because I remember how hard it was carrying around stigma.”

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Nelson Beats The Odds is currently #1 on the Amazon Best Seller Paid in Kindle Store list for books about learning disabilities. This past May, Sidney was featured on Fox and Friends Weekend and NBC 12 News. Sidney has been sharing his message across the state of Virginia, speaking at events hosted by the Virginia Department of Education, Virginia Federation of the Council for Exceptional Children, National Foster Parent Association,  Richmond Public Library and National Association for Black Social Workers.

Sidney’s second book, Tameka’s New Dress, features a familiar character from his previous book. Tameka is one of Nelson’s best friends, however, unlike Nelson, she is a well-behaved straight A student. Tameka’s poor grades and behavior at her old school alerted her principal that something was going on at home. Child protective services intervenes after Tameka discloses that she was abused and neglected by her parents. Tameka is removed from her parents’ home and placed with her grandmother.

Here is what Sidney has to say about Tameka’s New Dress:

For me, it was important to tell the story of Tameka’s dress. It’s her cloak, an impenetrable force field that shields her from negativity. The dress gives Tameka the ability to love unconditionally without the fear of being hurt. Tameka’s New Dress celebrates the diversity of Black females and visually empowers Black girls.

The book teaches young people alternative ways to deal with conflict. Tameka uses writing as a way to cope with adverse childhood experiences. Through her new dress, Tameka learns how to deal with conflict assertively instead of aggressively. In the book Sidney also confronts colorism.

“In Nelson Beats the Odds, I introduce readers to the concept of ‘acting white’ because it adversely effects Black students academic achievement”, says Sidney, “In Tameka’s New Dress I introduce readers to the concept of colorism because it adversely effects Black student’s self-esteem”. In Tameka’s New Dress, Mesha the school bully, teases and taunts Tameka because of her skin complexion.

Sidney believes his book series can step in and fill a huge gap in literature. “I think it’s extremely important for children of color to have their truth reflected honestly in children’s books. Nelson Beats the Odds and Tameka’s New Dress features characters who overcome challenges such as learning disabilities, ADHD, trauma and bullying,” says Sidney.

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Ellen Oh and Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW
There is a growing movement in America and abroad to promote diverse literature. We Need Diverse Books™ launched an international campaign to address this issue.  The grassroots organization’s mission is to put more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children. By advocating for essential changes in the publishing industry, the group hopes more books will be produced and promoted that “reflects and honors the lives of all young people.”

Since 1985 the Cooperative Children’s Book Center documented the numbers of books they received that were written and/or illustrated by African Americans. In 2015 they received 3,400 books, only 106 were written and/or illustrated by African-Americans while 269 were written about them.

Outside of writing and publishing books, Sidney released the Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator app for iOS mobile devices. The companion app allows users to customize photos and share them with friends on social media. Sidney also started #iBeatTheOdds, a popular social media campaign that gives individuals a platform to share stories about how they beat the odds.  The campaign also awarded scholarships to four high school seniors. For inquiries email us at ronnie@creative-medicine.com or visit http://www.creative-medicine.com.

In Wake of Castile and Sterling Shootings, Best-Selling Children’s Book Author Readies Third Book

I feel so numb thinking about the pain and anguish their families are experiencing right now, says Sidney, The pain pushes me to keep publishing children’s books that raise awareness about social justice issues.

To donate to Kickstarter Campaign R.I.P. RaShawn click here.

The nation’s latest victims of police-involved shootings were 37-year-old Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and 32-year-old Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Castile, a beloved public school employee, was shot by a police officer during a traffic stop on Wednesday, July 7, 2016. Sterling, a father of five, was tackled to the ground before being shot and killed by officers a day earlier. Both incidents were captured on cell phone cameras and uploaded on social media.

 

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Author-therapist Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW recalls feeling numb after watching the two videos. “I feel so numb thinking about the pain and anguish their families are experiencing right now,” says Sidney, “The pain pushes me to keep publishing children’s books that raise awareness about social justice issues.”

Sidney is the author Tameka’s New Dress and Amazon best-seller Nelson Beats Odds. The transcript for his upcoming book, R.I.P. RaShawn, has been sitting on his laptop since January. R.I.P. RaShawn is tragic story about the extra-judicial killing of a Black teenager. Sidney believes the book is more relevant now than ever.

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“The international response to the recent rash of police officer-involved shootings on social media has been overwhelming. People are standing in solidarity all over the country in protest to the extrajudicial killings of Black men in America,” says Sidney.

Celebrities Chris Brown, Beyonce and Jessie Williams publicly responded to the tragic deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling . President Obama said the fatal police shootings were “symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.”

Sidney is well aware of the racial disparities that exist in the criminal justice system. In 2013, Sidney presented “Liberty and Justice for All? Examining the Untold Trayvon Martin Stories” at Virginia Commonwealth University. The presentation examined nearly a dozen African-American and Hispanic teenagers who died at the hands of vigilantes or police officers. Sidney wasn’t inspired to write R.I.P. RaShawn until the aftermath of Tamir Rice’s death. “I love children, to see one gunned down like that by police officers made me sick to my stomach. I wrote a story that illustrated the emotional pain families experience when their children are killed ” says Sidney.

R.I.P. RaShawn takes place in a fictional city called Bland- the city is named after the late Sandra Bland. A group of local boys who call themselves “Trill Squad” pick a fight with the book’s main character Jeremy. Jeremy is outnumbered and loses the fight. While Jeremy’s mother Mary is grocery shopping, Jeremy steals an airsoft gun. Jeremy carelessly shows off the weapon to Nelson and a shopkeeper calls the police. Meanwhile, Jeremy’s brother is sent to the park to pick up Jeremy and Nelson. RaShawn notices Jeremy has a toy gun and takes it from him. Two police officers pull up aggressively on the curb and things go from bad to worst…

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Nelson and Jeremy

Sidney works as an Outpatient Therapist and his book series includes characters diagnosed with mental health disorders and learning disabilities. R.I.P. RaShawn will explore PTSD, anger and grief because they are common reactions to traumatic experiences.

“R.I.P. RaShawn will give young people a platform to discuss officer-involved shootings. Our young people are being traumatized daily by videos of men and women being shot by police officers, it’s essential that we help them process those experiences,” explains Sidney.

A Kickstarter campaign  was recently launched by Sidney to finance  R.I.P. RaShawn. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding website that helps individuals fund creative projects. Sidney’s project goal for R.I.P. RaShawn is only $3,500 and the money will be used to cover illustrations, publishing and promotional costs. In exchange for pledging to the project, backers can gain access to rewards ranging from an autographed paperback copy of R.I.P. RaShawn to an appearance by the author at your community organization, school or corporate event.

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Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW and Youth from the Westmoreland Children and Youth Association

Quotes from young African American and Hispanic teens will be littered throughout R.I.P. RaShawn. One of those quotes will be from a 14-year-old high school student from Portsmouth, VA named Lawrence. Below is an excerpt from an essay Lawrence wrote after reading the book’s transcript:

It’s a cold world. Where is the love and peace? It seems like life is on repeat. Dude had a toy gun and they still shot him. It seems like what Dr. King fought for doesn’t even matter, they still want to see our blood splattered. It seems like if we talk, we get a bullet. It makes me think about what to do in life. Do I need to carry a gun?

About: Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW is an author (Nelson Beats The Odds,Tameka’s New Dress), publisher, therapist, app developer (Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator), philanthropist and literary activist. Ronnie partnered with his illustrators Imagine That! Design to publish Nelson Beats the Odds and Tameka’s New Dress. For inquiries email us at ronnie@creative-medicine.com or visit http://www.creative-medicine.com.

Tameka’s New Dress is Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ of Children’s Books

For me, it was important to tell the story of Tameka’s dress. It’s her cloak, an impenetrable force field that shields her from negativity. The dress gives Tameka the ability to love unconditionally without the fear of being hurt. Like Lemonade, Tameka’s New Dress celebrates the diversity of Black women and visually empowers Black girls.

Click here to purchase a copy of Tameka’s New Dress

Like Lemonade, I use political messages, themes and symbolism to get my points across in Tameka’s New Dress. The young-adult graphic novel is a visual tale of loss, hope, and Black female empowerment.

Beyoncé ’s Lemonade is a lengthy, creative concept video and album. The video is divided into 11 chapters: “Intuition,” “Denial,” “Anger,” “Apathy,” “Emptiness,” “Accountability,” “Reformation,” “Forgiveness,” “Resurrection,” “Hope,” and “Redemption.” I want to divide my blog into four of those chapters, juxtaposing Tameka’s New Dress with Lemonade.

Anger

During the anger chapter, Beyoncé features an excerpt from a speech by Malcolm X:

The most disrespected woman in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.

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A gifted Kemet Middle School student, Tameka is accused of pushing another student. When the principal mentions to Tameka that she may be suspended, Tameka starts to panic. Tameka’s fear stems from the abuse and neglect she experiences at home. Inside the home Tameka’s step-father disrespects her body, her mother fails to protect her, and both parents neglect her.

During the anger chapter, Beyoncé transforms into 18th Dynasty queen Nefertiti. Nefertiti is the wife of my favorite pharaoh, Akhenaten. The two began a religious revolution in Kemet, or Ancient Egypt, that influenced contemporary religions like Christianity and Judaism. After Nefertiti’s husband died, scholars believe she ruled Kemet as Neferneferuaten.

My favorite illustration in Tameka’s New Dress shows Tameka holding the fabric for her new dress, visualizing herself as warrior queens Nefertiti, Nzinga and Nandi. In the background of the illustration is the Sankofa bird. Sankofa is an Akan word whose literal translation is, “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.” In the one-minute long trailer of Lemonade, Beyoncé  whispers, “The past and the present merge to us here. What are you hiding?” Standing on the shoulders of our ancestors is a major theme throughout Tameka’s New Dress and Lemonade.

Emptiness

In “6 inch,” Beyoncé walks out of a burning house and stands outside of it symbolizing the rising of the phoenix. In Kemet, or ancient Egypt, the phoenix originated as the Bennu. Greek historian, Herodotus, said the Bennu came from Arabia every 500 years. Before the phoenix dies, it builds a nest of cinnamon twigs, lays down it and dies. A new phoenix rises out of the ashes, able to regenerate when injured by a foe. Tameka embraces her African roots and her transformation into a phoenix symbolizes her overcoming past trauma.

Redemption

Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands. You passed these instructions down to your daughter who then passed it down to her daughter.

I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade. My grandma said “Nothing real can be threatened.” True love brought salvation back into me. With every tear came redemption and my torturers became my remedy. So we’re gonna heal. We’re gonna start again. You’ve brought the orchestra, synchronized swimmers.

First, I want to show love to Warsan Shire, Somali-British poet, who provided the poetry for Beyonce’s monologues. I loved the narrative during the redemption chapter because it describes Tameka’s experience with her grandmother to a tee.

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As the chapter opens, Beyoncé dons an antebellum-style dress with patterns derived from African fabric. Tameka’s grandmother sews her an African wax cloth dress with redemption and resilience embedded in every stitch. A true alchemist, Tameka’s grandmother helps her turn lemons into lemonade. Her grandmother’s unconditional love and words of encouragement comforts Tameka and dries her tears.

Forgiveness

Baptize me … now that reconciliation is possible. If we’re gonna heal, let it be glorious. 1,000 girls raise their arms. Do you remember being born? Are you thankful for the hips that cracked? The deep velvet of your mother and her mother and her mother? There is a curse that will be broken.

The warmth that Jay-Z and Beyoncé share to the soundtrack of “Sandcastles” is EPIC! Push and pull, argue and make-up, it’s the duality of interpersonal relationships that make us human.

Without forgiveness, Tameka would not have been able to move past the abuse and neglect. Without forgiveness, Tameka would not have been able to affirm her bully’s beauty.

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My hope is that the curse of colorism will be broken. After Lemonade was released, I asked my illustrator to revise a line in my book. Mesha, the book’s antagonist, bullies Tameka because she is a new student and is light-skinned. After class, Mesha approaches Tameka and says, “You must be the new girl! Hey, light bright! You must think you’re cute like Becky with the good hair!”

I grew up down the road from the Johnville plantation, the place where my ancestors were enslaved and worked to death. Light-skinned vs. dark-skinned was alive and well when I went through school. I didn’t realize it was weapon created to divide us until I read the Willie Lynch papers in college. I asked an exceptional young lady that I met while working at Rappahannock Community College to submit the book’s foreword. Rebecca experienced colorism first hand, I felt her experience would make the political personal. I felt like I needed to address colorism in Tameka’s New Dress because the same preconceptions and misconceptions continue to divide children of color today.Tameka forgives her tormentor Mesha, breaking the curse of colorism. I want girls of color to know that melanin UNIFIES us. I look forward to the day when social activists like Jessie Williams can speak out about racial injustice without their “blackness” being put on trial.

For me, it was important to tell the story of Tameka’s dress. It’s her cloak, an impenetrable force field that shields her from negativity. The dress gives Tameka the ability to love unconditionally without the fear of being hurt. Like Lemonade, Tameka’s New Dress celebrates the diversity of Black women and visually empowers Black girls.

About: Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW is an author (Nelson Beats The Odds, Tameka’s New Dress), publisher, therapist, app developer (Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator), philanthropist and literary activist. Ronnie partnered with his illustrators Imagine That! Design to publish Nelson Beats the Odds and Tameka’s New Dress. For inquiries email us at ronnie@creative-medicine.com or visit http://www.creative-medicine.com.

Author-Therapist Dedicates New Book to Memory of Bullying Victim

“When I heard about what happened to Amy Francis-Joyner on the news, I thought it was eerily similar to Tameka’s story,” says Ronnie, “I decided to dedicate my book to Amy’s memory because she did not deserve what happened to her.”

Amy Francis-Joyner was born on March 8, 2000 and was a resident of New Castle, Delaware. The 16-year-old was fatally assaulted in the girls bathroom at Howard High School of Technology. Amy passed away April 21, 2016 from a pre-existing heart condition exacerbated by the brutal attack.

Three teens were charged in the death of Amy. According to court papers, the assault was planned 20 hours prior to the attack. Three girls followed Amy into the restroom, Trinity Carr, 16, is seen on video punching Amy in the head and chest. Trinity is being charged with criminally negligent homicide, a crime punishable by up to eight years in prison.

Author, Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW, felt Tameka’s New Dress related in many ways to Amy Francis-Joyner’s story. “When I heard about what happened to Amy Francis-Joyner  on the news, I thought it was eerily similar to Tameka’s story,” says Ronnie, “I decided to dedicate my book to Amy’s memory because she did not deserve what happened to her.”

Tameka’s New Dress is a graphic novel about a young girl named Tameka. On Tameka’s first day at her new school she was harassed by three bullies. Mesha, the main bully, picks on Tameka primarily because she’s light-skinned. Mesha and Tameka’s conflict highlights an issue that continues to plague communities of color, colorism.

Wilder and Cain (2011) describes colorism as:

Colorism is defined as an intraracial system of inequality based on skin color, hair texture, and facial features that bestows privilege and value on physical attributes that are closer to white” (Wilder & Cain, 2011).

Barbadian recording artist Rihanna spoke candidly about her experience being picked on in school because of her complexion:

I got teased my entire school life. What they were picking on I don’t even understand. It was my skin color [which was lighter than her classmates’]. Then when I got older, it was about my breasts. But I’m not victimized—I’m grateful. I think those experiences were strategically put together by God for the preparation of being in the music industry.

“It’s important for boys and girls of color learn new ways to deal with conflict,” says Sidney, “Violence should always be the last alternative, not the first.”

Ironically, Tameka’s New Dress begins with Tameka pushing another student. The principal asks Tameka if there’s anything going on at home and Tameka asks to speak to the guidence counselor. Child protective services removes Tameka and her siblings from their parents home after she discloses that she’s being abused and neglected.


After coming home from school crying, Tameka’s grandmother sews her a new African wax-cloth dress. The dress gives Tameka a new-found confidence. The author was inspired to tell the story behind Tameka’s beautiful dress by his daughters. “My daughter Mali feels like a queen every time she puts on a new dress,” explains Ronnie, “It transforms her, all she wants to do is smile and twirl around in circles.”

What happened on April 21, 2016 was a tragedy; Amy Francis-Joyner lost her young life and Trinity Carr’s life will forever be altered. “Hurt people hurt people,” says Ronnie, “My hope is that Tameka’s New Dress will inspire girls to find beauty inside themselves and others.”

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Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW is an author, publisher, therapist, app developer, philanthropist and literary activist. Ronnie partnered with his illustrators Imagine That! Design to publish Nelson Beats the Odds and Tameka’s New Dress. For more information visit http://www.creative-medicine.com.

Dear Abby: We’re Not All Affirmative Action Babies

For years the right to a quality education for African-Americans has been hindered by institutional racism, physical violence, segregation, redistricting, placement in under-performing schools, low teacher expectations, racially biased tests, disproportionate placement in special education and the school-to-prison pipeline. The black students you see on college campuses overcame all of that and more. The deck has always been stacked against us, yet, still we rise.

Dear Abby,

My name is Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW and I am from Tappahannock, Virginia. Contrary to popular belief, my path to college wasn’t paved in gold. In 3rd grade I was referred to special education. My parents were told that I was too hyper and needed to be placed on medication. I remember being placed in the slow reading group and sent to another class with a handful of students for extra help. In fifth grade I was given a bunch of random tests like one of those monkeys inside of a laboratory. I was diagnosed as learning disabled and spent five years in special education. They gave me a career assessment that predicted what type of job I would be good at. None of the options included jobs that required a college degree.The school tried to place me in a “self-contained” classroom where I would be given easy work until I graduated.  I wasn’t having it. I made my parents take me out of special education because it wasn’t giving me a path to college. When I got out of special education, I was prevented from enrolling in foreign language classes and other college preparatory classes. I was placed on a lower academic track where more emphasis was placed on classroom discipline than academic instruction. I had one high school teacher tell my entire class that none of us were going to college.

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I graduated from Essex High School in 2001, but with a 1.8 GPA. With limited options regarding four-year colleges, I decided to enroll in Reynolds Community College in Richmond, Virginia. I had an college English teacher refuse to grade my paper back because she thought I plagiarized it. Being black and smart was a crime. My whole life they tried to dim my light, but they only made it shine brighter. At Reynolds Community College I made the Dean’s List- my biggest academic achievement EVER. I transferred to Old Dominion University the next year and earned my bachelors degree there. I worked for several years in the mental health and academic counseling field before enrolling in VCU School of Social Work. I was nervous because I didn’t truly know if I could do it. I was an unemployed first-time father who use to be in Special Ed. By the grace of God I landed a job with the Virginia Department of Corrections as a counselor. I juggled a full time job, master’s program and parenthood for three years. In 2014 I earned my MSW and graduated with a 3.5 GPA. Nothing was given, everything was earned through hard work. After graduation I published Nelson Beats The Odds to inspire young people who’ve been diagnosed with learning disabilities. I distinctly remember how hard it was carrying around the stigma of being a Black male diagnosed with a learning disability.

The one thing I enjoyed most about my college experience was the diversity. I was born and raised in a very small town, ignorant to the diverse world around me. Race conscious admission programs weren’t just good students who look like me, the entire campus benefits from a diverse student body. If you believe Black students unfairly benefit from Affirmative Action, clearly, they do not know OURstory. For years the right to a quality education for African-Americans has been hindered by institutional racism, physical violence, segregation, redistricting, placement in under-performing schools, low teacher expectations, racially biased tests, disproportionate placement in special education and the school-to-prison pipeline. The black students you see on college campuses overcame all of that and more. The deck has always been stacked against us, yet, still we rise. Turn off your privileged blinders and stop dismissing our achievements as handouts. I commend the SCOTUS for upholding the affirmative action  program at University of Texas, however, I cannot ignore the fact that affirmative action programs only slightly level the playing field for underrepresented groups in higher education. It’s so much deeper than that and I hope my story gives some perspective to the Abigail Fisher’s of the world #BeckyWithTheBadGrades #StayMadAbby #ClapBack 

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About Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW: Ronnie is a recent graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Master of Social Work program and is as an Outpatient Therapist with the Middle Peninsula – Northern Neck Community Services Board. He is a father, therapist, entrepreneur, app developer, philanthropist, author and professional speaker. Ronnie Nelson Sidney, II, MSW was raised in Tappahannock, Virginia, and attended Essex County Public Schools (ECPS). While attending ECPS, he spent several years in Special Education after being diagnosed with a learning disability. The stigmatization of special education created a lack of interest in school. Ronnie’s early academic challenges ignited a passion within him to pursue social justice and to work with the youth. He has spent over eight years in the mental health and academic counseling fields. In 2015, Ronnie founded Creative Medicine: Healing Through Words, LLC. His company published Amazon best-seller Nelson Beats The Odds in 2015 and Tameka’s New Dress in 2016. After releasing Nelson Beats The Odds, Ronnie was inspired to develop the Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator app for iOS mobile devices. Ronnie created the app so that children and adults can share inspirational photos and stories about how they beat the odds on social media. For more information visit the author’s website at http://www.creative-medicine.com.