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.