Local author hosts the launch of his new book “Rest in Peace RaShawn”

Ronnie Sidney, II, LCSW uses his book to generate discussion regarding the demise of Black teens

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By Donna Jackson, Northern Neck News

Why are you proud of being Black started the discussion and what motivates you when you wake up each morning was the final question moderator, Elsie Delva-Smith asked at a panel discussion held at Essex High School, Friday, May 5. They are just two examples of the thought-provoking questions asked that evening. At times panelists grappled with answering Smith’s questions, but they honestly shared their thoughts on the topic of Black pride and identity.

Essex High School graduate, Ronnie Sidney, II, LCSW, launched his fourth book, Rest in Peace RaShawn, and used the subject matter, as a springboard to generate open dialogue surrounding the killing of black unarmed young men.

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Sidney was raised in Tappahannock and attended Essex County Public Schools (ECPS). While attending ECPS, he spent seven years in special education after being diagnosed with a learning disability. Despite the stigma, he graduated from Essex High School in 2001, but with a 1.8 GPA. Sidney went on to continue his education, starting at J. Sergeant Reynolds, to Old Dominion University and then Virginia Commonwealth University.

The panelists, as well as audience members, posed questions, shared insights and enlightened all in attendance. It was not a session of finger pointing, instead it was an opportunity for all to gain a greater understanding of the societal issues within the African-American culture, especially young males. The panel represented law enforcement, legal, youth advocacy, spiritual, business, education, and mental health. Most importantly, five African-American young men, all high school students were part of the panel.

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Monique Williams on the opening question, why are you proud to be Black, responded, “Our history is the reason why we have become resilient, and strong—why we have a bounce back to us…I am proud of that.”

Michael Ransone admitted, “I was not proud to be Black for most of my childhood… I did not understand the gift that melanin was.” However, at 21, he began to study history beginning with Kemet in ancient Egypt and his self-esteem grew as he obtained more knowledge.

“I am not ashamed of being white, I am ashamed of racism, I am proud that I was raised in a family where certain words could not be used…” said Diane Lank.

“Black people have the uncanny ability to forgive I am proud of that,” said Ulysses Turner.

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Chad Lewis pointed out that, “It is important for us, as white people who stand on the side of social justice, to not get too far into our feelings of our peoples long and bloody history…take responsibility and acknowledge…we can use our energies to be more productive.”

The students were asked what do they think about when they leave their houses. Kevin Dameron responded, “I just believe God is going to protect and watch over me.” “It is a chance you might not make it back home, but there is chance you will…said, Isaiah Taylor

As a father of five boys, Turner had a conversation with his boys surrounding how society may view them unfavorably based on their hairstyle or appearance. His advice to the audience and parents included telling your boys to watch where they go and who rides in their cars, but build a relationship where they feel comfortable talking to you about anything.

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In regard to the Black Lives Matter movement, Smith asked the panel if the titles, Blue Lives Matter or All Lives Matter undercut the meaning. Illustrative responses were given to provide a deeper insight to the meaning. Collectively the panelists agreed that all lives matter; however, it was emphasized that unarmed Black men and boys are killed at an alarming rate. The movement is an outcry from young people that are saying no more and what’s going on. Furthermore, it is to bring a sense of value on and national attention to the senseless and unjustified deaths and all to often, disparaging outcomes.

“If you truly believe that all lives matter, why does it make you so uncomfortable to center Blackness in the conversation, said Lewis.

Sidney said, “I take it personally when I hear that a young man has been killed…I view them as my brothers, that’s what inspired me to write this book.”

In regard to valuing self and what society values, Emily Eanes said, “Watching the privileges of the dominant privileged culture, it gets ingrained in young people at an early age, even when the parents are conscious and try to change the mindsets.” In response to the race of teachers, the students said as long as the teacher knows the subject and cares, the race does not matter to them—they value their education.

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The topic of policing in the community was raised. Rasean Bailey brought out the fact that “A small community has its advantages, you pretty much know most everyone; I feel obligated to talk to a child when I am approached.” Audience members praised Essex’s law enforcement officials for their visibility, community engagement, and service on local boards committees. It was the general consensus that understanding and building relationship with law enforcement is a two-way street.

As the discussion continued the students shared their desires of being successful in life after high school, but vowed to return to make a difference. Their reasons and motivation included helping my family and siblings, building a track and the establishment of a summer track team, to give youth something to do, and letting students know they can make it.

The discussion closed with panelists sharing personal motivations—what gets them up in the morning. Answers shared included: knowing I have to be the best and that I have not reached my full potential, wanting to help my family and my little sisters, I just have to be better each day, I enjoy life, I feel I have a responsibility, I love my job and my goal to make the climate better, to continue my work, to do something every day, and to make change.

Williams personal mantra, “If not me then who, if not now then when,” tied up the discussion appropriately, and left all hoping the conversation continues.

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Rest in Peace RaShawn” is more than the story of an accidental shooting. It’s the vivid story of a young man’s life snuffed out too soon by police bullets – a narrative that, sadly, has become all too familiar in America. The author, Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW, captures the emotional upheaval suffered by families and communities nationwide following the sudden, violent demise of black men. He presents the violence and suffering in a sensitive, easy-to-understand and age-appropriate format for kids. This book is a good way to broach the painful but necessary conversations families across the nation are having with their children, and provides thoughtful discussion points on how to heal the legacy of distrust between African- American communities and the police who are supposed to protect them.

Critically Acclaimed Novels Help Young Adults Explore Race and Police Brutality

The rise of police violence against Black and Hispanic teenagers is alarming. Authors Ronnie Sidney, II, Monique Morris, Angie Thomas, and Jason Reynolds seek to confront police brutality by providing well-written and exciting stories for young adult readers.

15-year-old Jordan Edwards is one of the latest victims of systematic racism and police brutality in America. Edwards, who was described as a “loving child with a humble and sharing spirit,” was a straight-A student and standout athlete at Mesquite High School. On Saturday, April 29, 2017, Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver arrived at a party after gunfire eruptd. As Edwards and his brothers were attempting to leave the party, Oliver fired an AR-15 into the car, fatally shooting Edwards in the head.

Officer Oliver initially reported the driver of the vehicle attempted to run him over, but his body camera footage contradicted his original statement. The Balch Springs police officer was later fired and charged with murdering the 15-year-old African-American teen.

According to Shaun King, there were three different unarmed 15-year-old black boys shot and killed by law enforcement officers in the month of May.

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15-year-old Jayson Negron was shot and killed by a Bridgeport, Connecticut police officer on May 9, 2017. The officer claimed Negron ran over him and pinned him “beneath the car”. Authorities initially communicated that Negron died from a single gunshot to the head, but the following day the police chief admitted the story had been fabricated. Negron, with his hands handcuffed behind his back, bled to death after being shot in the torso. A video filmed by someone on the scene shows Jayson alive, on the ground fighting for his life after being shot.

On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a 15-year-old African-American boy named Darius Smith was shot and killed by an off-duty U.S. Custom and Border Patrol agent. The off-duty officer reported Smith and two other teens attempted to rob him at gun point. Attorney Lee Merritt found several inconsistencies after checking the story out first hand:
  1. Darius was executed. He was shot three times in the chest and twice in the legs (from the back as if he was running away).
  2. Charvis was shot in the hand and buttocks (running wounds as well)
  3. Despite multiple shots from the killer, not one shot was fired from the gun allegedly carried by these boys (the reports are a toy gun was found near the scene) While he was emptying his clip they appeared to be running for their lives.
  4. The so called robbery would have been taking place on one of the busiest stretches of highway in the region at 8PM (suns still shining) by boys who have to my knowledge never robbed anyone before.I have questions. We demand justice.
Black and Hispanic boys aren’t the only teenagers impacted by police brutality and systemic racism, Black girls are increasingly being criminalized in schools and communities. According to Monique Morris, author of Pushout, young African American women make up roughly 16 percent of girls enrolled in school but make up 33 percent of girls with school-related arrests.

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16-year-old Dajerria Becton and her legal guardian filed a federal complaint in January that alleges Eric Casebolt violated her constitutional rights by using excessive force. Casebolt, a former McKinney, Texas police officer, is captured on a Jun 6, 2015 video posted to YouTube, yelling obscenities, unholstering his service weapon, and then grabbing Becton and repeatedly slamming her face on the ground. The former McKinney police officer is also aggressively straddles the 16-year-old girl’s back while forcefully shoving his knees into her neck and back.

Another video captured on January 4, 2017, shows Ruben De Los Santos, a school resource officer (SRO), picking up and slamming a Rolesville high school student to the ground. The teen’s mother believes the officer’s use of excessive force caused her daughter to suffer from a concussion. The teen was attempting to defend her sister and break up a fight before being thrown to the ground by De Los Santos. A Wake County grand jury declined to endorse charges against the former Rolesville High School resource officer.

The rise of criminalization and violence against Black and Hispanic teenagers by law enforcement officers is alarming. Dismantling systemic racism is a daunting task, but it’s not impossible. The impetus for change is having courageous conversations with young people about race and policing. Conversations about race and policing can feel uncomfortable, vulnerable, and awkward. Parents, teachers, and librarians have embraced young adult (YA) literature that addresses police violence and social injustice.

Ronnie Sidney, II, LCSW is one of several emerging young adult authors whose books confront systematic racism, police brutality, and police-involved shootings. Sidney, author of Rest in Peace RaShawn, believes conversations about race need to be had at the dining room table. “Parents need to start talking with their children about racism and police brutality because teens are being exposed to it on social media every day,” says Sidney.

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Rest in Peace RaShawn includes discussion points on how to heal the legacy of distrust between African- American communities and law enforcement officers. During the summer of 2016, Sidney met with a diverse group of young men at a Virginia academy, asking them to answer the following questions:

What is it like to be Black or Hispanic today?

What is it like to be Black or Hispanic today?What solutions do you think will bridge the divide between communities of color and the criminal justice system?

What are your opinions on the recent officer-involved shootings?

The answers to those questions are littered throughout Rest in Peace RaShawn and give a real voice to a fictional story.

Authors Ronnie Sidney, II, LCSWAngie ThomasJason Reynolds, and Monique W. Morris provide well-written and exciting stories for young adult readers that explore race and policing. This new crop of YA novels use fiction to address police brutality and police shootings of unarmed Black teenagers. I have listed titles parents, teachers, librarians, and counselors can use to explore systematic racism and police brutality with teenagers.

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Rest in Peace RaShawn by Ronnie Sidney, LCSW

Rest in Peace RaShawn is more than the story of an accidental shooting. It’s the vivid story of a young man’s life snuffed out too soon by police bullets – a narrative that, sadly, has become all too familiar in America. The author, Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW, captures the emotional upheaval suffered by families and communities nationwide following the sudden, violent demise of black men. He presents the violence and suffering in a sensitive, easy-to-understand and age-appropriate format for kids.

This book is a good way to broach the painful but necessary conversations families across the nation are having with their children, and provides thoughtful discussion points on how to heal the legacy of distrust between African- American communities and the police who are supposed to protect them.

Rest in Peace RaShawn completes a trinity of quality young adult literature by Sidney, including the first books in his series, Nelson Beats the Odds and Tameka’s New Dress. All three inspire confidence in children, especially children of color, and encourage a fondness for reading and a heightened level of social awareness; Sidney’s stories equip kids with a broader understanding of America’s current culture and climate.

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.”

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All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Keily

“A 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor book, and recipient of the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature.

In this Coretta Scott King Honor Award–winning novel, two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.

A bag of chips. That’s all sixteen-year-old Rashad is looking for at the corner bodega. What he finds instead is a fist-happy cop, Paul Galluzzo, who mistakes Rashad for a shoplifter, mistakes Rashad’s pleadings that he’s stolen nothing for belligerence, mistakes Rashad’s resistance to leave the bodega as resisting arrest, mistakes Rashad’s every flinch at every punch the cop throws as further resistance and refusal to STAY STILL as ordered. But how can you stay still when someone is pounding your face into the concrete pavement?

There were witnesses: Quinn Collins—a varsity basketball player and Rashad’s classmate who has been raised by Paul since his own father died in Afghanistan—and a video camera. Soon the beating is all over the news and Paul is getting threatened with accusations of prejudice and racial brutality. Quinn refuses to believe that the man who has basically been his savior could possibly be guilty. But then Rashad is absent. And absent again. And again. And the basketball team—half of whom are Rashad’s best friends—start to take sides. As does the school. And the town. Simmering tensions threaten to explode as Rashad and Quinn are forced to face decisions and consequences they had never considered before.

Written in tandem by two award-winning authors, this four-starred reviews tour de force shares the alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn as the complications from that single violent moment, the type taken from the headlines, unfold and reverberate to highlight an unwelcome truth.”

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Pushout by Monique M. Morris

“Fifteen-year-old Diamond stopped going to school the day she was expelled for lashing out at peers who constantly harassed and teased her for something everyone on the staff had missed: she was being trafficked for sex. After months on the run, she was arrested and sent to a detention center for violating a court order to attend school.

Just 16 percent of female students, Black girls make up more than one-third of all girls with a school-related arrest. The first trade book to tell these untold stories, Pushout exposes a world of confined potential and supports the growing movement to address the policies, practices, and cultural illiteracy that push countless students out of school and into unhealthy, unstable, and often unsafe futures.

For four years Monique W. Morris, author of Black Stats, chronicled the experiences of black girls across the country whose intricate lives are misunderstood, highly judged—by teachers, administrators, and the justice system—and degraded by the very institutions charged with helping them flourish. Morris shows how, despite obstacles, stigmas, stereotypes, and despair, black girls still find ways to breathe remarkable dignity into their lives in classrooms, juvenile facilities, and beyond.”

Other notable books that confront the epidemic of police violence include the following:

  • ‘Tyler Johnson Was Here,’ by Jay Coles
  • ‘Dear Martin,’ by Nic Stone
  • ‘I Am Alfonso Jones,’ Written by Tony Medina and Illustrated by John Jennings and Stacey Robinson
  • ‘Ghost Boys,’ by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • ‘How It Went Down,’ by Kekla Magoon
  • ‘Between the World and Me,’ Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • ‘They Can’t Kill Us All,’ Wesley Lowery

About Us: Creative Medicine: Healing Through Words, LLC is a company started by Ronnie Sidney, II, LCSW. The  company has published four books, Nelson Beats The OddsTameka’s New Dress, Rest in Peace RaShawn, and Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One. The companies founder is a father, therapist, app developer , philanthropist and literary activist. Sidney helped develop a free mobile app, “Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator”, which allows users to add their face to the illustrations, create photo collages with accessories like a cap and gown, and share their own stories. For inquiries email us at ronnie@creative-medicine.com or visit http://www.creative-medicine.com.

Virginia teens help publish graphic novel about police-involved shooting

“Rest in Peace RaShawn” is more than the story of an accidental shooting. It’s the vivid story of a young man’s life snuffed out too soon by police bullets – a narrative that, sadly, has become all too familiar in America.

Rest in Peace RaShawn is more than the story of an accidental shooting. It’s the vivid story of a young man’s life snuffed out too soon by police bullets – a narrative that, sadly, has become all too familiar in America.

Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW, works as a therapist for court-involved youth in Warsaw, Virginia. Rest in Peace RaShawn completes a quaternity of quality young adult literature by Sidney, including the first books in his series Nelson Beats The OddsTameka’s New Dress, and Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One. All four inspire confidence in children, especially children of color, and encourage a fondness for reading and a heightened level of social awareness; Sidney’s stories equip kids with a broader understanding of America’s current culture and climate.

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Sidney partnered with children’s book illustrator Traci Van Wagoner  for their fourth book together. Rest in Peace RaShawn is a bleak story aimed at teenage readers. “I really wanted Traci to illustrate the grief, the anger and the rage that people of color are feeling,” Sidney says. And, he adds, “I really think that this book can keep that conversation going.”

Rest in Peace RaShawn tells the story of a star football player, the golden child of his family, who dies in a police-involved shooting. His younger brother, Jeremy, finds an outlet for his anger in joining a local gang.

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“I was inspired to write Rest in Peace RaShawn in the aftermath of Tamir Rice’s death,” says Sidney. He adds, “I love children, so to see one gunned down like that made me sick to my stomach.”

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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 the lives of nearly a dozen unarmed African-American and Hispanic teenagers who were killed by vigilantes or police officers.

Rest in Peace RaShawn captures the emotional upheaval suffered by families and communities nationwide following the sudden, violent demise of black teens. Sidney presents the violence and suffering in a sensitive, easy-to-understand and age-appropriate format for kids. This book is a good way to broach the painful but necessary conversations families across the nation are having with their children.

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Sidney’s latest book provides thoughtful discussion points on how to heal the legacy of distrust between African- American communities and the police. Over the summer Sidney met with a diverse group of young men at a Virginia academy and asked them to answer the following questions: What solutions do you think will bridge the divide between communities of color and the criminal justice system? What are your opinions on the recent officer-involved shootings? What is it like to be Black or Hispanic today? The answers to those questions are littered throughout Rest in Peace RaShawn and give a real voice to a fictional story.

“It was really important for me to give young people a platform to process what they’ve been experiencing and seeing on the news,” says Sidney. Last year the Tappahannock native offered a workshop to a group of teenagers in Portsmouth, Virginia. The city was grieving the death of William L. Chapman II, an 18-year-old man, who was shot and killed in a Walmart parking lot by Officer Stephen D. Rankin. During the workshop, 16-year-old Lawrence Jones penned an essay that Sidney included in Rest in Peace Rashawn. Below is a snippet from Lawrence’s essay:

“It’s a cold world. Where are 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?”

Junior editors Dion Allen, Jamal Ball, Christian Brown, Diojé Ellis, Tiojé Ellis, Ricardo Henson, Terrell Hundley, Tamaje Jones, and Isaiah Taylor helped Sidney tell a story that young people would relate to. Sidney partnered with Essex High School principal Patrick Doyle to assemble the group. “Being able to work with students who attend the same school I did as a teenager made it a very special experience,” says Sidney.

“My hope is for readers to have courageous conversations around trauma, gun violence and the racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system,” says Sidney. He adds, “People of all races standing together and providing substantive interventions is the only way we can prevent the untimely deaths of Black and Hispanic teens”.

Rest in Peace RaShawn is currently available on Amazon, Createspace and Kindle.

About the Author: Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW is an author (Nelson Beats The OddsTameka’s New Dress, Rest in Peace RaShawn, and Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One), publisher, therapist, app developer , philanthropist and literary activist. Sidney also created a free mobile app, the “Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator” that allows users to add their face to the illustrations, create photo collages with accessories like a cap and gown, and share their own stories. For inquiries email us at ronnie@creative-medicine.com or visit http://www.creative-medicine.com.

Dear NAACP Image Awards, Give Me an Explanation or My Money Back

To the NAACP Image Awards Literary Committee, I feel like you took advantage of me. I’m a hard working Black man, I don’t have $300 to throw away without an explanation. Ya’ll got some ‘splainin to do…

My name is Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW and I’m a self-published author out of Tappahannock, Virginia. On October 24, 2016, I received this email from Malica McLyn, Literary Coordinator at the NAACP Image Awards:

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I was so excited, the first thing I did was post the email on Facebook. It received a ton of likes and support from my Facebook friends. I spoke with Malica over the phone and decided to submit my second book Tameka’s New Dress.

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Tameka’s New Dress gives girls of color a new-found confidence by celebrating their #BlackGirlMagic. Tameka, a gifted Kemet Middle School student, is accused of pushing another student in the hallway. When Mrs. Lopez, Tameka’s 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. Tameka’s dress is her cloak, an impenetrable force field that shields her from past trauma and bullying. The dress gives Tameka the ability to love unconditionally without the fear of being hurt.

Fast Forward to December 14, 2016…

I log onto the NAACP Image Awards  website to find they’ve selected nominees for the Outstanding Literary Work  – Youth/Teens. I saw several deserving books, but I couldn’t find mine. I wasn’t mad that I didn’t make the cut, I was mad that I wasn’t notified by the award committee first. It felt like the time I didn’t see my name on the cut list for the JV Basketball.

In addition to the $220 nonreturnable application fee, I had to mail off 15 copies of Tameka’s New Dress to NAACP Image Awards Literary Committee. Just like the application fee, the books are also nonreturnable. I was notified about the opportunity just seven days before the deadline. Honestly, I don’t even know if the committee received or reviewed my books.

Last year I submitted Amazon Best-Seller Nelson Beats the Odds for several different literary awards, including the VLA Graphic Novel Diversity Award. The VLA notified me via email before making their official announcement. Included in the email were reviews from committee members. Not one of the literary awards I applied for required an application fee- they only required me to send them copies of my book. I didn’t stress it because the committee would typically donate the books to a local library.

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I emailed my concerns to the NAACP Image Awards Literary Committee on December  14th, 2016- five days later I’m still awaiting a reply. Where’s the transparency? The $220 fee I submitted is nonrefundable, I get that; all I want is some accountability. I have 3 simple questions for the NAACP Image Awards Literary Committee:

  1. Did you receive my books?
  2. Did you review my books?
  3. Where is the feedback from your reviews?

To the NAACP Image Awards Literary Committee, I feel like you took advantage of me. I’m a hard working Black man, I don’t have $300 to throw away without an explanation. Ya’ll got some ‘splainin to do…

Daughters Love for Dresses Inspires Author-Therapist’s New Book

Tameka’s New Dress is a visual tale of loss, hope, and female empowerment. Tameka’s dress is her cloak, an impenetrable force field that shields her from past trauma and bullying.

Click here to order a copy of Tameka’s New Dress. Add the Tameka’s New Dress filter to your photos by downloading the Nelson Beats the Odds Comic Creator app from the App Store.

Best-selling author Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW was inspired to tell the story behind Tameka’s beautiful dress by his two daughters. “Morgan and Mali transform into queens every time they put on a new dress,” explains Sidney, “All they want to do is twirl around in circles and smile.”

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Tameka’s New Dress is a visual tale of loss, hope, and female empowerment. Tameka’s dress is her cloak, an impenetrable force field that shields her from past trauma and bullying. The dress gives Tameka the ability to love unconditionally without the fear of being hurt. This blog will explore three major themes from Tameka’s New Dress, colorism, bullying and grandfamilies.

Tameka, a gifted Kemet Middle School student, is accused of pushing another student in the hallway. When Mrs. Lopez, Tameka’s 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.

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One of Traci Van Wagoner most aesthetically pleasing illustrations show Tameka holding the fabric for her new dress, visualizing herself as warrior queens Nefertiti, Nzinga and Nandi. Tameka’s grandmother uses the African wax cloth to sew her a new dress after she comes home from school crying. Tameka’s grandmother, a true alchemist, turns lemons into lemonade by sewing Tameka a new dress.

Throughout Tameka’s New Dress you will find references to Queen Nefertiti. Queen Nefertiti is the wife of the of one of the most famous pharaohs of acient Kemet, 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.

On the very next page is an illustration symbolizing the rising of a 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.

Sidney warns parents not to leave it up to the school system to teach their children about history. “I grew up thinking the Egyptians were white,” says the best-selling author, “When I learned the truth, I vowed to teach it to my children.”

Grandfamilies

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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.

Sidney asked one of his college friends, Tanisha Carter, to write a poem about her experience growing up in a grandfamily. Her poem “The Golden Matriarch” is featured in the Tameka’s New Dress graphic novel and on the mixtape. Below is an excerpt from Tanisha’s poem:

And she even gave me knowledge I never knew

She exposed me to the disheartening facts of being black

Because of our history that she lived this wasn’t fiction she was talking, this was fact

And today I am grateful for all of that.

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 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,” explains Sidney.

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Cherlanda Sidney-Ross

Tameka’s New Dress features the author’s sister, Cherlanda Sidney-Ross, a former 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 Sidney. He wanted to honor his sister and the thousands of other child welfare workers advocating for children every day.

Colorism

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Sidney hopes Tameka’s New Dress will help lift the ugly curse of colorism.” I want girls of color to know that it’s our shared history that unites us, not our complexion,” says best-selling author. Tameka’s New Dress pays homage to Beyonce by including a line from “Sorry”. 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!”

Tameka’s New Dress features a quote from Barbadian recording artist Rihanna, who spoke candidly about being picked on because of her complexion in Glamour Magazine. Sidney grew up not far from the Johnville plantation, a place where his great grandparents were enslaved. “Light-skinned vs. dark-skinned was alive and well when I went through school,” says the best-selling author, “I wanted to explore the concept in Tameka’s New Dress because it continues to impact young people’s self-esteem.”

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Rebecca Knight

Rebecca Knight, one of Sidney’s former classmates, submitted the book’s foreword. Her experience with colorism made the political personal. In the foreward she writes:

Tameka’s New Dress, resonated with me and I know it will for many others. Like Tameka, I have been persecuted for being a fair-complexioned, Black girl with “good hair”…despite the many successes of African-Americans, society equates being Black with being inferior. It’s sad. As a Black, educated, articulate, professional and driven female, I cannot and will not subscribe to these stereotypes. I believe in and pledge my life to Black excellence.

Bullying

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

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Amy Francis-Joyner

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. On Tameka’s first day at her new school she is harassed by three bullies. Initially, Tameka runs home crying after being tormented by her bullies. The book’s ending teaches young people how to mange conflicts verbally. “Violence should always be the last alternative, not the first,” says the best-selling author.

At the end of Tameka’s New Dress, Tameka opens up her heart to forgiveness. Without forgiveness, Tameka would not have been able to reclaim her beauty and heal from the abuse and neglect she experienced throughout her life. “Hurt people hurt people,” says Sidney, “Bullies are oftentimes being victimized themselves.”

Tameka’s story celebrates diversity and visually empowers readers. Tameka’s New Dress’s author hopes his graphic novel will give girls of color new-found confidence. “My hope is that Tameka’s New Dress will inspire girls to find beauty inside themselves and others,” says Sidney.

About the author: Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW is a therapist, author and business owner. He is the author of Nelson Beats The Odds, Tameka’s New Dress, and Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One. With the help of Protenza Global Solutions, Sidney developed the Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator app . For inquiries, email him at ronnie@creative-medicine.com. Please visit his website at www.creative-medicine.com for more information.

Grammy Award Winning Artist’s Unreleased Yearbook Photos and Demo

Not only is Chris a great singer and performer, he was also a really good basketball player. A lot of folks from Tappahannock said he could have easily played D-1 if he pursued basketball instead of a music career.

My name is Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW and I am the author of Nelson Beats the Odds , Tameka’s New Dress and Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One. I wasn’t the first person from Tappahannock, Virginia to beat the odds, that honor belongs to Grammy Award winning artist Chris Brown. A few years ago, my fiance and I were going through some stuff and she found a demo CD Chris Brown passed out before he became famous.

I didn’t know he went by “C-Syzle”, even though we rode on the same school bus to school in the mornings. Chris and his family attended a church my father pastored for over 20 years. I saw Chris at least six days a week, so you can only imagine how surprised I was to see him on BET. I remember watching the “Run It” video at Old Dominion University like, “yoooo, that’s Chris Brown!” Chris had star power since Kindergarten. The older kids on the school bus would practically beg him to sing Candy Rain by Soul For Real every single day. We would also ask him to do Michael Jackson and Usher Raymond impressions. 

My fiance is a few years younger than me so there were photos of Chris in her old yearbooks. I was shocked to see how tall he grew- the Chris Brown I remember was a short, curly haired kid. His older cousin was in my grade, the two were inseparable.

Chris is a natural born entertainer. I remember him wooing the crowd with back flips and Harlem shakes during half time of varsity basketball games. Not only is Chris a great performer, he is also a really good basketball player. A lot of folks from Tappahannock said he could have easily played D-1 if he pursued basketball instead of a music career.

Not many people make it big from Tappahannock Chris, so it’s been amazing watching your career take off. I knew one day you would be famous, but had no idea you would be one of the most talented artists of this generation. Through the ups and downs, you will always have my support. You single-handedly put our town of the map and inspired me to push Nelson Beats the Odds to the top.

About the author: Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW is a therapist, author and business owner. He is the author of Nelson Beats the Odds, Tameka’s New Dress and Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One. With the help of Protenza Global Solutions, Sidney developed the Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator app . For inquiries, email him at ronnie@creative-medicine.com. Please visit his website at www.creative-medicine.com for more information.

Author-Therapist Seeks to Inspire Struggling Students with Free App

Author-therapist Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW ’s latest addition to his box of therapeutic tools is the Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator app for iOs mobile devices.

Author-therapist Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW ’s latest addition to his box of therapeutic tools is the Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator app for iOs mobile devices. The free app allows iPhone, iPod and iPad users to substitute their own photos to create composite images personalizing the characters’ faces in the book’s illustrations.

Shortly after releasing 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, Sidney developed the Nelson Beats the Odds Comic Creator app.  The author-therapist partnered with Potenza Global Solutions, a successful IT company out of India, and released the app on October 7, 2015. The author-therapist found the Indian IT company on freelance website called Upwork.

Below are a few of Nelson Beats the Odds Comic Creator’s features:

Sidney says his inspiration for the app came from an unlikely source:

I met a lady at a National Foster Parent Association conference in Norfolk, Virginia and she suggested I create a page in my book where a kid could add their face to Nelson’s body. She believed young people would be inspired to beat the odds if they could picture themselves in the book. That is when the light bulb went off, instead of having kids mess up their book, I could create an app that would help them celebrate their strengths and improve their self-esteem.

Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator is a simple way to inspire the world with creative photos. Users can snap a photo with their iOS device or choose a photo from their photo library. Apply stunning filters, photo effects, and an ever growing collection of stickers, comic strips, frames, word bubbles, text art and more. Users can crop out their faces and place them in one of ten Nelson Beats the Odds and Tameka’s New Dress illustrations. Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator allows users to share their photos on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more.

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Sidney’s app allows users to add graduation caps and gowns to their photos- he hopes it will encourage struggling students to beat the odds. “We underestimate how powerful images are,” says Sidney, “If a kid can see themselves graduating, they may think twice about quitting school.”

While attending Essex County Public Schools (ECPS), Sidney struggled academically and behaviorally. He spent seven years in special education after being diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and a Specific Learning Disability (SLD). Sidney graduated from Essex High School in 2001 but with a 1.8 GPA, ranking at the bottom of his class. The author-therapist went on to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in Human Services from Old Dominion University in 2006 and his Master of Social Work degree from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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

The self-esteem app includes one more big surprise, free access to Nelson Beats the Odds and Tameka’s New Dress eBooks. “I want every kid to have the opportunity to experience my books,” says Sidney. The best-selling author hopes to release the app on android devices summer of 2017.

About the author: Ronnie Sidney, II, MSW is a therapist, author and business owner. He is the author of Nelson Beats the Odds, Tameka’s New Dress and Nelson Beats the Odds: Compendium One. With the help of Protenza Global Solutions, Sidney developed the Nelson Beats The Odds Comic Creator app . For inquiries, email him at ronnie@creative-medicine.com. Please visit his website at www.creative-medicine.com for more information.