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:


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.


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…

Louisiana High School Senior Pens Inspirational Essay About Beating the Odds

“Although my childhood was difficult, I am now in a place where I can appreciate the lessons that those experiences taught me and I can in turn use them as building blocks toward my success”

Ronnie Sidney II, former Special Education student and Best-Selling Children’s Book Author (“Nelson Beats The Odds“) who beat the odds, has reached out to high school student-athlete Devonte Harris. Harris, who has beat the odds as well, is aspiring to enroll in Southern University in the Fall.  
Devonte Harris, a senior at Northshore High School, wrote the following essay:
“I grew up with family and friends who barely finished high school and did not even attempt to attend college. Although I was a misguided kid, I dreamed of furthering my education so that I could get a degree and make something of myself. I knew there had to be more to life. Yet I found it difficult to stay focused on my aspirations because of all of the distractions and negativity that surrounded me. There were school fights, peer pressure, and extreme family conflicts. It got to the point where I felt like I was destined to either follow the path of those around me, or I could start a new path even if that meant walking alone.
While Marion will always be home for me, I knew that I had to find a new destination to rid myself of feelings of hopelessness, despair, and poverty before it was too late. At the age of sixteen, I took advantage of an opportunity to move to Slidell, LA with a family friend. This move was also symbolic of me moving closer to my dreams of obtaining a college degree.

Unfortunately, things have not magically improved for me since relocating. I have been rerouted several times, and my college dorm room will likely be the first stable home I have ever known. I have lived with four different families in the past three years. Each transition has been a bit more difficult than the last. I also have financial responsibilities that typical high-schoolers do not have to concern themselves with. I currently have a part-time job averaging 30 hours per week, which helps cover expenses such as my phone bill, groceries, school dues, and transportation.



Despite these experiences, however, I consider myself a conqueror because not only have I realized what is best for me but I have sacrificed in order to make my dream a reality. God is now surrounding me with a circle of people who provide the support I was previously lacking. They have encouraged me to reach for new heights, have provided emotional and financial support with my efforts in getting into college, and have even (lovingly) fussed at me when needed. While balancing work and a full course load, I have been able to maintain a 3.0 grade point average. I consider myself to be a “regular” teenager, and enjoy playing on the varsity basketball team and hanging out with my friends. I am even looking forward to going to prom later this month.

I will be graduating in May and have been accepted into Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA. I look forward to furthering my education, and am confident that I will be successful as I have already mastered certain life skills such as time management, adapting to new environments, and balancing multiple responsibilities at once. Although my childhood was difficult, I am now in a place where I can appreciate the lessons that those experiences taught me and I can in turn use them as building blocks toward my success.


Realistically I understand that college will still bring its own set of challenges. I will once again have to uproot myself and move to a new environment. I will continue to work while in school to ensure I have safe housing and other basic necessities. And I can only imagine that excelling in the engineering program will require an even higher level of resilience. While more speed bumps, potholes, and detours may await me, I trust that I am strong enough to continue to persevere. Because I have learned that the strength that lies within me is much greater that any obstacle that may lie before me. And I continue to trust that my best is yet to come.”

Mr. Nolan, Devonte Harris‘s teacher:


I have worked extensively with Devonte at school this past year. No student has ever impressed me or made quite the impact on me he has. He is an inspiring young man and capable of great things. We all at his school are excited for what is ahead. I want to thank you for taking this interest in Devonte. Every dollar is a huge help for him.

Devonte Harris contacted me a few weeks ago and asked about a scholarship that I offered to Essex High School seniors who beat the odds. Devonte wasn’t eligible for the scholarship because he didn’t attend Essex High School. After reading his essay I reached out to him and told him that I wanted to help. I started a GoFundMe page for his personal #iBeatTheOdds scholarship fund. This young man has truely beat the odds. Please help Devonte’s college dreams come true. He graduates in May and hopes to enroll in Southern University and A&M College, let’s send him off with a few dollars in his pocket. Here is the link to his GoFundMe page