Connect with us


How Writing Became My Survival Tool: Meet Award-Winning Author Nikki Grimes



Nikki Grimes, in a red vest and black shirt, looking into the camera and smiling with a grey backdrop behind her.

Nikki Grimes is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of over 75 children’s and young adult books. She is the recipient of the 2006 National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children.

Grimes is also the recipient of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) Award, the 2017 Children’s Literature Legacy Award, the 2016 Virginia Hamilton Literary Award, and the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. 

Grimes began writing poetry when she was 6 years old, and her love for literature has propelled her to continue writing stories based on locations all over the world.

Grimes faced many struggles during her childhood and used reading and writing as coping mechanisms to help her move through those challenges. She didn’t feel like she had anyone she could trust or talk to, so instead, she turned to writing. 

“Reading and writing were my survival tools.” 

Raised in a small town, Grimes had never met an artist or a writer when she was growing up. She learned of the importance of surrounding herself with people who believed in her and who had their own dreams that they were working toward.

Listen to the Full Interview Now On:

This is shown in Grimes’ book Southwest Sunrise, which depicts a boy who moves from New York City to a city in the southwest. The one thing that gives him more meaning in the desert, which he must now call his home, is a nature book that was gifted to him by his mother. He discovers the beauty in nature that he had never appreciated before. 

“At the end of the day, there are only two things that are eternal. That is God and people. And so you have got to make time for them.” 

According to Grimes, one of the most challenging problems that she has faced in her career has been trying to get out of the literary ghetto. As a person of color, she has had to overcome negative expectations and stereotypes based on her race.

She has constantly pushed the boundaries to make space for herself in the writing world and fought those stereotypes that have pushed against her. 

Grimes’ poems tell stories that many people of diverse backgrounds can relate to; they are inspiring and empathetic. She wants to challenge young readers to appreciate poetry by finding a part of it they resonate with.

Grimes believes that books give young readers the ability to enter inside stories, instead of just watching them from a third-person perspective as they do with television shows. It’s all about finding the right book for the right person. 

“It has the opportunity to bypass your mind and go straight to your heart.” 

Grimes reminds us all of the importance of writing ideas down. She always keeps a pen and paper with her wherever she goes to make sure that her ideas don’t get away from her.

Grimes has written several stories geared toward the African American community relating to skin color, hair, struggles and growing up. She has even authored even a picture book about Barack Obama. 

Her writing seeks to inspire the African American community, and Grimes wants readers to gain hope from reading her books. She wants readers to know that it is possible to use your path to guide you to where you want to go. 

“I write from a place of honesty and authenticity so that [readers] understand I know their struggles. I know where they are, I’ve been through what they have been through and I came out intact and am thriving.” 

There are many lessons that Grimes has learned from the challenges she has faced throughout her writing career. It is important to surround yourself with like-minded and positive people. With the right support system, we can set goals and reach them one at a time.

“You can still dare to dream and you can watch your dreams come true.”

The Black Lives Matter movement has not only invoked a sense of community, but also rattled the world and inspired many to step up and support one another.

This has motivated Grimes to write poems and post them on her social media pages such as Twitter, @nikkigrimes9.

She has heard loads of positive feedback from readers about her poetry. Though her writing has helped her in many ways, it has also helped her readers emotionally deal with the weight of these movements.

Grimes has multiple books coming out in the next couple of months and is very excited to be able to continue to share her work, including writing on topics such as women in the Harlem Renaissance. Though writing has not been an easy career for Grimes to pursue, she has certainly thrived in the face of adversity.

Continue Reading


How Clarissa Ward Became One of the Few Women on Television to Document the Tragedy and Terror of War-Torn Countries




Clarissa Ward kneeling and speaking to a man, while surrounded by a large group of men all carrying guns and watching the verbal exchange

Source: IG | Clarissa Ward

Clarissa Ward is an American television journalist who is currently the Chief International Correspondent for CNN, based in London. For more than 15 years, Clarissa has reported from every major front line across the world from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, to Yemen. The list is endless. Where there is conflict, Clarissa is there documenting the tragedy and terror of war. Her job has taken her to some of the most dangerous places in the world.

Ward began her television career after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. She knew that she wanted to get to the bottom of the question of how the terrorist attack happened. Fox News offered her a job on the spot to work on overnight assignments.

After learning Arabic by the age of 25, Ward was able to travel to Iraq for a rotation as a producer for six weeks. After moving past her position with Fox, Ward set herself up as a freelancer and developed her career into what it is now. 

Listen to the Full Interview Now On:

The hardest aspect of Ward’s job is dealing with the loss of people she cares about. Another challenge is transitioning back and forth between two different worlds. It is hard to straddle two contrasting existences. Something that has helped Ward deal with these challenges is by staying immersed in her personal life to have a place to feel grounded. 

“The assumption that most people make is that the hardest part of your job is that you see some really tough things and you see the worst of humanity and you see a lot of death and occasionally you come very close to it yourself.” 

Coping is a vital part of Ward’s career experience. When she is in situations in which she needs to stay composed and calm, Ward focuses on how she is going to bring justice to those people in danger. The primary concern remains to get everyone out of the situation safely.

Long-term effects of witnessing trauma appear and affect people in a variety of ways. Ward recommends that everyone who is pursuing this type of job sees a therapist to make sure they have someone they can talk to about it all. This can also help people recognize the warning signs of the development of PTSD and Depression

Ward’s published book, On All Fronts: The Education of a Journalist, wants to leave the reader with an understanding that people are bound together by human connection. In her book, Ward speaks about her experience in war-torn Syria and her investigations into the Western extremists who were drawn to ISIS.

Ward uses her story to explain to the reader that it is a lot more complicated than violence or peace. It is about the connections that people make with one another that truly make a difference in this world.

“People are people. No matter where they are in the world. No matter which god they worship, no matter what color their skin, no matter their sexual orientation.”

It is important to know that you will be willing to give this sort of job your everything. You need to prioritize this job over other things in your life. Ward travels every month to a new place around the world while also focusing on maintaining love and stability in her life.

She has learned to balance her home life with her travels. After having two children of her own, Ward has now developed more of an understanding of the mothers she sees in conflict zones and has also become more mindful of the risk she is taking herself when traveling to countries in conflict. 

When asked what advice she would give to her younger self, Ward said, 

“You need to find the things that energize you and nourish you. Enjoy it.”

Continue Reading


Police Shot Her Brother. She is Now Fighting Police Brutality-Meet Human Rights Activist Shackelia Jackson




Shackelia Jackson is fighting police brutality in Jamaica

Shackelia Jackson is a human rights activist fervently fighting police brutality. She advocates for equal policing and judicial reporting in Jamaica. She has been fighting for social justice since her brother, Nakiea, was shot in 2014 by police in Kingston, Jamaica. The effort that Jackson has put into making change after her terrible loss has been motivated by her brother. She has reflected on who she is as a human and how she can help others through her life.

“This situation has called me into discovering even my own strength and the purpose that extends beyond me,” said Jackson. 

Kingston, Jamaica holds one of the world’s highest rates of fatal police shootings, many of which are results of racially motivated police brutality. Growing up, Jackson felt support from both of her parents to strive for her dreams. She felt that her parents understood who she and her brother were and what made them unique and supported them accordingly. Jackson’s brother attended a technical high school and they both worked at a local newspaper. After Jackson’s brother began taking cooking classes, he put his heart and soul into his career and was an inspiration to Jackson.

Listen to the Full Interview Now On:

When Jackson’s brother was shot by the police and taken to the hospital, Jackson told him for the first time that she loved him, in hopes that his hearing would be the last to go. She also knew that if the police got anywhere near her brother, they might harm him because they did not want him to be a witness to the violence that they had unfairly used against him. Jackson reached out to the newspaper that she had worked for in the past, but they did not understand the extent of the incident. She then reported the incident to the investigative authorities, with little response. When Jackson got home, she was informed that her brother had passed away.

“I prayed that I would, over time, establish the right linkages and support to help me and my family.” 

Jackson has faced brutal intimidation from the police and little support from the Jamaican legal system in her efforts to create change. Jackson sees oppression everywhere and advocates for the need to reframe the biases against people of certain races and communities. She spoke of the irrationality of thought that the police had when they approached her brother on that traumatic day and she sees a need to fight back. The officer who shot Jackson’s brother was the first officer in the history of Jamacia to be charged with murder. But because of the faulty judicial system in Jamacia, the officer was given bail and eventually walked free.

“My fight starts with the need for due process.”

Jackson brought up something that was explained by the Minister of Security saying that the longer a matter takes to be brought before the court, the less likely that there will be a successful prosecution. Jackson faced verbal and psychological abuse during the court hearings, but continued to fight for justice. The dropped charges opened Jackson’s eyes to the real injustice in the Jamaican judicial system. Jackson had the opportunity to meet with representatives of the Prime Minister’s office alongside the Write for Rights campaign, but was still not given a fair voice. Though the challenges she has faced have been major detriments to her efforts, this uphill battle has been worth every sleepless night and every brutal day that Jackson and other activists have gone through. And they are not about to give up now.

“It speaks to the fact that great work is still being done and I have now learned to celebrate small victories which maybe not in my lifetime, but in my daughter’s lifetime there will be some semblance of justice and the policy of legislative changes to support aggrieved families.”

The experience of Jackson’s family with the unfair justice system has amplified the need for change. They are motivated each day to keep fighting. Her family draws strength from the people who are still being oppressed and those who support them each and every day. Jackson relies on her faith to cope with the tragic loss that she has, and will, deal with for the rest of her life.

Racial profiling and police brutality is not just an issue in the United States. It is happening all over the world and causing unjust deaths to thousands of people. When looking at the history of Jamaica, police officers have allegedly killed more than three thousand people and the number of fatalities in the hands of Jamaican law enforcement officers in just 2017 was 168 people. An average of three people are killed every week by officers in Jamaica with a population of just 2.8 million.

The biggest change that Jackson has seen since she began fighting as a human rights activist is the increase of major organizations, such as the NBA, speaking out in support of social justice. She has seen an increase in support from these organizations and has appreciated each action that they have taken towards change.

“We cannot afford more children needing to be briefed [on how to stay safe] before going outside.” 

Stronger police forces do not mean a safer society. Society has a lot of work to do to create a safe environment. Recent tragedies all over the world could have been avoidable if people had realized the faults in the current system. According to Jackson, the origin of violence in the police force begins in the training that each officer. In current police training, more attention is given to shooting skills than the understanding of communication and nonverbal behavior. This needs to be changed immediately. The current system of engagement and policy establishment also needs to be altered to work against racial profiling and police brutality.

“When you have been oppressed for so long, it manifests itself in the degree of oppression that you’ve been forced to endure.”

Just as revolts lead to the abolishment of slavery in the US, social justice movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement, have the power to end racial injustice. No matter their race, people everywhere are as much at risk as others and need to work in unity in order to make change happen. Shackelia Jackson will never stop fighting for judicial reform and encourages others to speak up and fight alongside her and other activists all over the world.

Continue Reading


Meet The Josh Speaks-The Youtube Sensation Creating a Safe Space for Young People




Joshua Rodriguez in a red Love & Peace shirt, red sunglasses, tilted and looking into the camera

Joshua Rodriguez is a motivational speaker, life coach, author, and well-known YouTuber. Rodriguez uses his social media platforms to talk about every-day issues that the majority of people struggle with. He has learned just as much about the things we post about as the people for whom he makes videos.

Rodriguez began making YouTube videos in 2011 and has seen success with his channel, The Josh Speaks, escalate faster than he had ever expected. After posting the first few advice videos, he was contacted by many high school students with requests for advice on specific challenges they were dealing with.

Listen to the Full Interview Now On:

Rodriguez saw this as an opportunity to reflect on the challenges he had experienced during his own years in high school and use those experiences to help others. The videos Rodriguez makes connect what he has to say with the images he wants to show together into an interactive experience for young viewers. 

“Videos, in my opinion, are one of the best ways to communicate because they incorporate voice with visuals. It results in a totally encompassing experience.”

Rodriguez enjoys learning and hearing about other peoples’ experiences. He sees himself as someone who normalizes communication and is available to bridge the gap between high school students and experts or a person that can offer ongoing help that viewers may need.

Rodriguez wants to create a safe space for those who need it. He wants to help people through their high school years. It is his goal that one day, they will have learned the skills that they need to work through that adolescent stage and are eventually able to provide advice to others in return. 

“Feelings are mentionable and manageable.” 

By supporting kids who receive hate from others, Rodriguez helps them understand how to think twice about negative comments. He wants to change the way viewers see hate and help them look at the reason behind the statement written instead of taking it to heart. They can then begin to understand that the haters just have no one to talk to about their own struggles and therefore, take it out on others instead. 

“Look as social media as a way to share your voice in a way that could be helpful to others.” 

Rodriguez began to practice and learn more about mindfulness. He also took part in NaNoWriMo, a National Novel Writing initiative, that encourages people to get into the habit of writing every day. He has formed routines to set his own goals and standards that he uses to set his own level of production. Especially during these times of COVID-19 and social distancing.

His book, “Embracing the Awkward” is directed toward teens to succeed in school, life, and relationships. Defining your path and purpose. He focused on trying to figure out how he could offer value to people in this world and help people discover their own purpose by understanding what matters to them most. 

Rodriguez’s mission is to “help others develop confidence, compassion, and a true understanding of the world so they can be their best self.” 

One eye-opening moment that Rodriguez has had when creating videos was that the general tips that people tend to give on certain challenges are not applicable in other cultures. After reflecting on other cultures, he began to expand his videos to apply to multiple walks of life.

In light of the differences across cultures, Rodriguez is currently building a community on the forum platform, Discord. This is not only enabling him to speak to viewers directly, but also open up the conversation to others who can include different perspectives on the advice being given. 

“Everyone does have a story to share and everyone has experience that they can share with others, so it is not only about elevating my voice, but also about allowing others to jump into the conversation and share.” 

A challenge to making an inclusive environment online about some of the topics of advice that Rodriguez creates is the polarization in today’s community on social movements and political topics.

He has learned many lessons from making hundreds of videos and has fine-tuned his filming process and creating style. Rodriguez advises other video creators to keep the audience in mind because the content needs to connect with the viewer in order to be powerful. 

“Put something out there for the simple sake of discovering what your voice is. You are one of a kind and acknowledging that can help us understand the value that we bring by just being ourselves.”

Rodriguez remembers a phrase from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

“You are special just the way you are.”

Continue Reading