How My Book Just Call Me Scholar Was Born

Written & Read By Terry Ann Williams-Richard

Everything is always working out for me, is one of my favorite affirmations. The creation of my book Just Call Me Scholar is an excellent manifestation of Everything is always working out for me. Everything is always working out for me.

As a Contributing Writer for The African-American Shopper’s Guide, I wrote an article for Black History Month back in 2018 which appeared on page 20 of the Feb/March issue. In this article is where and when my poem, Just Call Me Scholar, was born. I also attended The 2018 OurStory Book Fair & Expo, which is where I met Ashley Ferguson, the author of Girl, You Are Magic and Boy You Are Brilliant. At the time she was showcasing her first book (The second one had not hit the scene yet). I was mesmerized by Ashley’s book, poem, illustrations, publishing process and the overall appearance of her masterpiece. Right there as we spoke, it hit me, I could turn my poem, Just Call Me Scholar into a children’s picture book! And so my big search for an illustrator started. I even considered submitting my book to a traditional publisher. However, I read that the publishers choose the illustrator. There was a particular look I wanted and so I wanted to choose my own illustrator. Finally, it was in the fall of 2019 when I had my first conversation with the artist Lee Johnson, who is the illustrator for Ashley’s books. Eventually by May 2020 I was able to hire Lee to be my illustrator. We were off to an amazing start.

I was overwhelmed in a good way when I received the first drawing from Lee. The way he brought my author’s notes and vision to life are a blessing beyond measure. In addition to the typed notes (description of the drawing s and text I wanted on each page spread, I also gave him a photo of my daughter Tamara and my nephew Steven, who is my sister Judy’s son. They were about 4 years old in the photo. I wanted the characters to be based on that photo. Tamara and Steven will turn 29 in June this year. They are both parents now, Peyton Ann, my grand daughter is 5 years old. She turns 6 in August of this year. Amora Rudi, my great niece just turned 4 in January of this year. Amora’s middle name is in honor of my Dad, Rudy Williams, Sr., who passed away February 13, 2015 at the age of 82. My Daddy had one of the biggest hearts in the world and he loved history. It was really something he died the day before Valentine’s Day and during Black History Month. My Daddy didn’t get a chance to meet Peyton Ann and Amora Rudi. I feel as if he knew about them though, Peyton Ann was due on my Daddy’s birthday August 28, 2015, the year he died. Tamara went into labor on the projected due date and Peyton was born the next morning. Amora Rudi was expected two years later around the same day Daddy died. She arrived in January a few weeks ahead of schedule. Definitely God’s miracles and as my Daddy would say– “Ya got that right!”

And so in May 2020, right in the middle of a pandemic, the powerful partnership with Lee was established. We were fired up and ready to go and I was sure we’d be ready for publication my August or September 2020. In the meantime, we hit a huge obstacles. Then I was thinking maybe my book would be launched in time for Christmas 2020 gift giving. Instead…Lo and behold Just Call Me Scholar is now an illustrated poem. Yaaay! Thanks to Lee Johnson my amazingly gifted illustrator. Just Call Me Scholar my 1st children’s picture book was newly released this month February 2021… Black History Month! Everything came full circle.

Even though this is my 4th published book, there is still something extra special about it. Maybe it’s because Just Call Me Scholar is my 1st children’s book. It also makes my heart smile as I recall the many Black History programs I’ve coordinated or attended throughout the years. I’ve visited countless museum exhibits, cultural events, book fairs, story times, meet the authors, destinations, towns, and more. I also have so many fond memories of talking about history and current events with my Daddy and attending museum exhibits and more. He was a masterful storyteller about his life, family, and growing up in the segregated south. I always got a kick out of listening to him tell me about the items on display. He was my personal living history tour guide. I didn’t even need to read the placards with the information, Daddy was giving me a play by play…priceless. He would even talk about how he was living during the events, etc. or how he had just read about some of the artifacts we saw on display. Another precious gem is that my daughter got a chance to experience this rich experience and to know my Daddy, her Grand Daddy. Even though my Daddy is no longer here, these memories warm my heart and make my soul glad.

In 2018 and 2019, I did school and community center visits leading students in confidence building activities with Just Call Me Scholar presentations. A student performed my poem at a charter school Black History Program in 2018. The Mother & Daughter Book Club; Boys to Men Book Club; The Family Book Club; and The Young Scholars & Leaders Personal Library Club, are names of some of the programs I started throughout the years promoting books by African-American authors, reading literacy, and reading for fun. Wow! As I recall these reflections, I’m getting even more excited about what God has in store for Just Call Me Scholar. My book is available on Amazon now and through other book sellers and retailers globally. Get your copy today! Spread the word…Thanks for your support!

Everything is always working out for me. Everything is always working out for me.

Here’s the article…

Conversations of Consultation, Challenge, and Courage

By Terry Ann Williams-Richard

A few years ago I saw a post on Facebook with a picture of a park bench and the question: “If you could chat with someone on this bench from the past or present, who would it be?” For some reason Harriet Tubman came to my mind. Yes, that is my choice for this curious conversation. Perhaps this name summoned me because Black History Month is 365 or maybe it’s because the struggle, fight, and dream of FREEDOM is real even today. From the constant questioning of Black lives mattering to the debate of taking a knee or allegiance to the flag, the fight is on. The “Me Too” Movement has many rising up. Scandal after scandal at the real-life 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has the dream under fire. It all “makes you wanna holler and throw up both your hands”. The dis-unity and self-destruction has you feeling if we are not careful, “y’all gonna make me lose my mind up in here”. Like Marvin sang, we are screaming “What’s going on?” The song “Stand Up” from the movie Harriet serves as a clarion call to continue the fight for freedom. The need is imperative to reach back for conversations with our elders for consultation, ways to face challenge, and the courage to act.

I shared the park bench post on my Facebook page and a few friends responded saying they wanted to talk to their parents who were now deceased. One friend even made another post reflecting on the person he wanted to have the chat with…his paternal grandmother. He wanted to get her biscuit recipe. He also talks about how she cooked on a stove without a dial and she never overcooked or under cooked a melt in your mouth, fresher than fresh dish or a meal. I had a phone conversation with a friend who recalled how she use to watch the news reports of the Civil Rights Movement on television in the late 1960s as an eight or nine year old disappointed that she had “missed it”.

What would I ask Miss Harriet Tubman? Miss Harriet, how did you know where to go when there were no roads paved and no streets? How did you know to follow the stars? Where do we go now when today people still spew hatred toward our children? In the classroom, a white teacher tells a young black boy his classmates will form an angry mob and lynch him. In another school a white teacher refers to black children as monkeys. What do we tell and teach the children Miss Harriet? What do we tell them to tell others who don’t seem to know what to call them or us?

This poem came to me in response:

Just Call Me Scholar

I am articulate, brilliant, courageous, determined, empowered, and free,

People often wonder what they should call me.

Just call me scholar.

I have a unique texture to my hair and a sparkling shine to my skin,

I have royal blood and God’s greatness flowing within.

My ancestors and present day elders cloak me with their love it’s true,

This casts out the hatred and false information our enemies spew.

My future is so bright is what my Momma and Daddy always say,

I am using, building, and sharing skills, talents, abilities, and gifts every day.

I make a difference in the world even right now,

My dreams keep getting bigger all I can say is Wow!

I am articulate, brilliant, courageous, determined, empowered, and free,

People often wonder what they should call me.

Just call me scholar,

that’s me!

Everything is always working out for me. Everything is always working out for me. Everything is always working out for me!

Copyright 2018, 2020, 2021 by Terry Ann Williams-Richard

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