Interview with Tymeka Coney, Author of “I Don’t Like Racism”
Updated: Sep 28, 2020
On "Rise 'n Shine!" our mission is to create a world that works for everyone and to uplift voices not typically heard. There are many ways this can look, of course, but what all our guests and interviewees have in common is that they're challenging old paradigms while opening hearts and minds. Tymeka Coney stands out as an author, entertainer, and human being who epitomizes our mission, and has touched us with her words.
We hope you'll enjoy this interview as much as we have:
“I Don’t Like Racism” is timely. From the description it looks you’ve taken a very personal experience and created a way to help families talk about racism. Would you tell us more about what inspired this book for you?
So many factors inspired me to write this book. As you mentioned, it’s timely. I was moved - just like a lot of the world - when I saw all of the protests going on from city to city and state to state, how the Black Lives Matter movements were reignited from the recent onset of so many cases of police brutality, and the recent death of George Floyd and the affect it had on his six year old daughter. Seeing this reminded me of my own first-hand experience with police brutality and how I was innocent, yet still treated indifferently. I wanted to make a positive contribution about racism in some way so I prayed and meditated about it. One day while having a conversation with a friend about my next project, I thought, “What if I create a children’s book where they can talk about their thoughts regarding racism and seek to understand it better?”; a book to Educate, Empower and Entertain; and cause people to think about the importance of loving one another despite the color of your skin.
This story is written in a way that allows readers to see racism through the eyes of a black child. What was it like for you to write this story?
It was fun writing this story. I enjoyed letting my imagination go free, going on the journey with the protagonist, DaNyla, sharing her thoughts about racism, and the strength and determination she had to challenge and question racism through her teachers, parents and in her community. I hope it will inspire other black children to recognize their value here on earth despite the color of their skin, stand up for what they believe in, and challenge anything that says anything different. I also want it to show how racism affects our children, not just black children but all races, and it is my hope that through this young child telling the story that all race and all ages can learn something from the story. If nothing else, learn to show love and unity despite the color of their neighbor’s skin.
The illustrations are well done. How did you decide on the images for each page throughout the book?
Thank you! I knew the story that I wanted to tell from the inception of the book. I had the vision in my head for each page specifically with the characters, the character’s expressions and the backgrounds/scenes where the characters would be. I remember sharing with the illustrator the 1st illustration that I envisioned in my head which would show a little girl witnessing her older cousin succumb to police brutality. This was the illustration I used to interview several illustrators before I decided to go with my final selection, Nida Saeed. When I saw her illustration, I was so inspired by it that I knew this was an illustrator I could work with to capture my vision of the story. I made the decision to work with her/hire her that day and we continued until we got to the end of the story, which is what you are able to see today. In the process, I constantly expressed to her the importance of the emotions I wanted to radiate from the illustrations to make an impact on the audience reading the story.
We noticed this isn’t your first book. In what way(s) was writing a children’s book similar or different from your poetry book, Words Unspoken, or your spoken word album, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Dreams?
This children’s book was very similar to writing my first book, Words Unspoken, and my spoken word album. The similarities in all three is the poetry. The children’s book is slightly like a nursery rhyme. A lot of the words in the book, and in most children's books, are very poetic and tend to have a rhyming type of flow to the words in the stories. If you think back to Dr. Seuss with Green Eggs and Ham, it was basically poetry in its simplest form. So the poetry aspect was what was similar. And, I must say that the children’s book/subject matter flowed a bit more fluidly for me than the other two projects mentioned.
You have an extensive background in the entertainment industry including radio, TV and music. With the awards you’ve earned, it appears as if writing comes naturally and easily to you. What is your writing process really like – the part people may not see?
Yes. I do believe that writing is indeed a gift that I was born with and endowed with from the Creator to change lives and people’s way of thinking; to empower, encourage and entertain them by sharing my gift. I would say my gift of writing can be sporadic at times and it can be very versatile. I write when it is quiet and with no distractions and that’s when I do some of my best work. Some days I am listening to instrumental music writing songs in whatever genre or theme the music makes me feel at the time. Another day I might be writing a stage play, a screenplay or TV script to pitch or sell. Another day I might be writing a formal business letter or putting together marketing materials or writing an outline for a book or script, or in this case, the completion of a new book to be released. I would say that my process revolves around a natural flow. Whatever I am feeling moved to create or write at a particular time that is what I go with. I have learned not to force any writing (unless I am being paid to write, which is a different story. I will adhere to a deadline set before me and crank it out). With individual writing, I just say go where your imagination wants to take you and keep moving with that. You may look up and realize you are now 30 pages in on a writing project.
With many close friends who’re musicians, we’re aware that Covid has hit the entertainment industry pretty hard this year. How are you adapting to the changes?
I am adapting to the changes. In fact, I wrote and released a single on Tik Tok and all music platforms titled, “COVID-19 Social Distancing.” It is a spoken word piece to remind people to stay safe in the pandemic. I think the pandemic has actually afforded me more time to be creative. I try to make the most of every moment. I want to definitely come out of the pandemic better than going in by being more wise, educated and creative. When things get back to normalcy, I will have more projects ready to be sold and/or released.
From your bio, it looks like you’re active in your community and use your art to bring awareness to social change. What do you love most about the activism you do?
I love knowing that I can be an instrument that is being utilized to share knowledge and awareness on subjects like social justice that affect so many people. They may not know how to recognize or get help for the challenges they face but with me bringing awareness to the situations, they now have the knowledge to overcome whatever challenge they may face regarding social change, etc. I get a sense of fulfillment in knowing that people will not only walk away from my art entertained but they will also be educated and empowered.
What advice do you have for someone who’s thinking about writing or publishing their own children’s book?
I say do it. We all have a story to tell. Write what you know and if you don’t know but have interest in a specific genre, get a mentor in this genre or research this genre and read about other authors that have had success in this genre so that you may glean insight on your journey. If you’d like to tell one through the eyes of kids, I say do it. If you’d like to write one to inspire kids, do it. You never know the impact you can make in one life in your family, in your community or in the world by writing this book. Someone is waiting to read what you write. I enjoy the process of getting to meet new people like yourself as an author and I say don’t let anyone deter you from whatever dreams you have. If a vision for a book or anything comes to mind, start writing and just see what happens. It‘s true, ”If you build it they will come.” I say, “If you write it they will read it.” There is a scripture that says, “Write the vision so those that read it can run with it.”
If you could sit down with your 5 year old self and read I Don’t Like Racism together, what do you most hope she’d experience?
I’d hope that she would know that it is ok to continue to have multicultural friendships and that she doesn’t have to pick her friends based on their color, but based on their heart. I would hope that she knows that she has value to dream and become anything she wants to be because people did it before her, and nothing or no one can stop her but herself and her belief. She needs to know that her skin doesn’t stop her, nor does how she looks, her gender or her age. I would want her to just have confidence in knowing that she was beautifully and wonderfully made, she deserves to be respected and treated fairly like any other human being and when she is not, that it is ok to question, seek knowledge and understanding for the past and present, challenge that treatment, stand up and speak against that unfair treatment, and fight for change in a peaceful manner. And do it with love. I’d hope that she’d know racism is real and it does exist, so she is always fully aware of what’s going on wherever life takes her, but to not let it affect her as some things may be beyond her control. What she can control is herself, how she chooses to react to it and what she can do is pray about it, knowing that there can be positive change to the negative stimuli that exists. Keep believing. Keep dreaming. Keep hope alive!
Do you have more books planned? What comes next for you?
I do have more books planned. I am happy to be a part of a world of authors. I salute those that came before me, those that exist with me and those that will come after me. I am a reader and writer at heart, and I love literature, arts, entertainment and all things creative. I enjoy being in the company of other creatives, get recharged and inspired by creatives, and I like to inspire others to create and use their gifts. I actually have a few friends that I have helped to start on their journey of becoming writers and authors, so I believe I will always be writing something next, whether it is a song, a poem, a script or a book. My first book published 9 years ago as you mentioned was, Words Unspoken:Volume I. So the fact that it is Volume I, I definitely have to eventually have a Volume II follow up. A few people have asked me about that. I also have a book of quotes and wisdom that I already finished the outline to. I was actually going to release it before this children’s book, but the subject matter of this children’s book took precedent. I’m so glad I moved on this. I have enjoyed the process of writing a children’s book and will definitely do another one very soon. In the meantime, I will also continue to write other scripts and songs, etc. and just focus on putting positive energy into the world through media. Thank you!
Thank you, Tymeka for being you in the world!
If you'd like to get a copy of I Don't Like Racism for your kids or grandkids, it's available on Amazon. If you'd like to learn more about Tymeka and the work she does in the world, visit her website.