I Set Out to Create a Positive Vision for Our BoysSanya Whitakker Gragg
I am Wife. Mom. Social Worker. And now Author. I’m Nashville native, and I have always had a passion for working with and inspiring kids. I hold degrees from the University of Memphis (Bachelor of Arts, Marketing), Georgia State University (Master of Science, Sports Administration) and the University of Southern California (Master of Social Work). I have worn many hats including nearly 10 years in marketing, public relations and athletics working for NIKE, the Detroit Pistons and the University of Michigan Athletics. I have also served on the board for an Ann Arbor homeless shelter for families and advocated in the courts for foster children.
My work in the community and with families prompted me to pursue my Master’s degree in Social Work. This led to my working in Tulsa Public Schools as a school based therapist and social worker. Over the years, I have also taken breaks in my career to be at home full time supporting her children with their many activities, as well as supporting my husband with his demanding career as an athletic director.
I also now have a 3 year old “Tulsa surprise” who is keeping me busier than ever, but raising two black sons (now young adults) actually prompted me to write my debut book, “Momma, Did You Hear the News?” Its purpose is to give parents a way to have what’s known as “The Talk”. Unfortunately, it’s a conversation nearly all African-American parents have with their children–more specifically, their sons.
“Momma, Did You Hear the News” is centered around 10-year old Avery who is disturbed by yet another unarmed black man being shot. This prompts his parents to sit down with him and his brother to talk about what to do if approached by police officers. Their Dad references a catchy chant taught to him by his mother to help remember the five things to do to come home ALIVE, “A to the L to the I-V-E! Come home ALIVE…That is the key!”
I make a point in the book to stress that “all policemen are not bad”, and we should “pray for those in blue”.
My past experience working with kids taught me that when you add music or song and dance to a lesson, young people are more likely to engage, and more importantly, they are more likely to remember. Each letter corresponds with a reminder. For example, “V” is for VISIBLE hands always! The book encourages readers to “Memorize the 5”.
I know this book will not guarantee the end of unarmed black male fatalities. Our community will continue working to educate our kids on “The Talk”, but we need law enforcement to continue working to educate and train officers too. I make a point in the book to stress that “all policemen are not bad”, and we should “pray for those in blue”. However, as long as unarmed black men are disproportionately killed by the police, my debut self-published book will be one of the ways that we can give our boys a positive vision for their futures to do what we can to make sure they come home alive. It can be purchased now on Amazon. Click here to listen to my interview on Vivid Talk™ Radio.