People discover their missions in life in myriad ways, with others often the beneficiaries of the discovery. On Tuesday (Oct. 16), mission-minded Bettinita Harris debuted as a children’s book author, gifting readers with “Aria’s Crown.”
Aria’s grandmother has been anticipating going to school with her granddaughter on Grandparent’s Day ever since Aria was born five years ago. The story of “Aria’s Crown” begins the day before Grandparent’s Day and finds Aria without an ounce of excitement.
To Aria, her grandmother is “Queen.” But when she told the kids at school that, they laughed mightily.
Harris, whose award-winning journalism career spanned 20 years and included a noteworthy stretch as a deputy metro desk editor in Memphis at The Commercial Appeal, weaves a remedy to Aria’s melancholy in what is the first book in the Sisters for Life, Best Friends Forever series that she created via Colored Girl Wisdom, LLC.
Three years ago, Harris, who now lives in West Chester, Pa., was working as a substitute teacher. While at lunch, a conversation with co-workers turned to what each would be doing for the summer. When she shared that her daughter was about to give birth to Harris’ second granddaughter, a teacher asked what her granddaughter called her.
“I said, ‘She calls me Queen-A.’ She said, ‘Why does she call you Queen-A?’ I told her that I told my daughter that I wanted to be called ‘Queen’ because I wanted my granddaughter to know from the very beginning that she was associated with something bigger than herself and that she could become whoever she wanted to be.”
The teacher told Harris that she should write a children’s book about her granddaughter and the lessons Harris was teaching her, adding that it was Harris’ mission in life to do so.
“I was floored,” Harris recalled. “It was like the world stood still.”
Over the next month or so, Harris said she received “confirmation after confirmation” that the teacher was right.
Colored Girl Wisdom was created to “encourage, inspire and empower black girls to embrace who they are in a world where they are invisible.” At www.coloredgirlwisdom.com, you can see and hear Harris tell about the making of Colored Girl Wisdom, LLC and its first book, “Aria’s Crown,” which is accented will the illustrations of Nadica Zlatkova Miteyska.
As Harris started writing the book, she drew upon conversations with her real-life granddaughter, Aria, and soon realized that some of the issues they were discussing were the same issues she discussed with her mother when she was a young girl.
Issues such as hair and the color of your skin, Harris said.
“And when I am talking to her (Aria), I am talking to my five-year-old self, reaffirming to her that she is OK. God made her this way. It doesn’t matter what the world says. If God made your nose wide, if God gave you thick lips, if God gave you kinky hair, it must be OK.
“That’s the reason I do it,” Harris said of her children’s book mission. “I want her, my granddaughters to realize that, you know what, they are OK. I want everybody to feel like that.”
Naming the multimedia company “Colored Girl” is somewhat of a nod to Harris’ mother.
“She was so old school,” Harris detailed. “When we were growing up, at the time, we were called black, African American. My mother never quite made the transition. Every once in a while she would slip and say colored. So, I named it Colored Girl because I never stopped being colored girl.”
“In the bible it says if you lack wisdom, ask God for it. He will give it to you generously. So everyday I ask for wisdom: wisdom to be a good wife, wisdom to be a good mother, wisdom to be a good grandmother, wisdom to be a good member of the community. I ask every day and every day he gives it to me.”
Harris said “Queen” is a standard, how you carry yourself.
“Queen is that your name is associated with integrity and quality. Queen is you stand up for yourself. Queen is you stand up for your family. Queen is you stand up for your community. Queen is how you show up in the world. …
“It has to do with the standard by which you hold yourself accountable. You hold yourself accountable for how you show up. You hold yourself accountable for how you allow people to treat you. … Stand in your own power. You make your decisions, and if you have to walk alone, you walk alone. …”