Alabama State Hosts First Alumni Book Fair for Homecoming Week
By Hazel Scott/ASU
As a salute to alumni who are published authors, Alabama State University’s Office of Alumni Affairs hosted its inaugural Alumni Book Fair Takeover on Friday, October 6, outside the bookstore in the John Garrick Hardy Student Center. The event wss part of this year’s Homecoming Celebration.
After a presentation, there was a book signing where about 30 alumni authors from all disciplines, who have published everything from nonfiction to novels, shared their work and their journey to publishing. Here are just a few:
Ronald Martin (ASU junior majoring in art)Ronald Martin has released his first comic book, “All-Star Book 1: Protect And Serve.” The book is about a retired marine who loses his son to police brutality. His son was racially profiled, and as a man of faith, he prayed to God for justice. The father’s answer came in the form of superpowers, which he uses to protect his community and to help mankind.
"Superheroes have always been a comfort for me, and I wanted to make one that was relevant to the times. It was also a way for me to bridge the gap between social justice and superheroes," he said.
The book is geared toward teens and adults, but he hopes to have a kid version of the book in the future.
At 21, Martin feels blessed to be able to showcase his works at the Alumni Book Fair. “I think it’s a great opportunity for me to spotlight my talent and show what all I have been doing…It’s good to have your work pay off…I remember the journey and how long it took me to get to this point. I was a senior in high school when I started the book…During 2020, the year that George Floyd had passed, I wanted to have a story to allow me to vent my frustration as a Black man. So, I used this character, this superhero, to have a story that doesn’t end in tragedy but to end in triumph. I wanted that story put out to the world,” he said.
For up-and-coming authors, Martin has a tip: “Do it because you love it, not just for the money.”
Martin was a cartoonist for ASU’s Hornet Tribune, where he won first place for Best Artist/Illustrator for the Southeast Journalism Conference.
His book can be purchased on Amazon, LuLu, Walmart and Barnes and Nobles.
Dr. Albert Russell (1993, 1998), Author, Chemist Professor, Pastor
Dr. Albert Russell has written several inspirational and spiritual books, including “Agapao: Loving Your Wife the Way God Intended,” “Walk With Me,” “God Seen, God Heard, God Revealed: A 365 Day Devotional,” “Pushing Through the Pain: Continuing in Ministry After Suffering Great Loss” and “Breaking the Curse #RealManDiaries: 30-days of Real Talk for Real Men.”
It was at Alabama State, he said, that he began to find his voice and it was also the place where he met his future wife, Dr. Tomeka Danielle Russell.
“My first book ‘Agapao: Loving Your Wife the Way God Intended,’ is dedicated to my wife, who passed away in 2017. I started writing it when she was deployed to Iraq and finished it up 10 years later. This book was very hard to write. I wrote the second half when she was terminal, but I got it done sitting by the bedside. I wouldn’t say it was a how-to manual, but it is about things that I learned being a husband,” Russell said, who wed five years later.
Russell said returning to Alabama State University as a published writer is “different.” “It’s different because as a chemistry major your goal is to write scientific publications, but you can take that same talent and energy and translate it into your passion. I’ve always loved to write. So, it’s good to be home, and it’s good to be here sharing my work with other people and seeing other people who have done the same thing,” he said.When asked what he does. His answer is: “I inspire people. I try to do that every day.” Russell is the Pastor of Grace Community Church in Millbrook and the Chemistry Department Chair at Tuskegee University and its Assistant Provost.Be on the watch for the sequels to "Breaking the Curse" and his devotional book "Walk With Me." "They will be in the bookstores soon," he said.His books are available on Amazon and at www.aer251books.com.
Dr. Katrice Crawford, Assistant Professor for the Criminal Justice and Social Science Department
Dr. Katrice Crawford is the author of “Never Thought I Could Ever Be,” a collection of short stories that embrace the love, power, and the grace of God. The book is a nonfiction account of Crawford’s life.
“I’m in awe of being here. If you read the book, it talks about my beginnings which were not very good at all. I hold a doctoral degree today; however, I didn’t graduate from high school, was unwed and pregnant at 16, depressed, had a drug addicted mother, absent father and was living in the projects. So, for me, being here after enduring all that I have and working at an HBCU, sometimes teaching first-generation students like me, means a great deal,” said Crawford.
The message she hopes readers carry from the book is: You can overcome adversity. “When you see me, you see that it can be done. When you see me, you see what you can accomplish. When you see me, you see the hard work and determination. With the presence of God in your life, He will allow you to accomplish what’s in your heart,” she said. “My goal is to help those who desire to do better for themselves.”
Crawford gets emotional when she talks about seeing her name for the first time attached to a class. “I said, ‘God, you have a sense of humor.’ I never thought I could accomplish any of this, which is the title of my book, ‘Never Thought I Could Ever Be.’ God provided.”
Crawford carries her passion in educating students through her nonprofit, Changing Pathways of Justice Involved Youth, by providing educational resources to kids in detention centers, in corrections, at-risk schools and halfway houses.
When asked if there will be another book from her in the future, her answer is “yes.”
“I’m hooked on writing. So, my next books will be a children’s book, which I’m working on now, and a devotional for 12- to 13-year olds.”
Crawford’s “Never Thought I Could Ever Be” can be purchased at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Dr. Jenny Thelwell (2007), assistant principal, writer, life coach, publisher and the President of the South Florida Alumni Chapter of the National Alumni Association
“Pressure Point” is Dr. Jenny Thelwell’s first book. The book is a transparent memoir that discusses how she learned to turn trauma into victory. In this book, she shares the obstacles she faced as a child, living in poverty, to an adult who thought she had it all together. Thelwell, who lives by the quote “embrace the pressure,” said she wants readers to move into a dimension of positivity and abundance, and to live life the way God intended.
“No matter what trials and tribulations you have been through or maybe going through, you must endure because on the other side of pain is purpose,” Thewell said. “It’s hard, but you can learn to grow through what you go through. By embracing the pressure, it revolutionizes who you become…turn that adversity into something powerful.”
Thelwell is a sexual abuse survivor and teaches victims to tell their story with confidence. She created the Revolutionary Diamond publishing company to help people tell their stories proudly and convert what was once pain into something memorable and is now a victory.
“I want my book to help people apply some of the things that I did to overcome struggles to their life,” she said.
As for another book, Thelwell is contemplating it. “I love to write. With this book, I wanted to tell my story…change the trajectory of my family’s name…Both my parents are immigrants from the Dominican Republic.”
Thelwell said being back on campus is “amazing.”“It’s very nostalgic…This is my foundation. What I have been able to do since I left here and come back ‘home’ as a professional is amazing. I came here as a first-generation student. So, to be able to give back to what Alabama State has afforded to me, and to put (those opportunities) in play in my life for the last 10, 15 years, has been revolutionizing.”
Thelwell’s book is available at www.revolutinarydiamond.com and Amazon.
Vanessa Brown (1981), author
Vanessa Brown’s book, "The Darker Side of Me,” is a captivating novel about a young African-American girl and her experiences while attending a fictitious Historically Black College / University (HBCU). Throughout her journey to achieving a college degree, she faces both social and moral challenges. She makes a lot of mistakes along the way but reaches her goal of getting her degree. What she discovers is a part of herself she never knew – “The Darker Side” of herself.
“The book will take you down memory lane. You will laugh and recall the times that you did something stupid like that. The story’s goal is to show that you can complete what you started. The book is very motivational, especially for the new generations of students coming through Alabama State,” Brown said.
Brown said “‘The Darker Side of Me’ is the first in a trilogy. “The story doesn’t end here. The second book is ‘One Step Further’ where she goes to New York and becomes an advertising executive where a whole gamut of things take place. The final book is titled ‘The Final Moments.’ The book started when she was 19 and now, she is in her 60s,” Brown explained. “It’s a journey of everything that took place…that helped define the woman she became.”
Brown started the book when she was a student at ASU. When she moved to New York, "life" (the pandemic) got in the way and she didn’t pick up the manuscript again for a long time. As she was cleaning one day, she found the manuscript tucked away in her closet and decided to finish it. “I said my book will be in a bookstore one day, and it is,” she said.
Brown is a die-hard alumna, who is ecstatic to be a part of the first-ever Alumni Book Fair.
“It’s an amazing feeling to come back where the story began. It began on this campus as a freshman, and to come back now as a published author, feels like I have gone full circle. To see the growth of the school is absolutely breathtaking,” she said. “Alabama State University is the greatest institution in the world. If you come to Alabama State, you not only gain a good education, but you also gain a family for a lifetime.”