NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A group of 18 millennials is taking back the community by writing with a purpose: to inspire our youth.
The book “99 & Two Thousand” is a story of struggles, but more importantly the story of triumph over tragedy.
One of the authors is Tia Deas. “I am considered a role model to pre-teens and adults alike.” Deas’ chapter is titled PainFUL.
Deas tells the story of her struggles, which included an abusive relationship. Deas was the victim of domestic violence through her pregnancy.
“I was so numb to pain that I didn’t realize I was experiencing it, I was in a domestic violence relationship while I was pregnant. He ended up beating me very severely and left me with seven broken bones, a fractured skull and a broken nose, after that I was homeless. I couldn’t stay on campus because I was involved in a domestic dispute … so I slept in my car for a long time,” Deas said.
Deas was homeless and lived in her car at Mount Trashmore In Virginia Beach for four months.
“It was some nights that I literally had suicidal thoughts because I thought I can’t do this, I won’t be able to do this,” said Deas. “I honestly think the only reason why I push through is because I had so many other people who said, ‘Hey, I’ve been through it.”
Deas found the strength and finished her degree at Norfolk State. Fast forward to today and Deas is now a teacher in Chesapeake, and she’s getting her doctorate next fall.
“If I don’t tell my survival story, if I don’t tell these freshmen students at Norfolk State, if I don’t tell my students daily, ‘hey look, this is why we are here, this is what I have been going through, I pushed through this, I pushed through that,’ then they wouldn’t understand that they can get through it too.”
She uses her story to inspire her students and she uses her published books to inspire the world.
Brentin Sims is the mastermind behind the book.
“I was moving to Oklahoma City and I just got the idea from God, and he said you are going write a book,” said Sims. “I don’t even like to read and it’s going to be an anthology and it’s going to be a collection of stories from young people who are just like you”
The book was self-published just seven months later.
“I want it to be from the angle of you chasing after what it is that you want and what perseverance looks like,” said Sims.”We can do anything we want to do as long as it has the backing of purpose. I do hope that every young person who reads this book sees themselves somewhere in one of these chapters.”
In Christal’s Marshall’s circumstance, she contemplated taking her own life in 6th grade.
“A lot of bullying, a lot of verbal, you’re ugly, you’re stupid, you will never amount to everything,” said Marshall. “I thought well, there’s just really no point in living anymore. I remember, I was in my room and my parents were downstairs and I thought, you know what, go to the kitchen, there’s knife, that’s what you are going to do. I knew that’s what needed to be done, in order for me to feel at peace.”
However, Marshall eventually found peace in her faith. Now this mother of three helps teenagers who may face similar struggles.
Another author is a gun violence victim who is now giving back to children all over Virginia.
“There are so many people who need the blueprint and see what it takes to put it together, and there are people from all around the world included in this book,” said Cameron Bertrand.
In his chapter titled “Buy Back the Block,” Bertrand describes the night he got shot during a robbery while leaving a college homecoming game.
“What happened the night we got shot and the fact that people left me on the ground to die, is the fact of the matter and to know that I am pushing through that and the fact that I am not the only person going through traumatic experiences and I know that I’m not the only person going through traumatic experiences, to know that sharing my story might just inspire someone else to share theirs as well,” said Bertrand.
He’s developed four chronic pain disorders since, but he’s also developed the skills to educate other on mental health. Bertrand is a former Boys and Girls Club director and is now the founder of a local mentorship program called Violence Intervention and Prevention.
“I went through that to make sure I can live another day, and I was kept here for a reason, there are so many people in our community who have been affected by violence and are no longer here with us,” Bertrand said.
Then, there’s Larry Whitaker Junior, who says writing this book changed his life.
“When I went back to read it, I read it in the eyes of an 18-year-old or middle school child,” Whitaker said.
He felt pressure to to fill a certain role from society and realized he had to do what makes him happy. He’s heading to Kuwait as a children’s counselor.
The authors all share a common thread: living with purpose and following their dreams, no matter what.
For Tia and the others, they are showing our community there is light — at the end of what may seem like a very dark and long tunnel.
“Being in a domestic violence relationship taught me how to treat people, being down and out taught me how to stay up,” writes Deas. “My name is Tia Deas and I literally used pain within processes to progress and attain all the goals I set for myself … you can too.”
For more information: https://www.20sumn.com/the99book
Correction: A previous version spelled Tia Deas as Tia Dees.