By Laurie D. Willis
Special to The HBCU Digest
Alisha Byrd has a passion for young people and is determined to help improve their lives.
So the Salisbury, N.C., native has penned a book titled “Gemstones,” which she hopes will do just that.
“I have a passion for the wellbeing of young people, particularly young girls, and I want them to realize that regardless of where they come from, what they’ve encountered or endured or what negative things are said about them they still have a purpose,” said Byrd, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Winston-Salem State University. “I want them to understand the importance of embracing who they are and understanding they can achieve greatness.”
Byrd knows far too well about the importance of self-love and acceptance.
She got pregnant when she was a student at Winston-Salem State University, but instead of dropping out as many girls would have, she managed to have her daughter and still graduate on time.
Byrd grew up without her father and was reared by her maternal grandparents, so she knows what it’s like to feel as though a part of you is missing. But despite all of that, she persevered and wants young women to know despite their circumstances they can persevere, too.
When she worked in human resources at Livingstone College in her hometown, Byrd penned a book titled “Even Me: Once Scarred and Broken, Now Worthy,” which chronicled her life.
The overriding theme in her current work, “Gemstones,” can be found in the New Living Translation version of 1 Peter 3: 3-4 which says, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”
That theme is woven throughout “Gemstones,” which is fewer than 100 pages, easy to read and geared toward girls 13 and up.
“I know most young people have short attention spans, so I purposefully kept the number of pages to a minimum,” Byrd said. “What’s important isn’t the number of pages but the power of the words on the page.
“Gemstones” examines the lives of eight, aptly named young girls: Ruby, Sapphire, Opal, Amber, Emerald, Pearl, Topaz and Diamond. Each girl faces trials and tribulations but finds a way to persevere despite her circumstances.
Not one to sugarcoat things, Byrd tackles some heavy-duty topics in the book: homosexuality, physical abuse, foster care and molestation. She hopes “Gemstones” will help young women begin to open up about their problems.
“Oftentimes young adults are uncomfortable sharing their issues and problems with family and friends, so my hope is this book will serve as an ice breaker, a way to get the conversation started,” she said. “I really believe ‘Gemstones’ may be just what some young girl needs to begin to understand her true value and worth, and if my book helps a young girl become someone she never dared dream she could be, or if gives a young girl the courage to remove herself from a bad, potentially dangerous or life-threatening situation, that will be a blessing.”
Byrd had a book signing for “Gemstones” in late June and has another planned for July 27 at The Literary Post in Salisbury. Eventually she hopes to take her book on the road and would love to have signings all over North Carolina and the U.S.
And of course she’s trying to schedule a book signing at her alma mater.
“When I was a student at WSSU I never thought I’d become a published author,” Byrd acknowledges. “But now when I reflect on my time at Winston-Salem State I realize the professors were preparing me to write books and accomplish great things.”
Byrd knows there are many today who question the relevance of historically black colleges and universities – which she thinks is absurd.
“There is a dire need for HBCUs in this country, and, in fact, I argue the country could use more HBCUs,” Byrd said. “As a proud graduate of a historically black college I’m determined to do all I can to make a difference in the world, and hopefully my latest work, ‘Gemstones,’ will help me do just that.”
Laurie D. Willis is the owner of Laurie’s Write Touch! www.laurieswritetouch.com