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2023 has been a year of some incredible highs…and also tumultuous tribulation. 


On August 19th my Nan sadly passed away. Yes she was 92, you’d probably agree when I say ‘she had a good run’ too. Nevertheless, she was my favourite human being on the planet and I still can’t quite fathom never being able to see her in her physical form during this lifetime EVER again. 

  I also came to the end of the road in two long-time friendships, 20 years strong and out of the blue they fell apart. If you’ve ever broken up with a friend, you’ll know that the loss feels just as great as breaking up with a significant other or even worse, like someone has died. So when I heard the news of Benjamin Zephaniah’s passing on Thursday 7 December, my heart felt like it was on its final straw of grief for 2023. Death of a black icon is always a devastating loss, but for the British Caribbean / African community, this one’s PERSONAL.

  Unless you were living under a rock, almost every black British household growing up in the 90’s and early noughties had reverence for the work and contributions of Benjamin Zephaniah. Most famously, he was popular in our Johnson household for his literature work. In my collection I had ‘Funky Chickens’ along with Malorie Blackman’s ‘Pig Heart Boy’, ‘Noughts and Crosses’ and Sharon G Flake’s ‘The Skin I’m In’. This introduction to black writers sparked an unwavering ambition in me that one day, I too would publish a book and people would read and enjoy my storytelling the same way I got lost in their alternative realities, relatable themes and poetical compositions. 

   From the age of 4 I loved making up stories, by age 11 I realised that I was pretty good at it, by age 15 I decided to write my first book, by age 16 it was published… So who better to tell the good news to than one of my childhood inspirations - Benjamin Zephaniah?

   My Mom encouraged me to write him a letter, she was adamant he’d reply. Admittedly I thought she was over zealous, after all Mr Zephaniah was a very busy man and I was an unknown 16-year-old child from Great Barr, Birmingham… but she was right! Sometime in 2011, he replied [see below]... and in his own words, ‘I have heard about you and I did read about you in The Voice.’ 



Fast forward to 2012 I ended up interviewing Mr Z while working as an Editorial Assistant for Scene Birmingham magazine. Eventually in 2019 I got the chance to meet him in person for the first time during a talk he did at BBC Birmingham for diversity week. He spoke so candidly, holding nothing back when he answered each question thrown his way and unapologetically speaking the truth that shall set you free!  At the time I was 26 and a TV Researcher at BBC Three. I skipped my lunch break to make sure I could meet him. He was flattered as I reminded him of our letter exchanges, which at the time was almost a decade ago. 



After our in person encounter, I decided to write to him again, only this time it was to ask him what he thought of my book? In 2019 I re-launched a second edition of Snow Black the Seven Rastas and Other Short Stories and two of my favourite writers as well as some of the most respected British writers - Uncle Benjamin Zephaniah and Aunty Dorothy Koomson thought what I had to say was DECENT.


'I have read this book many times, and every time I read it I find more and more layers of meaning. This book is truly empowering. There is nothing like it.' Benjamin Zephaniah


’This is a seriously impressive collection of clever, different stories penned by a writer with a brilliant imagination.’ Dorothy Koomson

To receive a review from Mr Z is one of the highest accolades I could ever receive as a next gen British Caribbean writer. Words cannot describe what this did for my confidence. After facing several rejections from mainstream publishers, dismissed by media outlets who said ‘we’ve done enough on diversity in children’s books’... here was Benjamin Zephaniah reading, analysing and praising my literary work. We continued our email exchanges, I even invited him to my virtual book launch. He couldn’t make it at the time due to filming but requested the recording, which after watching he emailed me to say ‘I really loved it. Actually I was quite moved by it.’ He also went onto talk about it in a radio interview as well as mention it in a piece he wrote for his website - I’ve Cried A Lot Lately.




From then on, I honestly didn’t care what mainstream publishers thought’... a stamp of approval from THE Benjamin Zephaniah meant SO MUCH MORE.

  I’m incredibly humbled to have met such a trailblazer and multi-talented British household name. Mr Z your legacy will surely outlive you, the selflessness you took to give me the time of day will never be forgotten, our shared interest of Japanese culture will always make me smile and our commonality of being neurodivergent will remind me that we were born to see the world more creatively.


Thank you and rest well.


Tee Cee



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I've often asked myself: 'Why do we wait for people to die to give them their flowers and tell them all the great things they mean't to us, when they're not present to hear it?'


Then the COVID-19 pandemic came along and reiterated that life is SO unpredictable and we don't always have as much TIME as we think we do.


This behaviour is illogical and we must do better to show our love and appreciation for the ones we love while we can.


I've grown up in a family where I have experienced transcendental love daily, so naturally I love LOVE, I love to LOVE others, I love to receive LOVE and I love letting others know how much they are LOVED... which is probably why my exes end up staying my friends, even sometimes years after we've broken up.... because even they realise the way I LOVE is a WHOLE other level!


The last year has proven that life really is short and that ANYTHING can happen. A week before my birthday my cat was killed in a hit and run, my Nan was diagnosed with stomach cancer and my parents cars were broken into and ransacked... that's just half of things that went wrong.

For this reason I have no more TIME to waste!


For my birthday this year, I wanted to let my friends know they are the SH*T and for whatever reason and season they are in my life, deserves to be recognised and celebrated.


I'll never forget when Tyler Perry used a tree analogy to break down friendships in one of his Madea plays. He said something along the lines of (this is my remixed version)... 'Friendships are like a tree, you have your LEAVES - the seasonal people and associates who come and go with the wind. Then you have your BRANCHES - be careful now, because they'll confuse you, one minute you think they're stable and then suddenly, they'll SNAP and fall without warning. Then, there's the ROOTS - these are the friends you can count on your one hand, they're not going anywhere. They're in your life to keep you anchored and to hold you down through every season come fall, rain, snow or sunshine. You don't see them on display like the leaves and branches but they're in your corner, in the dirt, in the dark places, in the most important part of the tree - the trunk, soaking up all the water and minerals the tree needs to stay alive, healthy and stable. You can't survive without these roots SIS!'

No person is an island and we were never created to walk this journey called life on our own. So friends are important, QUALITY friends are imperative and as I once heard, maintaining these 'relationships are like military missions, they require strategy, foresight and effort.'



On Saturday 16 October I gathered my friends from longtime childhood friends to career friends who came from all over the UK, to celebrate my 28th birthday with me at the Park Regis Hotel Birmingham. I called the event 'Tee Cee's Flower's and Friends Afternoon Tea Party'

This wasn't just any, ordinary event. Yes, it was my birthday but it was all about my FRIENDS! I wanted to take this time to thank them all individually for their friendship and give them their flowers.

IT'S ALL IN THE DETAIL DARLINGS...

Theme colours: Hot pink, light pink, white



Personal touches:

I curated a special playlist for the day, each person had a specific song that was connected to a memory or reminder of our friendship. The song titles were also written on all my guests name cards on their tables.

I also made a slideshow with pictures of me and my friends from over the years which played on loop on a big TV screen during the event.


The gift bags were decorated with customised printed 'Tee Cee's Par-Tea stickers' and pink bows. Inside was pink tissue paper, two tea light candles, a tea light candle holder, popcorn, green tea, a sweet parcel and a hand-written thank you card with a personalised message for each guest and a friendship quote.


I chose afternoon tea, because I LOVE IT and funnily enough a lot of my friends have never had afternoon tea before. Plus it made a change from the usual restaurant setting!


Kudos to my family who dressed the function room at the Park Regis hotel on the day. It looked exquisite. The afternoon tea was served as a beautiful colourful banquet and my friends came to show OUT in white!


WATCH FULL VLOG:

And mwaahh

Entertainment

After food, Smash Entertainz a personal friend as well as popular comedian hailing from Birmingham came to grace us with some light entertainment and games including 'Growing up Afro-Caribbean' bingo and a design challenge utilising whatever random items were in a plastic bag.


Flowers & Friends presentation

For the main event of the event, I made a personal speech for each of my friends and presented them with a rose to thank them for their friendship. There were tears, smiles and a lot of HEART.


This was one of my BEST birthday's EVER. I have the most amazing people in my life and to see my friends in one room at the same time and share this moment was absolutely MAGICAL.

'I wish that we could have this moment for life.'

There is no RIGHT time to tell people you love them or what they mean to you, just tell them. Better now than late or never.


Pree these pics though... DIVINE!

























Kudos to you if you made it to the end... THE END!


Until next time...


Tee Cee x

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IT’S TOMORROW!

IT’S TOMORROW!

IT’S TOMORROW!


One day (well technically a few hours) left until the second edition of ‘Snow Black the Seven Rastas & Other Short Stories’ will grace us all with it’s long-awaited presence so I thought it’d be the perfect time to share some JUICE about the seven stories that make up the book…


Claire’s Mystery (Mystery)

A mystery about a girl who wonders off alone on a school trip, wakes up lost and alone in the woods but does not remember how she ended up there and tries to find her way home but makes a shocking discovery on her mission.


Highly recommended: If you like mystery, confusion and all things edgy then this is the perfect story for you!


Random fact: I wrote the original to this story in my Year 8 English lesson. This story is 14-years-old...In fact, all of the stories we’re written in my Year 8 (aged 12 / 13) and Year 9 (aged 13 / 14) English lessons and are 14 / 13 year’s old!!


Twisted Tuesday

Schoolgirl Jasmine Kelly doesn’t seem to take anything seriously. One day she misses the school bus and decides to bunk off for the day only to make a remarkable discovery that could change her fate.


Highly recommended: If you can relate to not being the academic type and secretly not keen on school (it’s okay no judgment around here, educational institutions are not for everyone) then this is the story for you. You might just learn a little something about gratitude!


Random fact: I got good grades in school, was mostly in top sets for my classes, but in Year 8 I did terribly on my mock SATs Science papers and got a U. They dropped me down from Set 1 to Set 4 in Year 9 but by Year 10 I was back in Set 1…Honestly, they didn’t half put pressure on us in school!


The Feeling Of War (Action)

A journal of a mixed-raced British young woman gives her vivid account and experience of World War 1 after disguising herself as man in hope to fight for the equality of Black British nurses.


Highly recommended: If you’re into equality and standing up for justice. This is a story all about being brave, courageous and will definitely put a pep in your step to march to the beat of your own drum, okurr!


Random fact: I’m not really into action films so very surprised at myself for coming up with this story in the first place.


Snow Black and the Seven Rastas (Alternative Fairy-Tale)

A quirky Caribbean twist on the classic fairy tale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Set in the internationally renowned island of sunny Jamaica, this is a story about a Nubian Princess in search of safety from her wicked stepfather.


Highly recommended: If you love Jamaican culture...YA'MON!


Random fact: I have so, so, SO much more planned for this story, watch this space!!


Reality Check (Fantasy / Adventure)

A fantasy adventure filled with mythical creates and a wild imagination centered around a girl called Jane Pip who is highly sensitive and a bit of a geek.


Highly recommended: If you don’t take yourself too seriously and like the idea of allowing your mind to wonder off freely into unimaginable states and worlds.


Random fact: Like Jane Pip, I too was a very highly sensitive child.


Will You Be My Valentine? (Romantic)

A series of funny diary entries told by a teen girl, raised by a single Dad who discovers what it means to have self-confidence and self love.


Highly recommended: If you’re just up for a laugh and a giggle.


Random fact: I know I wrote this story, but I genuinely find it SO entertaining!


Trapped (Thriller)

Centred around a girl who deals with mental health issues and anxiety and unveils what it's like to live inside her world.


Highly recommended: If you’re interested in the subject matters of mental health and anxiety.


Random fact: I relate A LOT to this story and it’s the first time I share with anyone outside of my immediate family an insight of what it was like to live inside my world as a child.


Snow Black, the Seven Rastas & Other Stories (Second Edition)

Available on Amazon November 12th

Paperback, £7.99


Enjoy and happy reading!


Tee Cee x


PS: Remember to write me a review, I’d love to hear what you think :)

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