Derek Chauvin trial witness writes book to help children cope with trauma



CNN

If she refuses her cousin’s request to walk to the store, Danela Fraser will never make a video of George Floyd’s death, which could help convict Derek Chauvin.

Her 9-year-old cousin Judeah Reynolds wanted to buy candy but was too young to walk alone. Reynolds persevered, and Frazier eventually agreed to walk. Reynolds and Fraser could soon be drawn into history.

On Friday — the day Floyd will celebrate his 49th birthday — Reynolds published a book about what she witnessed and ways to help children deal with traumatic events.

In her book Walk to the Store, Reynolds wrote: “When we got to the store, we saw something bad. At first we didn’t know what was going on, but we knew it was wrong. My cousin used Her phone took a video.”

“I keep thinking about it and feel very sad,” Reynolds adds later in the book. “I had a hard time falling asleep. When I was sleeping, I had nightmares. When I woke up from a horrible dream, my mom gave me a hug. The hug made me feel better.”

Embedded in the book is a worksheet with questions and exercises to help children deal with traumatic events. For example, the guidance recommends staying the same. Children who have experienced a disruptive traumatic event need normality and routine. It also says to use honest language and seek professional help if the situation is not getting better.

Reynolds, now 11, was shocked when she saw the first of her book.

“I said, ‘That’s me.’ It was amazing,” she told CNN, describing the book’s cover, which she wore in a teal shirt with the word love written on it. It looks like the shirt she wore the day Floyd died.

When asked how many copies she plans to sell, she said, “One billion copies.” Yes, she knew that was a lot of copies.

Reynolds said she got the idea for the book from another child, Cameron Brundidge, who uses the power of storytelling to educate people about autism.

“She inspired me to write a book. I saw her book the day I met her and I thought, ‘I want one too,'” Reynolds said.

Reynolds told her story to Cameron’s mum, entrepreneur and activist Sheleta Brunditch. Brunditch, who has written three children’s books based on her children’s experiences, is an advocate for media and literary representation. Reynolds said she received a copy of Cameron’s book from Brunditch.

“That was the first time she saw a little girl on the cover of a book, and she was a central figure who looked like her. Hair like her, nose like her, skin like her. That’s why we keep saying representation matters reason,” Brunditch said.

Reynolds was the youngest witness to testify at the trial of Chauvin, who was convicted of three counts in the killing of Floyd. Reynolds asked her father what it meant to be guilty the day the verdict was read. Today, she has her own definition.

“It means like when you lie, they find out your truth,” she said.

In this image from a police body camera, bystanders, including Darnella Frazier (third from right), witness then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin Pressing his knee on George Floyd's neck for several minutes killed him on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis.

Anger over the incident has sparked an international protest movement against police brutality, while raising a national conversation about racial and social injustice.

All four officers involved in Floyd’s death have been fired and charged.

Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane were convicted of violating Floyd’s civil rights. Thao and Kueng were also convicted of additional federal charges earlier this year for failing to intervene to stop Chauvin. Thao and Kueng were sentenced to three-and-a-half years and three years in federal prison, respectively.

Thao and Kueng are still facing state trials for aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. They pleaded not guilty.

Lily Coyle is the owner of Beaver’s Pond Press, the publishing company behind Reynolds’ books. Coyle said she didn’t want to tell the story. She struggled to find a way to tell the story without hurting.

“It’s an honorable burden. Work is a wonderful thing, but it’s so painful,” she said. “How many other children have seen this video or witnessed other traumas – either in person or online?”

The illustrator donates her time, others agree to be paid later or give away their services. Coyle said they would cover all costs associated with book production and pay Reynolds 60 percent of the profits. As Coyle and Brundidge had a writing session with Reynolds, they were waiting to clarify the direction of the book.

Judah Reynolds book cover

“I don’t want to put a children’s book into the world that hurts kids or makes people’s lives harder. It needs to be a healing tool, and we want to bring grace to this dire situation,” Coe said. Earl said. “We really want kids to understand that bad things happen, but there are a lot of good people in the world. See the bad, but don’t be consumed by it. You can be a part of the good, not fuel the flames of the bad and let it consume you .”

Nearly two years later, the pain is still deep. At Creative Kuponya, it’s not just children who need help dealing with traumatic events.

The mental health clinic is just a few blocks from the well-known George Floyd Square. Mental health expert Jamil Stamschort-Lott says that about 85 percent of his clients identify as people of color in a practice he shares with his wife. On average, they treat about 120 young (7 to 24 years old) patients per year. Stamschort-Lott said he would see children, lawyers and professional athletes, including players from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“Coronavirus and George Floyd have exacerbated what was already there. After George Floyd, we quadrupled our numbers. We’ve hired three new clinicians, but we still can’t keep up demand,” he told CNN. “As a black male clinician, I see black men actually come to the negotiating table, which is the opposite of the stigma that is promoted – 95% of my clients are black men. If you cover, they will come of.”

Research shows that about 90 percent of successful treatments are related to the strength of the relationship, Stamschort-Lott said. Renolds’ book is one way to help the community. Stamschort-Lott said adults should give children room to deal with and share their feelings.

That’s part of the reason Reynolds plans to distribute about 150 books to students at the Josie Johnson Montessori School in Minneapolis on Friday.

Reynolds said that by sharing her story, she learned she could help make things better. She told CNN she hopes other children who may have survived traumatic experiences also believe they can.

“I was too young to go to the store by myself,” she says at the end of the book. “But I’m big enough and brave enough to make things better in a very big way.”

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