Meet the author of “Finding My Voice” EMERALD GARNER with co-authors ETAN THOMAS and MONET DUNHAM

By Staff

“Emerald and her family dealt with the unfathomable grief of losing her father, Eric Garner, on July 17, 2014. After this event, Emerald and her family suffered from unsympathetic camera lenses, the stares and whispers of strangers, and the inability to mourn in private. Garner wrote this memoir to share the aftermath of losing a parent in such a public case of violence and how that crushes a family’s life.”
From the press release of  “Finding My Voice”

Emerald Garner has fought tirelessly for justice for her father Eric Garner. Her story is one that needs to be heard.”
— Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., Founder of Rainbow PUSH Coalition

 

Welcome to Heart and Soul, Mr. Thomas. Thank you for your time. As an experienced author, how was this experience different from your previous solo works?

This experience was very different because I was asking someone to pull back the layers and go into detail of the most painful experience of their lives. I remember a few sessions that I cut short and said ok Emerald that’s enough for today. Relax, and we can pick this up next week. Sometimes I felt bad because I could hear her getting emotional on the other line. I could hear her voice quivering and shaking. I kept asking are you ok, we don’t have to keep going, we can pause, but she didn’t want to stop. She insisted on pushing through.

I really thank Haymarket Books for understanding that this was going to be a process and I wasn’t going to push her to meet any deadlines, it would have to be handled very delicately. I told them that from the beginning and they agreed which I am definitely thankful for. So all around, this was a completely different experience for me as a writer. I interviewed impacted family members in both We Matter “Athletes And Activism” and Police Brutality and White Supremacy “The Fight Against American Traditions” but those were short interviews, this was literally going chapter by chapter peeling back painful layers and I was nervous about approaching this the right way. I didn’t want to re traumatize Emerald or anything and I’m definitely not a trained therapist so I went Google and looked up the best ways to conduct an interview with someone who has experienced trauma. So I had to really learn how to handle these sessions delicately.

From your experience as an activist, please tell us why “Finding My Voice” is needed and needed now?

It’s needed because unfortunately, there will be many more impacted family members who lose loved ones to police violence. Who have to figure out how to put their lives back together after this type of tragedy. Who have to deal with all of the experiences that Emerald laid out like being thrust into the midst of a media world wind after a tragedy and then having everyone drop you when the topic is no longer trending. Or having people, organizations, etc. try to exploit you. Or the uphill battle of fighting for justice for your loved one. Or having you and your family struggle with their mental health with little to no help in that area. This book is the blue print for some many activists, allies, organizations, impacted family, etc. It’s a must read for all of them.

Pleased to meet you Ms. Monet.  How did you become the voice actor for the audio book?

Pleased to meet you as well!

Emerald and I actually spoke about me being  the voice from the onset of our collaboration. I am an actress and a singer and have had experience doing voice acting. Interestingly enough, I wasn’t just ‘given’ the job as narrator. I had to actually submit samples of my work and win the job! I am very happy that I was able to do that! As the voice actor for the audiobook, I was able to immerse myself in a different way. Because I am familiar with most of the ‘voices’ in our book, I was able to bring them to life! I am very curious to see how people respond to the audiobook.

We are aware of your experience and expertise in film, music and education. Had you ever considered ever being a book author before?

Yes, absolutely!

Awesome, what areas of interest?

I have quite a few areas of interest. An ongoing discussion between George Littlejohn ( my manager ) and I have been, that I ought to write about the interesting people I have met. My dad was a very impressive and complicated person. I may one day put his life down in book form. He was quite amazing. My Dad raised himself up the ranks, playing high school ball, then joining the military and climbing up the ranks, all of this was happening in the late 40’s, 50’s and 60’s right up til his death in 1993.

My mom, is also a ‘story’ to be shared. She was an aspiring vocalist. Her group won at the Apollo in the 40’s but she was a teenager and her parents were not interested in letting her go. The twists and turns of her life are something.

I suppose people are a huge subject for me, be it romance or memories.

Besides those stories, there are lighter stories I would love to tell from the eyes and in the voice of various animals, dealing with some of the ills of society.

How did your experience in education and entertainment help you as part of this collaborative team? 

Emerald and I met when I was teaching one of her sisters. She was just so adorable and inquisitive. I loved her mind. Emerald was such a sensitive little person. We first met when she was about 10.

As an educator I was immediately drawn to the excitement of being able to be of assistance in Emerald’s cathartic journey, and I am honored that she trusted me to be one of the conduits for her to share and find her voice.

Entertainment definitely provided me with years of experience, communicating with groups of people. Meet and greets and interviews are all a lot of fun for me!

Thank you Ms. Garner for sharing the makings of  “Finding  My Voice”. At what point did you decide that you had to tell your story?

I’ve always wanted to tell my story because there were so many other people telling our story, or some version of a story that never really expressed what I was going through. I want people to know the extent of trauma I/we continue to experience after police or state violence and when the cameras have all gone. It is a trauma that never goes away, that breaks families apart, that can actually lead to more loss. It can also lead to greater empathy for people. I wouldn’t wish what we’ve gone through on anyone, not even the people responsible because it’s not something that anyone should ever have to go through. It’s not over, I’m still trying to heal, pursue justice, and support others who have experienced the same violence or who can relate to my story in some way that will help them to find their voice.

Obviously, this was not easy but, do you feel empowered at all now that the book is done?

Yes, I do feel empowered by being able to get aspects of the story, my experience, out. I feel good about being able to be heard and really talk about mental health concerns. The fact that mental health is never really addressed appropriately, can manifest in a number of ways – mine manifests as anger – but I’m working on it every day and doing really well with that. People do not realize the extent to which mental health is exacerbated when there is very visible public trauma that is compounded with the day to day challenges of life. My challenges increased after the loss of my sister, Erica, and taking on her two young children as a single mother. I realized it was crucial to find my voice quickly so that I can deal with all of the expectations of parenting more than one child.

Is this your first book ?  

This is my first book, but definitely not my last one. There is so much I want to say but I needed to say the things in “Finding My Voice” as part of my healing journey so that I could reconcile (close) that chapter in my life and move on to the next. 

We have seen you often over the years, you are awesome on air. Are there plans for your own podcast or documentary?

I have completed 3 episodes of a podcast I call In Pursuit of Justice that will be available on my Youtube Channel. In those episodes, I am in conversation with Lora King, Daughter of Rodney King and other survivors, which also played a part in finding my voice. I realized those conversations, talking with other people who know what I’ve gone through, helped me think about how far I’ve come. I also want to do a documentary next; this book was the first part. I want to produce a documentary to tell the story using a different medium so that it’s available to as many people as possible and never forgotten. I want to motivate people to use their voice with their legislators, asking them to support laws that will make it so that unnecessary force and violence is never repeated. And, I would have so much fun modeling social justice wearing Ashley Stuart. I am wearing Ashley Stuart on the cover of “Finding My Voice” which is my go to when I am presenting. It’s my “relentless pursuit of justice look” that is a new way of styling social justice.  

How did you meet your co-authors Monet Dunham and Etan Thomas and what made you decide to collaborate with them on such a personal story?

I’ve known Monet since I was a child, she is an accomplished artist, and I trusted her with my story because she is like family. I wanted to work with someone who knew me and could share in the process, take care in asking me questions that I would be ready to answer that are not triggering, know when to push through and, most important, know when to stop. The process took a long time because there were a lot of those stops. 

I met Etan in 2015. He invited me to speak for the first time at an event during All-Star in New York. Since then, we have traveled across the country speaking together and I trusted his guidance. He is always supportive of people who experience very public violence, using his platform to amplify the voice of the actual family members when mainstream media is trying to paint a different picture. Etan joined in the latter part of the writing process adding his analytical eye which helped to narrow the focus of my thoughts to key elements contributing to finding my voice. He also made the introduction to the publishers, Haymarket, who have been great in supporting me to get this book to market.

I understand there is a book tour scheduled for the fall. Could you tell us the confirmed dates so we can share with our readers? 

I can tell you and the readers to please visit www.wecantbreathe.net, my non-profit organization, or follow me on social media @Emeraldgarner_ @wecantbreatheinc for updates on all the ways that I remain in pursuit of justice and where you can hear from me next. My priority is to take care of these kids, but whenever there is an opportunity, I will try my best to be out there speaking and doing things in the community.  

What is next for Emerald after the book tour? 

I am committed to getting the Eric Garner Excessive Use of Force Prevention Act, Ending Qualified Immunity Act, and the Department of Peace-building Act reintroduced in the next Congress after the election. I have the Healing Justice Village which is a women-led initiative healing from state violence that is meeting a growing need that we hope to end. I am building out The Justice Project, starting in NY schools, to support young people to find their voice and purpose, safely, and I am looking for funding to support the work as I focus on the next chapter of this healing journey.

Watch the Eric Garner video

Get the Book

FINDING MY VOICE is now available at the following outlets 

HAYMARKET BOOKS 

https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/1936-finding-my-voic

BARNES & NOBLE

Finding My Voice by Emerald Garner | eBook | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)

AMAZON

Finding My Voice – Kindle edition by Garner, Emerald. Politics & Social Sciences Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

AUDIO BOOK

Finding My Voice by Emerald Garner – Audiobook – Audible.com

 

ABOUT THE C0-AUTHORS  

 EMERALD SNIPES- GARNER
Emerald Snipes-Garner is the youngest daughter of six children and is currently the executive director of her nonprofit, We Can’t Breathe, Inc, which is inspired by her late father Eric Garner and her sister Erica Garner. Emerald is the youngest daughter of Esaw Snipes-Garner and Eric Garner, who was murdered at the hands of police officer Daniel Pantaleo in 2014 after putting him in a now illegal choke hold. She has become the leading voice in the fight for justice for her father and has vowed to never stop fighting laws and policies that help police officers get away with murder. Emerald is echoing the warrior in her in memory of her sister the late Erica Garner, who died from a massive heart attack on December 30, 2017, as a result of her broken heart while fighting for justice for her father. Emerald is the mother to a beautiful princess, Kaylee (ten years old) and also the mother/ aunt to the two children of her late sister Erica Garner, Eric III “EJ” (four years old) and Alyssa (twelve years old). Emerald encourages everyone to use their voice as a form of expression but in a peaceful way.

ETAN THOMAS

Etan Thomas, a former eleven-year NBA player, was born in Harlem and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has published multiple books including: We Matter: Athletes and Activism (voted a top-ten best activism book of all time by Book Authority), More Than an Athlete, Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge, and Voices Of The Future. Thomas was honored for social justice advocacy as the recipient of the 2010 National Basketball Players Association Community Contribution Award, as well as the 2009 Dr. Martin Finding My Voice_text 7.indd 190 7/14/22 9:53 AM Luther King Jr. Foundation Legacy Award. His writing has been published by the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, CNN, and ESPN. He can be frequently seen on MSNBC as a special correspondent, and he cohosts a weekly local radio show, The Collision, on WPFW in Washington, DC, about the place where sports and politics collide.

MONET DUNHAM

Born and raised in New York, with a BA in theater and psychology from Vassar College and an MS in special education from Adelphi University, Monet Dunham is a retired multiple award–winning teacher of special needs students. Monet is also a musician, singer/songwriter, actor, film director, and film casting director. Prior to retiring she often used her artistic training and talents to implement programs for her students, including those legally blind, nonverbal, and emotionally or physically homebound by using music, technology, and other creative means to help facilitate and make learning enjoyable. As an actor Monet has played key roles in several projects, including Just Another Girl On the IRT (1992) now considered a cult classic, New Jersey Drive (1995), recent independent films Love Don’t Last Forever (2019) and multiple festival award–winning My King (2021), and the very popular 2018 web series Best Frenemies. As a casting director, Monet cast Hal King the Movie (2021), now available on Amazon Prime. As a musician, Monet has released two full-length projects and one EP. Songs from these projects have been featured on the following television shows: Criminal Minds (CBS, now in syndication and on Hulu), The Mindy Project (FOX, now on Hulu), The Hill (Sundance Channel), and the Weather Channel. Monet has played flute on more than thirty projects and performed on stage with many artists, including Eric Roberson, Sy Smith, Tarrah Reynolds,the late GURU, and has recorded with singer/songwriter/producer Angela Johnson, alt-dance band Tortured Soul, producers Dj Spinna and  Daniel Crawford

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