Jared R. Green is a 24-year-old who grew up on Tupelo Street in the 9th Ward, but already, he’s got a proclamation from the New Orleans City Council.
When he walked into Pontilly Coffee in Gentilly, everyone in the building shook his hand and gave him a hug. To anyone on the outside looking in, you’d never know Green battled suicidal thoughts while he wrote his children’s book ‘There’s a Creature in my Belly.’
He sat down to talk about the journey that took him from the streets of the 9th Ward to the front of the City Council chambers.
So the proclamation, you got that for your book?
“It was for the book, for my efforts since I was a child raising community awareness. For me personally, I was a kid a lot of that time, so that really just involved clean ups. As I grew, I began organizing the cleanups, so you’re changing the perspective of what you’re doing. You’re not just cleaning up and picking up the trash but you become a volunteer leader and you help organize the cleanup in general. This summer, I did a cleanup in the 9th Ward and actually got some dumpsters back there. So that was cool in terms of the resources and connections I was able to build.”
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So, the last 2 days have been two of the best days of my life: Let me just start off by saying: Thank GOD & THANK YOU! We Did it! We reached the amount needed to at least print 1,000 copies of my children’s book There’s a Creature in my Belly thanks especially to @runwithjason & @councilmembermoreno who pledged $1,000 and the other Council Members and City Leaders who followed suit…Without those pledged we would not have reached our Goal! …$15,000 in product…to gift my book to 1,000 children across NOLA. I received a proclamation on behalf of the CITY OF NEW ORLEANS and was honored by the NOLA City Council ! I got a chance to present my book and was extremely well received by the council members.🙏🏾 Between the 1,000 copy gifting fundraiser, and the donations and pledges from our City Council, other public leaders, and businesses, we have surpassed our minimum goal of $5,000! Thank you to everyone who had absolutely anything to do with the success of this fundraiser. We are going to make 1,000 kids extremely happy this Christmas! I am now planning the 1,000 copy tour! Where should I bring some books to?! Thank you to : @cafedauphine5812 @maeganrachel @iambigt_ssradio @strother_smoothstone_davis NOLA City Council @pevan 📸: @jeromebaileyjr / @supermarobrother @justinicocktails @leonard_lucas3 @bamm_agency @mcdowellsbrandinggroup #blackexcellence #dream #childrensbooks #author #nola #explorepage #love #loveyourself #inspiration #jaredthedreamer #theresacreatureinmybelly
Are you still living in the 9th Ward?
That was an area hit hard by Katrina. Does it make you feel good to know you’re helping the entire community there?
“Of course, but it also makes me feel like I’m not doing enough because you can clean up today but in two weeks it’ll be back dirty. But if you rebuild a house today, it’ll be there for the next 10 years, which means a family can move in, which means more businesses can come back to the 9th Ward. So by cleaning up, there’s the hope that somebody will want to invest into my community, with the knowledge that if I continue growing like I’m growing, I might have the resources to help some things happen back there myself.”
How did you come up with the idea for the book?
“‘There’s a Creature In My Belly’? A big part of who I am is the ability to finally fall in love with myself and believe in myself. That message of the greatness within is one that I feel is necessary and important to be taught. I also feel like I was destined to be something more, and that’s the only difference between myself and some people who grew up in similar situations. I think that by me feeling as though I know my purpose, as there being something on the inside of me, I took that feeling of there’s something inside my belly. I like kids movies, I looked at what they did, and what I saw specifically in ‘The Lion King’, I watched that movie when I was in a really bad time, and I was inspired by the depiction of the father and the son. I realized creativity, I would want to make people say, ‘Well, what is that feeling?’ I want to make you ask that about yourself. But also, they tell you not to judge a book by its cover. Many people, when I showed them the book, in the beginning, they instantly criticized the word creature. I told them, if they just read the book, they’d understand what I was doing with that. Some did, some didn’t. But I realize how I got to where I am today — that creature.”
I really like that it’s alive, not just a feeling.
“Right, it’s real. It’s real to me. And it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You should enhance a child’s imagination instead of exposing them to your current realities. So, just because you were scared of dragons growing up, it’s not really the same now. Just because it meant one thing when you were growing up, doesn’t mean its the same now to kids who don’t get the chance to have an imagination because we show them everything at a very early age.”
How did you find out you were going to get the proclamation?
“It was kind of discussed, the possibility, weeks before. Between Councilwoman Kristin Palmer and Councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen, they got different messages to me. But Cyndi Nguyen moved some things around on my behalf because she felt that it was important that the city got a chance to see and intentionally put it on the same day as the budget hearing because she knew people would be watching. When you think about when people take that much effort into you, that’s an investment. She planted a seed in me at that moment, she allowed me to have a special presentation. I was able to tell people who I was, what the book was about and through that Jason Williams pledged $1,000 on the spot, Helena Moreno matched his $1,000. Someone from NORD called and wanted to match that $1,000, and then someone else called who saw it on TV.”
So ever since that, you’ve seen more interest in the book?
“Actually, to be honest with you, I’ve seen interest in the book since the beginning. I didn’t release the book until this October. I made my Facebook page Aug. 11, last year, I just released my book September of this year. People would see the young black boy on the cover, they would see the young black man in the neighborhood, they would see hope and get inspired just about the idea of the book. At one point, I created a practice version of the book, if you will. I laminated pages that I got from my artist, and I bound them myself. I created something to show people, so once people started seeing what the book should like without any words, they started feeling it a little more. They were saying, ‘I like this idea.’ So leading up until September I had been marketing this book almost an entire year.”
The money that they’re giving you, what does it help you do?
“It helped me order 1,000 copies of my book to give to underprivileged kids in New Orleans. So far, I’ve already gone to Toddlers University in the 9th Ward, and I did almost 50 books there. I did Cookies and Crowns, I went soon after to the Neo-Soul School of Music in the Treme area, I’ve gone to McDonogh 42 and we did over 100 books over there. I’ve done about 300 books so far. So that price point, $14.99, stops no one from learning about themselves. Even adults, who want to believe in themselves again, who want to desire to find that creature within themselves.”
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Today is the day that life came back around full circle. I had the honor and privilege to read to the kindergarten class at Alice M. Hart as “Jared The Dreamer” which is also the same school where I graduated from kindergarten as well! I never thought I would come back as achildren’s book author (There’s a Creature in my Belly) , but here I am inspiring students, and teaching them about the creature inside of their belly! I let them know that the greatness within them is as limitless as the universe around them! ❤️ Order your copy today! www.jaredthedreamer.com @alicehartecharter @inspirenola #dream #inspire #explorepage #greatness #dopepic #love #kids #childrensbooks #teach #inspiration #blackexcellence 📸: @arialexis_
You’re donating these books. Why is it important to you to just get them out and not make anything off of the books?
“I would say that to get them out wouldn’t be a good statement to me. I want to be impactful every time I give it away. That I entrust to a child or their parent to keep and hold for the rest of their life, a message that God gave me. To be honest, I just don’t want any kids to feel the way that I felt writing to book. And I feel so strongly about it that I made a promise to God that I would make sure as many kids as possible don’t feel like that. I had very bad suicidal thoughts the day I wrote this book because I didn’t feel good enough. I have a son, named Jayce, who I wasn’t doing a very good job taking care of. Even now, I’m still working to do as much as I can for him. I ended up saving a friend’s life, who I had no business being friend’s with. He ended up committing an armed robbery and getting shot in the process, which I found out after. When I go to pick him up, I saved his life and risked my life doing it, he told the story soon after he recovered where he tried to get out of, but implicated me, in his crime. So, I ended up fighting a charge on a crime I didn’t commit for almost two years. I ended up losing a job that I was trying to use to take care of my son. So not being able to see my son, not being able to provide. So to think at that moment, I had been to City Hall and doing community work my entire life, and I couldn’t get a phone call, it seemed like everyone had given up on me. In that moment I got very weak minded, and I didn’t want to be here anymore. I started talking out loud to God and that’s when he spoke back to me and told me that I was still good.”
What are your next plans with the book?
“I would like to do the 1,000 copy giveaway in nine other cities. I also hope to establish my nonprofit organization, Sunny With a Chance of Love. Using love as that foundation to fuel the drive to create change. And hopefully, write more books.”
The way you present yourself now, is it drastically different from how you saw people as a kid?
“As a kid, I was kind of shielded, which is going to be the title of the book about my life. I grew up in a two-parent home, I grew up with friends in the 9th Ward but I didn’t’ get to do the things that they did. So around 15 years old, I wasn’t happy with the disciplinary efforts of my parents, I didn’t like the way I started feeling, so I ran away from home. Came back home, but I left my house officially at 17. Because I had to survive from 17 until 21, I was in survival mode, I was in the clouds. When you’re in the clouds you can’t tell what’s left or right, and I forgot who I was. I wanted to be able to help people for the rest of my life, I told God I didn’t want to start when I was 30 or 40, I wanted to start younger so I could help people for a longer period of time. So when I started having problems, I knew it at first why. You go through it for a little while then you forget, you think its normal and that’s just how life is supposed to be. But nine years later, you end up producing a book. That nine years, it takes nine months to birth a child, and I believe I’ve been born again.”