I had the pleasure of being Tanji’s friend. I met her 8 years ago on Cape Cod but did not unite with her until 2011 when my husband Scott encouraged me to attend her annual Easter egg hunt. Her affectionate smile drew me in and from then on we have been friends. My husband now says I stole his friend. But the truth is, she stole my heart. Tanji was kind and loving. She had a way of bringing out the absolute best in everyone around her. She confided in me about her book, asking that I not share the details with anyone. It would not be the last time she confided in me.
On the night of the book release I could not be there but I called her all week and on that day amid the entire crowd, she took time out to call me and say thanks. Tanji was so thoughtful. After the book release we would meet bi-weekly to just chat. Before long we were having weekly lunches at my favorite Jamaican spot, Munchies. She loved Jamaican food and of course that just made her more endearing to me. After learning more about her formal accomplishments I invited her to be a Trailblazer for our Super Camp. She took the obligation of being a trailblazer very seriously. She prepared for weeks and made the best gift bags for the girls. Tanji was famous for her gift bags. She would pick up and store items all year long. If you needed a gift bag on any day she could easily make you one that rivaled any high-end store. On the day of her presentation to the Super Camp girls she was far more nervous than they were; she wanted to make sure they had a good time. She took her time with each one learning from them what they liked and she developed her presentation around their needs and interests. Tanji was child-focused. After that day, she asked how she could remain more involved with GrassROOTS. She volunteered to lead the back-to-school drive for Georgia King Village in Newark and she offered up her beautiful home for the Annual Turkey Drive. She was a champion for GrassROOTS.
When I spoke to her about expanding the trailblazer series into a year-long program, she called her friends from PepsiCo and other companies and helped me put together a sponsorship deck. We are still waiting to see what develops. She wanted to ensure that each Super Camper had mentorship in entrepreneurialism. She was an entrepreneur and she understood and valued the importance. She would talk at length about the mentorship she got while in boarding school and in college. We would share stories about the challenges of entrepreneurialism. The start-up costs were serious and the cost of getting dressed for television interviews and presentations were unexpected. We laughed about hair and make-up costs. No one told us. Though she didn’t have a daughter, Tanji knew and valued the importance of sisterhood. She took the experience of Super Camp to help bring together 10 powerful women entrepreneurs from her life. She called us The Collective. This group was among some of the most amazing women I had ever been around. I was humbled to be among them. Our goal was simple: support each other and hold each other accountable for accomplishing our dreams. The Collective had its first meeting at Tanji’s home. Each of us discussed our work and dreams. We did vision boards and developed a plan of action, but what united us was not our aspirations but our love for Tanji. She wanted the best for us and we wanted to make her proud. Her love for each of us united us and always will.
While Super Camp may have influenced the development of The Collective, she influenced GrassROOTS. She admired the work of Super Camp and felt that there was a need to include boys. She wanted Evan, her 8 year old son, to experience yoga and recitation and the camaraderie of being around other boys of African descent. She pushed me to expand Super Camp and develop Super Boys. Tanji was among the first to complete her registration and Evan was very excited to join. While we have not decided exactly how yet, please know that GrassROOTS WILL honor their memory and contribution each year in our Super Camp.
On Friday morning I went to breakfast but she was on my mind so I texted her to join me as was our usual routine. She told me that she had a stomach bug and could not eat. I told her that I would stop by the house and see her after eating. I brought her a ginger drink and we sat for 2.5 hours talking. We shared our dreams for expanding our respective work; she expressed to me the excitement she was now feeling about starting another book. She told me about her recent sales of Oh Fiddlesticks. As she walked me out she stood at the screen door and yelled, “I love you Janice.” I yelled back, “Love you too girl.”
It breaks my heart that she has passed. However, I am modestly comforted by the fact that she knew I loved her. I will keep her memory and work alive in all that I do.
On behalf of GrassROOTS and my family, Tanji and Evan, we honor you.
TANJI DEWBERRY BIOGRAPHY
Author, Tanji Dewberry, lives in Orange, New Jersey with her 6-year old son, Evan. She received her Bachelor of Science in 1998 from the School of Communications at Northwestern University. She now successfully works on Wall Street in New York City, all while pursuing her creative passions in tandem with writing professionally, as well as painting and designing for pleasure and peace of mind.
She spends her free time, renovating her new split-level colonial home, traveling and enjoying family and friends. It is her passion and love for her son, research and writing that have guided her through the complex examination into ADHD and ODD.
Tanji’s son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) in 2011 at the age of 5. A year later, she would decide to take a medical leave from her high demanding job as a Vice President of Investor Relations to unwrap the effects of her son’s diagnosis and commit herself full-time to unfolding the entire process. While Tanji was on medical leave, her father become ill. Tanji immediately returned home to Dayton, Ohio to care for him. Within two weeks her father would pass. Over the next few months, Tanji dedicated her time to learning to understand and grasp how to handle her son’s negative emotions as well as celebrating the life of her father. Tanji would start crafting, “Oh Fiddlesticks!” in December of 2011. It would be the life of her son, that would give birth to Tanji’s first children’s book, and the untimely passing of her father that motivated her to finish, “Oh Fiddlesticks!” a picture book that focuses on how parents can help work through children’s anger and emotions, as well as helping to provide solutions for caretakers and children to read aloud together. The process of writing the book “Oh Fiddlesticks!” would shape Tanji’s growing identity, and help her cope with her father’s passing and her son’s diagnosis.
As her son Evan’s episodes increased in frequency and severity, the more Tanji found she needed answers in order to locate resources and support for her son and family. For her, going through the process to see if there was a diagnosis, whether a conclusion was drawn or not, was extremely helpful in developing a game plan. Tanji says, “1 had to go through every avenue to rule things out or have information in hand to be able to support Evan.” In understanding the challenges of ADHD and ODD, Tanji is was reminded of the quote, “knowing is half the battle.” Now more energized than ever, Tanji is in the process of writing other books for the Oh Fiddlesticks brand. Her vision is for it to be a set of tools that adults and children can use to address topics, in a fun and educational way. Tanji also plans to write a book chronicling her journey, as a resource to help others highlighting the importance of taking care of yourself as well as your children.