Ravenna – Ravenna’s own, Dontez James, will be having a book signing at Reed Memorial Library Sunday, March 15 from 2:00- 4:00pm.
As early as the eighth grade, Dontez got started on his first book, We All Do Dumb Things, while joining the Upward Bound Program, an annual summer program designed to help smooth the transition from high school to college. Influenced by his mother’s sickness while he was young, he began to write poetry. “Growing up, my mom was sick a lot and was always in dialysis. I did not like not being able to do anything. So I began to think first that maybe me running track or playing football would be our ticket out.” Dontez began writing poetry as an expressive outlet and soon saw his love for writing as something he could use to help his mom. Over the summer, Dontez and best friend, Malcolm Wilmington, began to write short stories. “We’d get together every day at lunch and just bounce ideas off each other. Eventually, the short stories turned into longer stories and Malcolm grew a stronger interest in poetry and making music, while I began to focus on running track and writing books.” In time, Dontez began to tell people he was working on writing a book. “It all started off as a joke at first, and Malcolm was in on it too. I remember we would call each other and talk about Jack and Brittany [the characters in the first book] as if they were real people. Then I started telling everyone about it, even some of my professors. Eventually, the word got around to the right person.” That person was Dr. Geraldine Nelson. About three months later, after the first summer of the Upward Bound Program, Dr. Nelson contacted him, asking how he would feel if his book was published. “When she originally asked me, my heart stopped . . . when I realized it was real, my first thought was ‘I am going to get my mom a kidney!!”. We All Do Dumb Things was published while he was still in high school and he had his first book signing three days after graduation.
Currently, the Ravenna High School alum works as a home and health care aid where he services people with mental and physical disabilities. Outside of traditional work, he has begun a professional acting career. He is featured in the play “Or Does It Explode” put on by Ma’Sue Productions in Akron; he has played small roles in films including “The Bronze” (starring Mellissa Rauch), “With This Ring” (starring Jill Scott, Regina Hall and Eve), “Abducted” (starring Joe Morton), and “Concussion” (starring Will Smith). He is also an entrepreneur, owning his own business through which he contributes to the ending of child hunger here in America.
Dontez attributes much of his success to the Upward Bound program and is grateful to have been part of it. “Without Upward Bound, the publishing of my first book wouldn’t have been possible. The biggest things I took from the program are professionalism, the importance of networking and following your passion. As many people would have liked for me to stay in college, I took a chance for myself to pursue an acting career, and to focus on my very own book series. Upward Bound has been a big part of my life and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”
Be sure to come and show support at his first Ravenna book signing March 15 from 2:00-4:00pm. We All Do Dumb Things will be available, along with the sequel We All Do Dumb Things: Untold Nightmares. Proceeds from We All Do Dumb Things will go toward a $250 scholarship to two different students totaling $500. The Dontez X. James Scholarship Award will be presented to one Upward Bound student and one Ravenna High School senior in May.