I have never watched you shoot a basketball or walk through the streets with a book bag hanging heavy on your back. I’ve never seen you swim in a pool, run in a race, or take the first step in an attempt to climb a tree. I’ve never sat in a chair and watched you smile from the height of a graduation stage. For the majority of your life I have been locked away from your thoughts, cries and your laughs. Nevertheless, you are exactly who I was. You are Black, you are bold, you are thorough and as we say in Philly: MyYoungbul.
Our story is not unique, our story is American. It may not be apple pie, but it is sweet potato pie, macaroni and cheese, soft pretzels and water ice. It is the story of your mother, my mother, and your cousin. It is the story that is hidden in our history, suppressed within our courtrooms and legislated on the desktops of Capital Hill. Our story did not begin with me nor will it end with you. It is a story that dates back to the birth of this nation and the passing of souls that have produced the essence of ours.
I write this letter because you deserve to know me. You deserve to know that I care. My mistakes should never have to determine who you are and all that you have the potential to be. You are better than what you see and believe me, you are WAY more than what you have ever been taught to believe.
This column is part of a series of columns written by Mr. Kenneth "Ken Roc" Thompson. Mr. Thompson is incarcerated and who has made it is his responsibility to share with our youth the realities of life. You can read this column in its entirety in the Scoop, October 19, 2018 edition.
The anger in my voice defines the hatred I’ve built for burdens I’ve been given by society. My ears are tormented by the extreme pain of violence and threats that damage my ability to hear as if I’m not screaming out in shame.
I am shamed. My brothers fight for another chance of life and breath that has been stolen from them. As demands by our society that say their voices don’t matter, they are viewed as just children and that don’t know any better. Meanwhile my sisters face the stigma of being young mothers and welfare recipients lacking education and are judged by devaluing defacement.
What, or better yet who is the face of the youth? Is it the rappers we idolize, speaking on the difficulties of life and growing up in poverty, when they only stand for what’s right when they are directly affected?
We stand for the justice, and cry out how we hate crime, but we’re the ones single handedly causing the cries.
We are causing our families, youth and peers to fear walking out of their houses. Our kids cannot experience life as a child. Placing a bullet proof vest on the tops of our chest, our eyes can’t see the sight or beauty of our lives, and we fine tune with Drake and Meek. Their talents are where we dream to be, but we can’t achieve the heights because our tears aren’t free. It cost to be a child, it cost to be let out, when safety is defined by being confined to house. It’s like being caged in a jail waiting to be let out.
Somehow, our cries aren’t being heard, and our demands are shattered by the demands for us to grow up faster than expected, idolizing the models in the videos and street life plastered as the “High Life” all over the TV.
When I think about the demands and needs for us, I consider the foundation, where it begins. Being 29, I am not so much a youth myself, but raising a son has heightened my concerns.
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This column is part of a series of columns written by Shawmell Johnson. Shawmell is a product of North Philadelphia who has obtained her Master's Degree in Psychology. She has devoted her column to sharing a message of success through the eyes of a young adult who has seen life from both sides. To read more of Shawmell's column "My Choice, My Voice" read the October 12, 2018 edition of Scoop.