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Twenty-Four

Jai Foote

I learned about him on a church trip to Kentucky.

I knew the boy had died.

He was seventeen, only a kid.

We were both in high school.

Boys that age were always annoying, they were

loud and they never minded their own business, but

rarely dangerous.

He didn’t deserve to die.

I took interest.

 

We’re taught from a young age that

we are different.

That people will treat us differently.

We know that our blackness is, in fact,

a weapon. So we learn to

stay quiet, not to draw attention to ourselves

because we will be treated as a

problem to be removed.

We learn to gravitate towards others like us

to stay safe.

 

But we are also taught that

certain things are behind us.

We are citizens. We do

belong here. We are just as important

as anyone else.

It’s the police's job to protect us too.

The justice system is meant to be just

for everyone.

We don’t have to hide.

 

I learned on a church trip to Kentucky

that the man who killed the boy will not go to prison.

I learned that it doesn’t matter

what grade we’re in.

I learned that anything is warranted

if someone looks a certain way.

We have to fight to count the same because

we are not looked at the same.

 

People will treat us differently.

Our blackness is a weapon.

Stay quiet because

we do not have the ability to drop your weapon.

Don’t draw attention to ourselves because

we may be asked to do just that.

Some people do not want us as citizens.

 

I am not as important

as everyone else.

The police may not see our

protection as part of their job.

I learned that

skittles and sweet tea

can be dangerous.

That a black hoodie is

not the way to hide.

 

The boy would’ve just turned twenty-four.

Fall, 2019 Issue