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Student Essays Reflecting on Ferguson and Staten Island

This year, with our nation’s challenges on full display on our TV sets, we decided to give our kids an outlet both to share their fears and frustrations and also to highlight their remarkable genius. We held an essay contest for all three three thousand of our students asking them what these national events meant to them. And from all these submissions, we selected the three best:

SPARK Academy – 4th Grade

The events that happened in Staten Island and Ferguson, Missouri are unfair because when the jury announced their verdict, they never had a trial and they claimed “we didn’t have enough evidence”. Mike Brown was an innocent teenager. He had a life ahead of him and he didn’t get to go to college. Just
because he “stole” a pack of cigarettes does not mean that the police had a right to shoot him multiple times. Eric Garner should not have been put in a chokehold for selling single cigarettes on the street when they sell them in some stores. Mike Brown’s death has lead to riots, robberies, and other violent
actions. “Do black lives really matter?” This has caused people to have protests that became riots.
Martin Luther King had a dream, I know for a fact that this is not is dream that he hoped for. Our ancestors worked hard in the slave fields picking cotton, being segregated and homeless for us. They wouldn’t be proud of what the world is turning into. Mike Brown is one of the main people that people
are protesting for. Every time a black man is killed by a white police officer they don’t get indicted even if they have the evidence to prove it. They do not care about our lives. I think that the fact that black males walk out the house scared because they don’t know if they’ll die today shows the problems in
society today. No one should ever have to walk out of the house afraid of the community. Our parents teach us that our community is safe and that we can trust police officers because they can help us get to where we’re supposed to be and if you’re ever in trouble call 911 which is the police. It’s sad that we
can’t trust them anymore because they’re supposed to keep us safe but now they’re harmful. Kids should not be scared of police officers to the point where they think they’ll die or get harmed if they see one. Eric Garner said, “I can’t breathe” ten times and they still kept him in a chokehold. These two men
might’ve “committed a crime” but they should have been killed. Imagine how their parents feel, they might feel depressed because their child died for no reason. The officer Darren Wilson decides to resign right after the verdict was announced. If the story was flipped and a white man was walking down the street and a black male shot him, they would’ve had a trial, the verdict would’ve been guilty and they would’ve fired the black male.

NCA Winner – 12th Grade


“We’re all alone. Fighting on our own. Please give me a chance… Something’s got me down. Don’t just stand around. All we want to do is be free. All we want to do is take the chains off.” -J. Cole. There is something holding black people back in America, is it the system, is it racist people or is it the chains of
slavery that we never truly severed? On December 8, 2014 when the courts acquitted the cop who killed Eric Garner, we had already accepted it. Once George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin and he was proven not guilty, we lost hope in the system, in “justice”. The George Zimmerman decision launched a full scale war in America. A war against us, one that we’re losing. Michael Brown was just another fallen solider. Everyone is against us, so we have to band together and fight back.

I couldn’t help but notice that we’re so easily districted and we’re so selfish! Maybe it’s the world we live in now, or the system that we’ve grown to know. Capitalism teaches us that everything is about us. I can look at anyone going anywhere and know that for a fact that anything that they are doing is for their own benefit. We really let our lives get in the way of what’s really important, and I know, because I do it too. They love how busy we are with our own lives and our short attention spans. They love that we have bills to pay and other things to do, than go out and protest. They love that we love
Twitter, Instagram and all other social media. They love how we’d rather catch up on our Love and Hip Hop episodes and Bad Girls Club or anticipate when and how we can cop the next sneaker that drops instead of doing something about what’s happening around us. I see it every day. One minute we care about the racism in America, the next minute, we’re on to something else and we can’t be bothered with protesting because it’s raining or it’s too cold outside. No its because we never really cared from the beginning.

Am I the only one scared? I don’t know which scares me more, all these black men that are being murdered in America or our attitudes toward it. We accept these things to be facts and normal. When someone is killed we don’t even bat an eye anymore, we just say, “That’s just what happens here”
and post an RIP post on Instagram. It just blows my mind that we have now become so accustomed to our brothers, fathers, cousins and people close to us being slaughtered in the street like dogs. I’m not even sure what year this is anymore, is this the 1950s or is this 2015?? I shouldn’t be scared for my little
brother to walk out the door every day, in fear that a cop might kill him. He’ll just be another fallen solider in this war in America. Then what will happen, everyone wants to put his face on a shirt and the news will make him look like a monster who was looking for trouble. The cop who killed him will feel no
remorse and will get off with not even a slap on the wrists. This happens every single day in America and it goes on because we let it. We think that we have no power, but we do. I am here to tell you that together we have way more power than we do alone. So if we can come together and say that “This is
wrong and we won’t tolerate this treatment anymore” we’ll get the change we’ve been waiting for. No one is going to change the world for us.

We need someone. We as a black community need a leader. I feel like we don’t have that right now. Back when we had leaders we accomplished so much. Since the slaves were freed we always had great leaders. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Rosa Parks, and even Nelson
Mandela. But who do we have now? Who do we model ourselves after now??? In the 1960s they had Good Times and The Cosby Show, these were good black families that showed us a good way to be; now we have Love and Hip Hop and Sorority Sisters. Black trash. So this is a call to all black people: someone please step up. We need at least one quality leader who can help us save ourselves. If my call is not answered, one day the white children will be reading about us in their history books: Negros extinct.

TEAM Academy Winner – 8th Grade

Those shots fired ripped through so much more than skin. They tore a gaping whole within the African American community. Recent incidents consisting of Mike Brown, as well as Eric Garner have sent the world into a frenzy. As far as myself, I no longer know whom to trust, because the people set in place to protect us, are killing us. Looking back it seems like we have come so far, but did we really? We are still dealing with racial profiling, police brutality, and unjust punishments.

On August 9, 2014 my life was sent into a state of confusion. 18 year old Mike Brown, a recent victim of racial profiling has been killed by Officer Darren Wilson. The moments I heard the words, is the moment fear trickled into my heart. Fear not off heights, or spiders, but fear of the fact that at any given
date or time I could be killed, for simply being me. The fact that I am black gives you the right to shoot me? The fact that I am black gives you the right to degrade me? The fact that I am black can get me killed? Racial profiling is nothing to be played with. Your actions should never be based off of somebody’s race. My race does not define me! I am different from every other person of color on this planet.

In the same light, almost a month before the Mike Brown case, we are faced with the Eric Garner incident. As well as before, this case strikes fear into my heart. Fear of police brutality. Choking the air out of a unarmed man is crazy to me. I am worried for the lives of the African American community because just like Eric Garner, any of us can be physically attacked as well. Anger is something we struggle with, but taking it out physically is not the answer. The fact that I live in a world where putting a man in a chokehold for some cigarettes is not met with some sort of consequence disgusts me. Being a 13 year old black male automatically puts my life at risk. Being labeled under the category black gives people the right to attack me for whatever reason is the message being sent to me from this incident.

America declares to be so much about equality right? I dare to challenge that! It is not fair that if someone is selling cigarettes, they get killed. But officer Panteleo committed a homicide, as well as using a banned method by the NYPD, the chokehold, and walks free. How is it that we steal a pack of cigarettes and get 6 shots delivered to us? How is it that officer Wilson still walks free? How is it that certain people are punished for a crime, but yet another are not? Something is clearly wrong with this picture.

Recent events including Mike Brown and Eric Garner have proved some things to the world. We are still dealing with racial profiling, police brutality, and unjust punishments. To me it seems like history is on the brink of repeating itself. 49 years ago this country was still dealing with the problem of segregation. In the year of 2014 we are still dealing with common issues. On August 28, 1963 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said to the world “… Black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants, and Catholics will be able to join hands.” The plan was to join, and live together. Not to kill one another.

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This is a guest post on the KIPP New Jersey Blog. More information about the author can be found in the title line or in the brief bio at the end of their guest post.