Urban Battleground

“Bang!” People screaming, “Who got shot?” and other things like that.

Those are the words written by a 12-year old 6th grader at one of the schools I regularly work at.

Covering a Writer’s Workshop period, the student asked me to proofread his work before turning in to his regular teacher, which was to be a six-page story on anything he wanted. He was short and wiry, not quite 5 feet tall, but his eyes beheld so worldly matters that were befitting a man much older.

The title of his work was “The City Is A War Zone.” Need I say more? 

Through nealy unreadable penmanship, gross misspellings, bad syntax, and no paragraphing, this student expressed his anxieties, and frustration at the bad deck life had dealt him as seen through the eyes of a fictional character based on himself.

He chronicled a recent neighborhood shooting that he witnessed, and his writing spun a tale of a father being shot at gunpoint, his seeing a therapist, a mom out of work, which resulted in he and his two brothers stealing food at first for fun, then for survival.

He went on to write that this fictional mother had lost her job because she was “to[sic] sad,” and how four children swapped the same number of uniform pants and shirt each day for cleanliness reasons.

The imaginary hero sinks to homelessness, living in a shelter, and he handled the shame and embarassment like a small animal knawing at his heart.

Although I was supposed to be correcting his “mistakes,” I saw past the mechanics of writing, and peered into the soul of a young black male who had witnessed violence, and reached out for safety, and comfort through his jottings, and trust through the non-judgemental acceptance of a teacher.


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