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I was inspired to write this piece by the recent spike of race related murders upon young black men.
Beep. Beep beep. Beep beep beep. Beep beep beep beep beep beeeeeeeeeTHUD. I looked over at my alarm clock. It read 11:59 PM. You may think I’m crazy for waking up at 12 o’clock on a school night, but today is a special day. Today is a sad day, March 12th. Today was the day my older brother was shot and killed, one year ago. My name is Trayvon Jackson, and this is my story.
I live in Memphis, Tennessee. I live with my mom and my little brother, KJ. We live in a small apartment in a run down neighborhood. Exactly one year ago, my older brother and my best friend, Andre, was shot on his way home from school. I loved my brother, and I still do. Not a day goes by I don’t miss him, and all the fun we had together. Sometimes when I close my eyes, I see everything all over again. I see us walking home from school on the warm, near spring day. Now I see the black car that stopped next to us. If only I saw it that day. I see the man’s face, leaning out the window. The gun in his hand. The hate in his eyes. I see the-
“Trayvon, wake up! You’re gonna be late for school!” My mother yelled.
“Sorry ma,” I mumbled, “I was thinking about Andre again.”
“Oh sweetie, what made you think of Dre?” My mother said with a sad, yet loving, look on her face.
“Why do you think, Ma? Today is March 12th. In exactly 9 hours, it will be the one year anniversary of Dre’s death.”
“Honey, I know you miss your brother,” my mother whispered, “but he still loves you.”
I shut my eyes again. I felt a solitary tear trickle down my cheek. Just then, little KJ ran into my room and hollered, “Come on, good ol’ Tray Tray! Wake up silly! We gotta go to school! Hup hup hup! Vaminos! Dora’s waiting on you! Boots too!”
“KJ, for everybody’s sanity, please calm down.” I muttered to him.
“Calm down? The day’s just getting to a start! The sun is out, the fun is out! Traytray we gotta get a move on! It’s time to make like a banana and split!”
“KJ, please calm down. Look at me. Shhhh. We are going to be quiet.” I said as I hushed the little nuisance.
“Tray, what are you talking about!” KJ exclaimed. “We gotta pop and drop! Let’s get a move on!”
“Okay! Calm down Lil K. I’m getting ready.” I said, as I was getting ready to make the venture to school.
“What you thinking about the Titans this year? Think they’ll be any good?
“I don’t know, bro. Ayo why’s that car stopping?”
“Yeah?” I replied.
“What do you mean, why did that car stop? I asked you if you’re ready for this chem quiz. You know, the one we have now?” Dylan said.
“Sorry Dylan. Sometimes I blank out, start thinking about stuff.” I told my best friend since third grade, Dylan Drummond.
“So,” Dylan stated, “How are you feeling about this quiz?”
“Oh I think I’ll be good.” I said to Dylan. How could I not be good. I study for every test and every quiz I’ve ever had since Dre’s death. He once told me to do well in school, so I could get a good job. Anything I can remember from my time with Andre I try to imply into my life. Any part of my life the can be connected to Andre I will never pass out on. As I walked into my first period chemistry class, everything was normal. Mr. Gavin was at his desk, reading a book. The athletic kids were in the front yelling over last nights thursday night football game. The cool kids were on the side, faces attached to their phones as a barnacle is to a rock. Little did they all know today would be a special class.
“Man, that quiz was impossible!” Dylan complained after everyone had finished with a spare 5 minutes left.
“Oh yeah, crazy hard.” I replied. Boy, did I lie. That was like free points for me. What two elements are liquid at room temperature? Bromine and Mercury. What letter never appears on the periodic table? Duh, J. The quiz was normal and all, but now it was time to spice it up.
“Listen up everyone,” I hollered, “as most of you know, my brother, Andre, was shot and killed. What most of you probably don’t remember is that today is the one year anniversary of my brother's death. In his honor, I will planting a daffodil seed in the front of the school, as that was his favorite flower. I’m sure you all do, as I did before his death, but we take everyday things for granted. For example; your sibling which annoys you to know and I’m sure you wish would sometimes just shut up, is actually the person you love most in this world. I know most of you will never lose that sibling, or at least not for a couple of decades. But I was not as fortunate, and I just want you to know that you should always let those you love know that you love them, before it’s too late.”
“Cool story. Is it over now? The queen bee of the school, Christina said.
“No, but your career is because you get D’s and F’s and peaked at age 17. But hey, whatever floats your boat, girlfriend.” Dylan hooted, as the class was erupting with laughter. Just then, the bell rang and it was time to, as KJ would say, make like a banana and split. As I was on my way out, Mr. Gavin asked for me to stay back.
“What’s up, Mr. Gavin? Am I in trouble?” I asked.
“No, you are not in trouble. I just wanted to inform you that what you said about your brother was truly touching and I had chills. I just wanted to ask if you have ever thought about doing inspirational speaking?” Mr. Gavin replied.
“Me? Heck no. I can’t even do a group presentation without getting frightened.” I said back.
“Well,” Mr. Gavin started, “I just wanted to let you know that if you ever wanted to, I think you could definitely succeed at inspirational public speaking.”
“Heck no Dre! We’re gonna both make it!”
“Trayvon Jackson, please get out of here before you die too.”
“No, we’re both gonna make it!”
“Make what? I asked if you’re going to try out for school baseball. What are you talking about?” The baseball jock, Jamison, inquired.
“Oh. Yeah I’ll probably go out for the team.” I sluggishly muttered back.
Jamison looked puzzled. “You alright man? You don’t look great.” He told me.
“Me? Never been better.” I told him, though I was lying. I could not be farther from good. Infact, I was at rock bottom. I kept on blanking out and thinking about March 12th. That March 12th. The March 12th when my brother died. The Day I swore to myself I would never tell another soul what really happened.”
No one knows what really happened. Well except for Eric Flowers and me. Eric is the toughest and meanest kid in all of Tennessee. His parents are super rich and he is the star offensive linemen of the football team. I told everybody that my brother’s murder was a drive by by the gang, but I lied. It was a hate crime. My brother, Andre, had been talking to the media about racial violence throughout America and what was wrong with America earlier that day. The local media practically followed Andre everywhere he went, because as a junior he was the 13th quarterback recruit in the nation for college football. Erick isn’t exactly all for racial justice, and in fact, him and his family are one of the most notorious racists throughout all of Western Memphis. Dre and I were walking home from school, as we usually do. I had a bad feeling when I saw that black car stop next to us. I knew something was wrong. When I saw Erick lean out the window, I knew trouble had found us. When I saw him pull out the gun, I knew death was on our doorstep. Erick didn’t want to shoot Andre; he was more evil and grimacing than that. He yelled out to Dre that he was going to shoot me, and Dre would spend the rest of his life feeling responsible for his little brother’s death. Eric leaned out of the window and aimed the gun at me, but right before he pulled the trigger Dre jumped in front of me. Dre saved my life, but had lost his own. I looked down at him, on the sidewalk, with a lifeless look in his eyes. He told me to run, but I told him we were both going to make it out alive. He knew I was lying, and said as his dying wish he wanted me to run. I looked around, and I could swear I saw a girl hiding behind the corner of a store. I know I was not the only person who saw that. Erick screamed out while I was running away that if I ever told anyone I was a dead man walking. For the past year, Eric has been controlling my life. Today, March 12th, is the day that stops.
“Hey, Mr. Gavin?” I said as I walked into his classroom.
“Yes, Trayvon?” He replied.
“That thing you said about public speaking to inspire people? I, uh, thought about it and I would like to try that. Would you know the best way I would be able to have my voice be heard?” I asked him.
“Actually,” Mr. Gavin started, “I do know some people in the business. I’ll make some calls and try to arrange you an event as soon as possible.”
“Thank you so much Mr. Gavin. If you do find any time for me to speak, please call me.” I said as I gave him my home phone number.”
It was the next day that my mother informed me that Mr. Gavin indeed did call, and he said his friend was having a public presentation and said it would be fine if I tagged along.
“Hey mom,” I asked, “it’s okay if I share Andre’s story at the speech, right?’
“Of course,” my mother started, “that’s how Dre would have wanted it.”
“Mom, will you be there?” I inquired.
“Of course, sweetie.” she said.
“Hey mama, can I come too? Please? Pretty Please?” KJ asked.
“That’s up to Trayvon. Tray, is it alright if KJ comes?” My mother asked me.
“Come on Tray Tray, gimme the yes. You know you want little KJ there for you, I got your back. I am your main man, I got you older brother. I will make sure all goes smoothly. It will be smoother than ice, Tray Tray mark my words.” KJ ranted to me.
“Yes KJ,” I started, “you can come.”
“Oh boy! What a day! First I find a dollar on the street, than I found out mumma packed me a peanut butter fluffernutter, than I got the math question right in front of the whole class, than TJ gave me a cookie, then-” KJ recounted.
“Does he ever stop talking?” I said my mom.
“Not that I know of.” She said back
It was the day of my speech. I had already practiced hundred times what I was going to say in front of the mirror. I was going to say that racial injustice has no place in society, and that my brother was a victim. I was going to tell the truth about what happened, what Eric did. This was it, this was the day my brother’s story would be told.
“And now,” said Mr. Gavin’s friend, Missy Lueol, “please give a warm welcome to Trayvon Jackson.”
I walked up onto the stage and stared at the mike. Before I started, I looked up into the sky and gave a quick prayer to Andre. ‘Please, let me give a good remembrance of your life, Dre.’ I thought. On cue, I felt a twinkle in my heart, and I knew that Andre was with me.
“Hello all,” I started, “my name is Trayvon Jackson. I live in Western Memphis. Last year, on March 12th, my brother was shot and killed. I told everyone I knew and everyone who asked it was a drive by shooting by the gang. I am sorry, I have lied to everyone.” I looked into the crowd. My mother sat there with a confused and scared look on her face. On par, I said, “I even lied to my own mother. Today, all of that stops.” I stated. “My brother was not the victim of a drive by shooting, my brother was a victim of a hate crime. And that very crime was committed by no other than yours truly Erick Flowers. The audience gasped. Everybody knew the Flowers, and everyone knew that if what I said we true he had committed first degree murder. “Andre was my older brother and best friend. Growing up with no father, he was the closest thing I had to a father figure. I had my childhood hero and best friend stolen from me, and it is time to bring justice to the very person who stole Andre from me.”
Fast forward 1 month, and I was sitting in a courtroom, trying to prove to the judge that Erick flowers was a murderer. “Your honor,” I stated, “Eric Flowers is a known racist throughout our town. It makes perfect sense that he would kill my brother, as just earlier that day my brother had given a speech about racial equality” I had to prove my own point because my family could not afford a lawyer.
“Your honor,” Erick’s lawyer said “How can you say my client is guilty? This absurd and probably clinically insane teenager has absolutely no proof that my client is a murderer.” I thought to myself, and I knew he was right. I had to think deep down, the only way I would have any proof is if the girl I thought I saw said what happened. After thinking for a second, I knew I had to make a choice. I remember her. Her long black hair, her slender appearance, and the scar on her calf...
“I call Christina Jones to testify and prove that Erick is guilty.” I stated, as the room was hushed.
Christina came next week, and the judge started asking questions to her. I needed her to show that Eric was guilty. Why would she ever do that though? She was the queen of the school, and Erick was the king. Who am I? All I am is the poor kid whose brother died.
“Christina, where were you the day of March 12th, 2016?” The judge asked.
“I was walking back from school.” She responded.
“Do you have any recollection of the alleged shooting?” The judge inquired.
“I kind of remember a loud crack. I turned to look and saw a black car speeding off.” Christina said back.
“Mr. Flowers,” the judge started, “it is true you own a black car. Correct?”
“Well yeah,” Mr. Flowers said, “but lots of people own a black car.”
“Trayvon,” the judge asked, “Do you remember any specific details of the car?”
I thought to myself. I looked as the car sped off. I saw the license plate. I swore I would never tell another living soul the combo, for fear Eric would hunt me down and kill me. “The license number was AR5-L98” I blurted.
The judge sat there with a look of disgust on his face, as he said “Mr. Flowers, if I run this license through a scanning system, will your car be a match? Or shall we just go outside and take a look.”
Mr. Flowers sat there with a scared look on his face, knowing his son was guilty of murder, and would rot away in prison. He yelled out “It’s not fair! My son has his whole life still to live! He is an all state offensive lineman for football! You can’t take his dream from him like this!”
“Your son,” my mother started, “was an alright Left Tackle. At best, a decent college player. “ She said. “My son,” my mother continued, “was the thirteenth quarterback prospect in the nation and had a chance to play professional football. I think we know a thing or two about having your child’s dream snatched from them.”
2 weeks later, it was final. The judge declared that Eric was guilty of first degree murder, and would spend 2 life sentences in prison. As he walked out of the courtroom in handcuffs, all of the Flowers were giving my family hateful looks. Though they were not just giving those looks to me, for Christina was a recipient of the looks too. On the way out, I said “Christina, you were the most important person in the rightful justice my brother deserved. Is there anyway I can repay you? I asked.
Christina said “Just tell your smart ass friend to save his remarks for someone else.” Go figure she was referring to Dylan.
“I will. Thank you so much. You have no idea how much this means to me.” I told her.
“Don’t mention it.” She said back.
Finally, after a 1 year, 1 month, and sixteen days, my brother got the justice he deserved. On the way back home in the car, KJ was babbling again. “Hey Tray and Ma, Andre went to heaven, right?”
“Of course he did, sweetie.” My mother said.
“Good. I miss him so much, Ma.” KJ chirped.
“Don’t we all.” I said, as I looked out the window. In a funny way, I felt reconnected and at peace with my brother knowing I gave him the justice he deserved. As we rode back to our house, I thought to myself ‘I stood up for my brother, and everyone started to riot. Andre, I promise till the day I die, I will never remain quiet.’