I walk into class I see the students and teachers on their phones. I came to class late today because the metal detectors went off on the person in front of me. I had to wait until security frisked him and took out the guy’s car keys. “Next time put them in the bin”, the security guard said. As I sit down in my chair I open up a text book, there is a page number on the whiteboard I guess we are suppose to read, yet, no one in the class is doing it. I begin to examine my textbook, it was falling apart. The only thing holding it together was the duck tape, but that was slowly peeling off. I start to admire the graffiti on it; there were gang names on it. Each one written over one another, as if the one on top was the most dominant, and powerful gang. Sweat begins to run down the sides of my forehead, the A.C. was broken again. Yesterday, they canceled school early because it was to hot in the building; I hope they cancel school again today because I really don’t want to be here. There’s no purpose, the illusion of America having good schools has died for me. Those school are in a different world, not here, not on this side of Missouri. I guess we’re not worth it.
“By the people, for the people, seems like you only look out for your sort of people”, headphones in my ear listening to Andy Mineo, driving around in my neighborhood looking out the window. I hear my brother and sister in the background playing eye spy and I begin to play in my mind, “I spy a homeless man, a beggar, hoping and wishing to live a different life. I spy people passing by asleep, trapped in their own world where they’re the center of it all. I spy a prostitute, with a red wig, and a short skirt, trying to survive the only world she thinks exists. I spy a girl, who’s looking at the broken people from within her car, suddenly she crosses the state line and then realizes that everything seems better on this side, Kansas. I spy beautiful tall buildings, brand new streets. I spy a school I heard they have better ACT scores compared to my school. I wonder if I lived on this side, how different would my life have been? I spy people crossing the street smiling, and with shopping bags in their hands. I wonder if they’re as happy as they seem. There’s something else different about these people, I hardly see them over in my neighborhood, but what is it? Wait I see it, I spy White people”.
“Okay class this year’s objective is to imagine yourself in society, who are you in your society? You will write an 800 word essay on it,” my English teacher told the class. I wasn’t too worried about it- I’m good at writing essays in my opinion. The only problem is that when I get home I don’t even know how to start it. “Who am I?Who-am-I?” it was an easy question, but for some reason I couldn’t answer it. Who am I in this society? A society that has school’s where we learn that segregation and racism ended in 1954 and Martin Luther King helped end it, and that Obama is proof of this. Where they tell us that it’s possible to move from different social statuses, and that there’s mobility. When here in the Northeast area of Missouri you hardly see any Anglo-Saxons here, because it’s a bad neighborhood. They all live in Olathe and Overland Park, it’s only thirty or forty minutes away, but it’s a complete different world. So who am I in this society? I don’t think I want to be part of it.
“BANG! BANG!” I wake up and see red, and blue lights reflected on my wall. I crawl out of bed into my mom’s room my mom is at the door of her room, “Metate!” “Get inside!” she shouts, while picking me up from the floor and dragging me into her room. My nine year old sister and fourteen year old brother were in there already. We knelt down and prayed for our neighborhood, we prayed for God to protect us from all harm, and the people outside. We prayed for God to have mercy on us and everyone in our neighborhood. We prayed for better days, we prayed because that’s all we could do. As we pray we hear sirens in the background, people shouting. When it got quiet I looked outside there were cops everywhere, it was really dark outside, but under the street light I noticed someone on the floor-I spy a dead body.
The next day I was at school, and everything was normal. This was my escape, for eight hours of that day I was a happy nice girl, who’s biggest problem was about getting good grades. No one really knows me here. They don’t know, they never do. Someone died yesterday, a stranger, but life kept going on, only without him. My teachers see right through me, telling me that education is power, education is the path for a better life, and lately I’ve been holding on to this path, because I don’t know another way out.
“Today we are going to go to the children’s place and volunteer there,” everyone in my community leadership class grabbed their things and went into the buses. As we approached the building a women at the front desk spoke to us, “Hello everyone, Thank you for volunteering today. We are going to try our best to keep the same routine these kids are usually in”. They assign me a little girl her name is Davona, she is 5 years old. As I sat next to her I introduce myself, and stretched out my hand to give her a handshake and she just stared at me. “Soo, what’s your name?” I asked as I awkwardly put my hand on my lap. “Her name is Davona,” said a lady sitting at our table supervising, “sorry you have to excuse her. A lot of the children here came from abusive homes,” she leaned in whispering, “and have been sexually abused, which is why we have a rule of asking the children if we can touch them before holding their hand or anything else.” My eyes widen and I nodded my head to show that I understood, my heart broke when she said this. As we began, Davona started counting her snacks and proceeded with the day. When we took them outside my peers and I played tag with the kids. They were all running around, smiling, and giggling. I felt warmth in my heart to know that we helped these children have a good day that they can remember for a lifetime. To my surprise, I didn’t know there where organization in my neighborhood like this one, but I’m glad they’re here to help kids like them.
My neighborhood is not perfect, the safest, nor the most prettiest place you can visit. I wonder at times why I’m still here I know that I deserve better, my family deserves better. One thing I learned here was that it’s not about me. I don’t deserve better, WE deserve better, my whole neighborhood does. It’s not fair that when you go a couple miles west you see better, safer neighborhoods. In Kansas there are schools with higher ACT scores, better buildings, tools and textbooks than schools in Kansas City, Missouri. I know we deserve better, my neighborhood may be filled with minorities, but it doesn’t mean we deserve less. If you wouldn’t allow any of your kids to attend any of the schools here, then why do we have to send our kids to these schools. Education is a right, not a privilege, and all schools deserve the best teachers, nicest buildings, the best textbooks, and the best education. Yet, this is more of a fantasy and not a reality, which is why there is only a “7% chance a Kansas City child will move from being bottom fifth of income to top fifth, in his or her life” (Dave Helling). The reason for this is, because they do not know any other way. All their life they have seen and received only what is “okay”: tapped up textbooks, minimum wage, schools with metal detectors, etc. This is the reality for many teenagers, and adults here in Kansas City; being rich and living in safe neighborhoods that’s all in a distant place, on the other side of the state line, in a different world.