Last fall, we (at Badgerdog) had the pleasure of partnering with Ms. Minde and her students at KIPP Austin Collegiate to explore the novel All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. The novel explores how an urban community is affected in the wake of the shooting of a young black man by a white police officer. Teaching Artist Eva Suter helped students articulate their responses to the novel’s difficult and tragic story using various art forms–visual, auditory, and written. Students created this collection of thoughtful interpretations and reflections about the story and what it means to fight for equal justice and protection.
Badgerdog Programs Director
I just heard him reading out loud those meaningful words that speak to everyone who has been bothered before. Many others started to join in. The teacher was crying. She looked up with puffy, red eyes. She had the biggest owl eyes, and she looked really shocked. We haven’t be able to do anything during class since… Well, no need to mention it. It’s split the school into three parts — no longer a community but a war against each other. But no. We’re not going to take this anymore. There has been a rumor about a march to stand up to police brutality. This has made a huge impact in the school. It made me think and see how this event made many people join forces, and how, as high school students, we can take a step and improve the world for ourselves. Slowly, I stand up and start reading and make my voice as clear and loud as I can and make sure that they know I am with them.
If You Don’t Stand for Something…
Hillary and Christian
If a Book Were a Song
In this inventive response to All American Boys, Ricardo creates an instrumental song that captures the emotional tone of the novel.
Ricardo Perez Gonzalez
Rashad and Reality
Safety is an issue causing shock and fear within communities. Rashad gets brutally beaten by Officer Paul, just like most teens are constantly getting attacked by officers. Rashad knew how to react when being attacked by an officer; however, most kids don’t know how. When Rashad was being attacked by Officer Paul, he felt hopeless and alone. There was nobody there who was willing to help him. In reality, teenagers tend to feel more pain and fright when being attacked, since they know nobody will have the courage to stand up and help.
Rashad was falsely accused of robbery and resisting arrest. To make matters worse, he was sent to the hospital with severe injuries. Although Rashad started to feel hopeless, like he might not survive, that didn’t stop him from fighting for his life. Since he was bodyslammed to the ground multiple times, he was lucky to survive such a brutal attack. So many bodyslams like those can cause severe internal bleeding in the brain or a concussion, which can sadly lead to death. Teenagers fight for survival when being harshly attacked by officers. Many teens risks their lives every time they step out of their homes, and many families get heartbroken by loss of a family member.
A Collapse of Justice
Jennifer Castillo and Yolanda Morales
What Reality Is It?
I can’t believe what’s happening. I knew Paul. Well, kind of. I always saw him with that white kid, Quin? He seemed like a nice guy, but what they’re saying is way different than what his looks makes me think. I couldn’t believe what the people were saying. My parents say Paul is a respectable white man who was helping out his community and the black kid, Rashaad, was in the wrong. I believed them until I saw the video. It looked too real to be faked, and the hits he took in the video do line up with what his friends are saying. But why? I asked my parents, but they responded with the same thing. My mom said that she had talked with Paul’s mom and she said that all of this was a misunderstanding, that her Paul could not be capable of something like that. My mom says I shouldn’t be around the colored kids because they’re trouble. Something is still gnawing at me, and I can’t shake it off. I’m starting to question a lot of the things I’m being told. Most are the same things: “Those black kids are to no good. Paul had a reason to do what he did.” I do not believe what the people around me are saying because what I have seen and heard in school is making me see that what my parents are saying is not true. But that means I’m going against what my parents are saying. What should I do? Do what I feel is right, or do what everyone else is saying?
Shots Ring Out
Traveling Back in Time
This story takes place in Virginia during the Civil War (near the end). Cameron is a sixteen-year-old black male who has been living in the south for most of his life. Now that the Thirteenth Amendment has been ratified, he is now considered a free man. But the white folks still control and limit the movements of the freedmen.
Cameron is excited to use his new freedoms and decides to put them into action. His close family and friends tell him to be cautious, but he doesn’t think it’s going to be a big issue and he leaves. In the streets, white people give him nasty looks and keep their distance from him. This doesn’t come as a surprise to him; he’s always been treated that way.
A week after the Thirteenth Amendment has been put in place, everything starts to fall apart. African Americans are being treated with so much disrespect, it’s like they are slaves again. Cameron doesn’t like this at all and decides to stand up for his people. It’s time for someone to step up and earn the rights they deserve. His family doesn’t like the idea. They prefer to stay down and go with the flow until something happens. But Cameron is sick and tired of being treated differently just because of his skin color. He’s going to do something no matter what happens to him.
He plans for days and still doesn’t know what to do. He decides to make a protest. He just needs people who are willing to join him on this dangerous mission. A few days later, everything is set up. Cameron and a few people go out into the streets and start protesting. White people everywhere are terrified. They think that African Americans are trying to take over, so they call the cops.
The cops are quick to take action. They immediately take out their batons and start beating the protesters. Everything happens so quickly that people don’t know how to react. African Americans have been powerless in the south. They know that if they intervene in the fighting, they will be beaten too and they don’t want to take that chance. The beatings still go on for long minutes and people don’t like it anymore.
Cameron goes home and his family tries to convince him to stay and end the protests. He denies the request and continues fighting. The next day, he organizes another protest that will take place near the sheriff’s station two weeks later. This time they manage to get a permit from a judge who supports their cause but is afraid what the others will say. The judge gives them the permit and decides he needs to go somewhere else so he can continue to help.
After the first protest, more people decide to join in because Cameron tells them about the permit. They protest the second time, but it gets worse. Someone tips off the police that the protest will be happening, and the police want to end it quickly. They dispatch a bunch of policemen all over the area and arrest anyone they think was in the protest, which means anyone who is African American. They create a bunch of false charges against them that are dropped the next day just to keep them away.
Cameron is distant after this because he can’t believe someone he thought was a fighter could betray them. He realizes then that the protests have little effect on the law unless they cause a problem with the sheriff. He decides that instead of being in the area where the sheriff is, he will just go to the sheriff’s office with the others and protest there. He thinks this will cause a problem in the city that will be too big for people to ignore.
The next day, they decide to make a bunch of mini protests all over town that will all meet at the sheriff’s office. They know someone will tell the police, but the police can’t stop all of the protests. They plan it for a month later, but still have a meeting about who will be where and what they are risking. No one disagrees with the idea and all say they will go to their assigned spots.
Once the day of the protest arrives, they decide to go, but Cameron’s family once again tries to stop them. They are frightened for his life, and beg him to stop and listen to them. He ignores them again and goes to lead his part of the protest. They continue through the city for an hour until he reaches the sheriff’s office, and then they realize that someone has betrayed them because, surrounding the sheriff’s office are a bunch of policemen. They have dogs that growl and bark at anyone passing by, but still Cameron will not give up.
He goes up to the policemen and starts chanting by himself. People looked at him like he is crazy and wonder if he is going to be able to leave unharmed. A lot of people snicker and laugh at him, knowing that something is going to happen. In the distance, you can hear the chants of the other groups who make it to the station. Out of nowhere, the judge that gave Cameron the permit steps out of the building with the sheriff and walks towards Cameron.
“Cameron, I suggest you take your group of protesters to go celebrate because I’ve got an agreement with the sheriff,” says the Judge. “Any cop who is deemed untrustworthy or has had complaints of biased actions towards anyone was placed in lower positions until they changed.”
Cameron doesn’t think this will change anything and neither do any of the other protesters. He walks towards the protesters, and they start to march around the building until they are heard. The cops are told to stand down and only use force if the protesters start to get violent. The sheriff walks over to the protesters and shouts into the crowd, “Enough!”
Everyone stares at him and then he starts talking. “We have heard your cries and have decided to act. From now on, there will be no more beatings or acts of hate in this city. We will now be a border state between the North and the South.” Everyone is shocked by the words spoken by the sheriff.
The judge then speaks up: “While the protests have been going on, I have gone to the states above and below us and asked them to allow us to be a border state between them. They will now have more people moving here and will have more control over business, but I think that it is worth allowing people to live here freely. Anyone who thinks that is horrible can go to the state below us, and anyone who thinks that it is not enough can move to the north.”
People look around and someone yells, “When will this start?” The judge states that it is to start in six months.
These are the worst six months the state has ever seen. There are still protests and forced labor still occurs as the result of manipulating the law. After six months, there are fewer protests since there isn’t much they can do anymore. The citizens of the city feel proud they helped cause a change and start to unite more in different aspects. There is still segregation and hate towards those with different colored skin, but Cameron feels proud of his actions.
After the war, they find out who ratted them out about the protest. It was Cameron’s family, trying to keep him safe from the police in town. He eventually forgives them and finds the love of his life at one of the protests. He spends the rest of his days with her. He is remembered by the people of the city and becomes an honored person in the community.
Eduardo M. and Diana R.