Im Young, I'm Black and I'm tryin not to die

root - Posted on 03 February 2009

by Atwynn Delgado/Youth in Media Intern/POOR Magazine

Im 17. Im Black. I live in the United States and I'm gonna die very soon.
Maybe not today, but very possibly tomorrow. Not because of an illness, or
car crash, but because I will be shot.

After the shooting death of Joshua Cameron and other young men of color in
San Francisco last month and countless other youth of color shot dead in the
Bay Area over the last year, I traveled from Oakland, where I live, to
gather alongside several hundred youth, families and youth advocates on the
steps of City Hall in San Francisco last week to mourn their death and ask

I know why. A lot of my friends know why. There are a lot of "whys"--
corporate media images perpetuating violence, the school to prison pipeline,
poverty and institutional racism and a society hinged on financial wealth
and consumerist values have conspired to promote violence as a living,
breathing thing that has a life of its own. Many of my friends, long ago
alienated by a gutted school system that no longer teaches us anything
except how to take a test; families, communities and generations destroyed
by years of poverty, de-stabilization, gentrification and joblessness, are
no longer listening to our elders and even if they are, they are shot by
other youth not listening to their elders, their ancestors, their cultures,
their humanity.

For many youth in poverty, the lack of real opportunities for living wage
jobs are staggering, so many of us are forced to earn income through
underground economic strategies. These strategies are criminalized, so if we
aren't shooting each other, we are being incarcerated and criminalized. Our
schools seem to be set up to discourage us with endless tests and things like
art, music and social studies being taken out completely.

The voices of the youth who spoke broke my heart--like they always do, like
they did for my cousin who was shot in Oakland two months ago; like they do
when I hear about anyone taken from this earth for no good reason at all; like I do when I hear about children and families shot in Iraq for a war we
have no reason to be in; like I do when I hear about another young person
joining the military to fight and probably get killed in this ridiculous
"war"; like I do when I hear of another young person being pushed out of
school cuz they didn't pass the barrage of tests they are given; like I do
when my mama cries in fear for my life when I go out at night.

One young man at the memorial for Joshua spoke of being afraid to walk
outside, for fear of getting shot. That's when I knew. It wont be today or
even tomorrow, but if we don't do something very different about these
"whys", me and my friends wont make it through this year.Im sure of that.


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