A Stellar Flare of Young Adult Writing and Visual Art
by Nina Shepherd
“Black lives matter,” Well, I have to admit.
The first time I heard these words I thought they were silly.
I couldn’t believe that after all these years people now decided to be interested in the wrongdoings my people faced daily.
But as the hashtag grew, and the sympathetic bystanders decreased, and the activism rose, I began to become optimistic.
I thought to myself, maybe black lives really do matter.
I mean from the moment I came into this world the standards for me to meet were basically nonexistent.
I want to small charter school, yes, but was extremely good at math.
I was blessed as an upper-middle-class child and never understood what it was like to be “that black person.”
I always had an identity.
I was Nina Shepherd, younger sister of Chris and Jazmyn Shepherd.
Everyone knew how I was.
I was important.
Until I moved.
I moved and went to a rather prestigious elementary school called King and that’s when I became nothing.
The school was named after Martin Luther King, a hero to the black race, a hero to America.
But why was it when I looked around I saw no one like me or that hero?
There were a total of twenty of us in the whole school from kindergarten to fifth grade.
I was now “that black child.”
At my charter school I was three years ahead in math but when I went to this place I was put in math support.
It was obvious that they didn’t even look at my transcript.
I was a straight A student.
I was in advanced classes.
But they decided based off my skin tone that I was dumb.
I must have been like all those other black children struggling just to keep up and so there I stayed, even through middle school up until the very last year.
And if being underestimated and demeaned, wasn’t enough I had to watch my mother cry as my brother who was 6″4′ roamed around the streets at night to show how “gangsta” he really was.
He went to school were the large majority of the kids were black.
And he was that black kid that betrayed his race to fit in with the enemy.
So he had to prove himself.
So he started acting like a fool staying out late, then mom got worried.
Mom cried, mom held on tight.
Mom tried to keep up the fight.
But what can you do when your child is being rebellious?
You just have to wait, and hope they grow out of it.
You just have to be patient.
But Momma couldn’t be patient,
Momma didn’t have the time.
Because when a white man is acting up, they get escorted home,
But when a black man is slightly defiant, they get shot.
When a black man gets pulled over, they get shot.
And when a black man has his hands up in surrender, they get shot.
Now when I watch the TV and I see these young black men on the news day after day
get shot, by the police, the people who are supposed to protect us,
I can’t help but think what if, what if that was my brother?
But then why are we even surprised?
I mean since when have the authorities been on our side?
They allowed us to become slaves.
They allowed for us who were free to be sold to slavery.
They allowed for us to be segregated, treated unfairly for years.
Chased us through town as though we were vermin.
Called their beast to feast upon our flesh.
They oppressed and oppressed and oppressed us, for hundreds and hundreds of years.
So why all of a sudden did we believe that we were part of these society that we never chose in the first place?
That we were welcome in the towns we fucking built?
That we were equal?
We are not equal, we will never be equal.
They’ve fooled us time and time again.
Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.
When will the ignorance fade?
When will reality sink in?
That to them we will never be more than dumb, naive, shady, little niggas.
Nina Shepherd attends Huron High School in Ann Arbor. She is fifteen years old. About herself, to contextualize this spoken word poem, she says: “I am a black teenager surrounded by people of different pigments, but few are like mine. I have an elder brother who is black as well is six feet tall and well, scary. So this is something that was really important to me, which is why I wrote it all down.”