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This commentary was produced as part of Youth Radio’s introductory journalism class. The author asked to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.
In fourth grade I lost my dad to gun violence.
When I woke up that morning, it felt like just another day. Little did I know that my life would change forever. It was spring break, and I didn’t have school, but I got dressed and ate breakfast like normal. My mom told me that I was going to my cousin’s house for her birthday. I had a odd feeling when I was there that I couldn’t shake. I don’t remember the specifics but I knew I was getting picked up early, and it wasn’t by my mom.
When I got home, it was like a old black and white silent film. Everyone was at my house crying screaming and falling out. My mom couldn’t even talk. I was so confused. My grandmother sat me down in her room to tell me that there was an incident. My father had been shot, and had passed away.
The tears ran instantly and I couldn’t keep my composure. In that moment, it seemed like, things would go downhill for me, but eventually, I found a way to cope with the situation. Family friends and therapy helped.
According to Pew Research, black people suffer a disproportionate share of U.S. gun homicide deaths. There are so many mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters affected by these deaths, just like my dad’s death affected me. We need to put a end to killing and hurting each other, no matter what our skin color. It was our ancestors who fought for us to have the right of equality, when we are put in prisons.
There are more prisons in California than there are colleges. The way I see it, that sends the message that society doesn’t want us to strive for excellence or that we can’t do it. That’s the message the government is sending the youth in our community. Young people learn more from each other–good, bad or indifferent–rather than from adults worth modeling. I think my father died because a teenager was modeling the bad life choices he saw around him.
We have the voice and power to change this. So why not take advantage of the social media, the resources, our education and the passion we have today to stand with each other and not against each other?