Saturday, December 24, 2011

His Sneakers My Dreams 21 Years Later

I first wrote this article in 1990 while I was an intern reporter in high school. It has been featured in the books Things Get Hectic and The Struggle To Be Strong as well as YCteen Magazine formerly known as New Youth Connections.

I am republishing it here on a blog I have not updated in awhile as I felt compelled to share an incident that has never left my mind or heart after all these years. It was because of this article

It has me curious, as what are the creator and superstar namesake of whom these sneakers are named for thinking about what happened. I wonder too, are they going to respond? It's the least that they could. Just do it for Sam.

His Sneakers, My Dreams

My Criminal Justice class last spring was really boring. I was always tired because it was my last class of the day. When the teacher talked about the difference between first and second degree murder, I would drift into dreamland.

I would imagine what my future might be like, think of another idea for a story or poem, or of what my boyfriend and I would be doing that weekend.

Sometimes, I would stare at the sneakers of the guy who sat next to me. He had two pairs-one black, one white. Ballys, I think. I always wondered where he'd been in them, the kinds of places he went.

I'll call him Sam. He was the first person I spoke to on the first day of class. When class was over, I noticed he had forgotten his umbrella underneath his chair and I told him. He thanked me and smiled.

I Only Spoke To Him Once

That was the only time I ever really spoke to Sam, even though I sat next to him five days a week. I also remember he and another girl in class were always annoying one another, and the teacher used to joke that they'd end up getting married.

At the beginning of the term, the teacher asked us to talk about ourselves and our future plans. Most of us had some kind of long-term plan. One girl wanted to be a lawyer, another a social worker, and one of the guys wanted to be a cop. Right after graduation, Sam said he was going to go into the military. After that he wanted to become a corrections officer.

Last May (I remember it as if it were five minutes ago), I was sitting in my auto shop class. The teacher looked really upset and somebody asked him what was the matter. He told us that one of his students had been shot and killed over the weekend. He mentioned the name, which sounded familiar to me. Wasn't that the guy who sat next to me in my Criminal Justice class? The only way I could be sure was to see if he was sitting in his usual seat that afternoon. He was always there and always on time.

His Seat Was Empty

When I went to class, the seat was empty and everyone had tears in their eyes. My teacher broke the news to us: Sam was the student killed over the weekend.

It was over something stupid-I think he stepped on someone's sneakers and they got into an argument. He was killed just two weeks after we learned about the different charges for murder.

I don't usually cry a lot, but this time I did. I cried because he was a teenager and I was a teenager. My tears were for the loss of one of our own. It was as bad as if he were a member of my own family.

I am really scared that this won't be the last time this will happen to someone I know. It's been happening every day to my peers around the city. Teenagers are losing friends over stupid things-dirty looks, clothes, jealousy, and revenge.

I have one message for Sam's killers and for teenagers around New York City. Even if it looks hopeless, we are our world's future. Maybe if you plan ahead, you too can have something to look forward to. I know Sam did and so do I.

copyright Youth Communication-New York Center, Inc.

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