Saturday, February 9, 2013


When I was 15 my best friend Anastasia Platt (one of many of my best friends)
made me a cake in anticipation of my sweet 16
the cake, chocolate and vanilla
shaped like Mickey Mouse
was delicious
we all giggled and swarmed over the cake
(like locusts, except cuter)
our tummies filled with sugar
and our hearts with love.
We stood in the courtyard of my high school
Curie Metropolitan High School For The Performing & Creative Arts
we were all ways
safe and sound.
Safe at

When I was 15 I learned what true friendship was
from boys and girls
gay and straight
white, black and brown....
A bit of a utopian society within the walls of the school
I learned that I could be loved and accepted
for being a chubby nerd with freckles
and that I could cultivate
many things thru my art
--excuse me y'all, my heart is cracked--

When I was 15 I had many mothers and fathers
Ms. Holda who taught me how to dance
Mr. McCowan who taught me the beauty of opera
Mr. Pajeau, in drill seargant like form taught me in
militaristic form to have pride in being an artist
 Mrs. Butler who taught me how to site read
and sing

Sing loud and clear. All lessons, I still learn from 'til this day
---excuse me y'all---

Mrs. Bacon, Ms. Monkus, Ms. Meyers
taught me EVERYTHING I know about acting.
At 15 I had many firsts
My first time acting on stage--a tribute show to Langston Hughes (thanks Mrs. Bacon)
Plucked from a class filled with able bodies, I was chosen
to perform in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat
Mr. Pajeau, that insane director who barked at us like a 3 headed dog from the pits of hell.
We stood at the lip of the stage, yelling into that auditorium for the world to hear.
Sage instruction, that I've carried with me from the South Side to Hollywood, and New York.

And for the next few years I learned
Soliloquies, monologues and poems.
When I was 15, shy and awkward
at a renowned performing arts school where all the kids
--excuse me--

I learned a lot at 15.

Monday thru Friday I learned Latin, Mathematics, Science, Arts & Literature.
Saturday's I learned even more music
and on Sunday's I learned the interpreted words of G-d.
I knew the challenges of learning, but there wasn't a subject I wouldn't tackle
until I learned...
I learned...
that my cousin
Little Billy
my peer
my  ______
my cousin
was killed.
I learned that he was murdered by gunfire.
Billbo was his moniker.
Billy Brooks, Junior. I speak...
---excuse me---
I wasn't ready for that subject.

I wasn't ready to learn that subject.
I could not prepare my heart for that crack in its foundation.
and now
Hadiya Pendleton.
excuse me....

I wasn't ready to learn about you.
Or Derrion Albert
or the scores of faceless nameless black and brown children taken from us...too soon.
O my Chicago babies,
the shit you have to trudge thru.
Politicians and platforms be damned
until you have sat in a church
with the wails of a mother...

---excuse me--
Hadiya my dear girl, I'm still learning.
And I speak your name.
I speak it Black
I speak it Brown
You have my heart.
Yo tengo a Hadiya en mi corazon.

Your obedience, zest for life, and your bright smile fills my heart.
Forever 15.
Now, teach us.
For we must learn.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember when you were 15 also. I never had the chance to say it but I am sorry -I apologize- for any pain that I may have caused you then. I cared for you then (if only in the wounded way that I was capable of) and have thought of you thousands of times since. I'm glad to see that you did exactly what you said you'd do even then - not many people in this world receive that blessing. You, your spirit, was beautiful then and shines brightly, beautifully, now...