Thursday, February 07, 2008

Day 102

The kids at school wear uniforms--they are not allowed in classrooms with coats, hats, kerchiefs, hoodies, etc. They are not allowed in the building if they wear gang colors or insignia.

Of course kids are smart and inventive. They have subtle ways of flying gang colors, like having a colored rubber band around the wrist, or around the hair. Sometimes they come up with acronyms or acrostics to put on their folder with encoded Crips or Bloods meanings.

Today I was handing out overhead transparencies and dry-erase pens to the groups in first period. They were working on a brief constructed response about the theme of Tolstoy's very short story "The Old Grandfather and His Little Grandson." I handed Nat Turner a red pen and he said "Get that red pen away from me! I need blue." The other kids all stopped talking. "I got green Nat," I said, and he took that one. "Green all right. Not as good as blue, but all right." He looked around with his cold killers' eyes to see if everyone got the point. Nat and I used to get along, but one day he was playing and tried to pull me over during a handshake. I twisted his arm behind his back and put him face down on his desk. He did not like that at all, and since then has treated me with utmost disrespect. His little foot soldiers in the school try to scare me in the hall by lunging at me or saying "Boo!" in my ear when I walk past. Whatever. They're 13, 14, and 15-year-old kids. If I was walking on Whitelock Ave and saw them I might not feel safe, but in the school I handle my business.

In third period Yasmine wouldn't take a blue pen. "That color unlucky for me," she said. Her binder has about eight memorial photographs of dead cousins and friends and siblings, most of them barely older than she is now when they fell.

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