I hear and see examples of chaos almost everyday. Little children are victims of senseless gun violence. There’s too much black on black crime. As an African-American, that makes me depressed. Many people have Lost faith in America and it’s ability to be a living example of Dr. King’s dream!
Those meaningful words were delivered by an 11-year-old Black girl from Milwaukee, who entered her essay in the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. annual essay contest, that featured the theme — “We Shall Overcome.”
Sandra Parks, had the talent and the inspiration to detail how she manages to stay positive and hopeful, as she endures the violence around her and wonders why the dangerous culture of gun violence is allowed to thrive; despite the mounting casualties — young and old.
Her method of escapism through the calmness of music and how the immediacy of that embrace was second to none, mirrors how I used to block out the noise of military coups and the mandate to stay home until the curfew was lifted — when I was exactly her age — growing up in Lagos, Nigeria.
Writing was also another mode of expression that captivated me quite early in life, and motivated my first set of poems, which were published in the local paper — when I was 9-years-old.
The difference in this scenario is that I was able to mature into an adult, and Sandra Parks is now dead.
Her essay won the third spot and the following year in 2017, the then seventh-grader was invited to WPR’s The Kathleen Dunn Show, where she read her breathtaking essay, titled, “Our Truth.”
The fact that a sixth-grader could gorgeously express the ugliness of her life-threatening environment, as well as the hope that things could improve if only the adults in charge could find the courage to implement the life-saving measures that could help the little Black girl and her family — overcome the cumbersome obstacles in their way.
“We shall overcome when we begin to understand and accept others.” “We shall overcome when we eliminate the negative and nasty comments people make about each other. We shall overcome when we love each other and people around us.”
When the radio host probed Sandra and the other enlightened students about how they would tackle the initiated issues crippling their childhoods once they’re old enough to pursue careers as respected lawmakers— Sandra Parks responded with this:
“I would like to stop all of the violence and negativity that’s going on in the world.”
Unfortunately, the little Black girl with big dreams and an even bigger heart, was shot dead in her bedroom by stray bullets that splattered her home with merciless negligence.
The very thing that she was afraid would take her life, ended up delivering with venomous irony. The place that had provided refuge from the evils of a world that she was desperate to change, first with words, and later with action, found its way into her body and shattered her to bits.
Her mother Bernice Parks, testified that after she heard the bullets that fateful night, she was then confronted with her daughter’s presence, and the blood proved the worst had happened.
“Momma, I’m shot. Call the police.”
Bernice Parks describes the final moments of her dying daughter with awe, as she recalls how the 13-year-old remained stoically resigned to the inevitable, as if she had been preparing for her violent demise, all her short life.
“I looked at her. She didn’t cry. She wasn’t hollering. She was just so peaceful… She didn’t deserve to leave this world like that.”
No, Sandra Parks didn’t deserve to be pummeled by stray bullets that took her away from a world that could’ve benefited greatly from her poetic delivery, and the intelligence that would’ve blossomed to produce a Black woman — on a mission to rewrite the laws that stole her childhood.
It’s very interesting that the asshole in The White House, whose unrelenting allegiance to the NRA, makes him directly responsible for the bi-weekly mass shootings and daily neighborhood drive by incidents — seems securely placed as the news item that dominates the cycle without fail.
But the noteworthy story of a Black girl, with literary prowess, who spent what turned out to be her final years, immersed in the debate of gun violence, didn’t even evoke the heartstrings of news producers who tend to be drawn to tear jerkers of this nature.
Perhaps if her name was still the same, but her hue doused in Whiteness, she would be celebrated for the heroic efforts she displayed; complete with a gut-wrenching storyboard that includes tearful testimonies from family members and school officials.
If Sandra Parks were a White girl, major news cable networks would mobilize to assign the innocence and fragility of an adorable face to the horrific outcome that never should’ve touched her since her Whiteness makes her immune to such tragedies.
But this girl was unapologetically Black, and was stationed in an area that was beyond her control. She lived through word creation, and the beats of her heart that jammed to the tunes that provided much needed solace from the chaos outside her window.
Her untimely death is extra painful when you consider that she’s just been elevated as another statistic of a crime that she was afraid would take her or others like her, who are young and vibrant, but trapped in the hell of their country’s making.
Dear Sandra Parks, we’re so sorry America failed you!
We’re so very sorry, that you didn’t get the chance to grow up in a country that values its children enough to end a deadly epidemic that’s still activated by the deplorable non-actions of greedy fucks, who will never give a damn until the bullets hit too close to home.
We’re terribly sorry that you weren’t given the freedom and privilege to develop your immense talent into a tangible force for good, and that all we could be gifted with was just the beginnings of something wonderful, that makes us ache for more.
We’re awfully sorry that your legacy will remain silenced because of your Blackness, and how that stereotypes your magnificence by hindering the dignity that surrounds your worthiness. Girls that look like you are never given the benefit of the doubt, or the respect of individualism and how that unearths the surprise of what a Black girl can be when you separate her from the associated elements.
We are appreciative that you achieved so much in the 13 years that you were here on earth, and those of us who are lucky enough to be acutely moved by your vision of the future that you didn’t get experience, will always be reminded by what you left behind because printed offerings never perish.
And that’s why we honor you with your final words:
We must not allow the lies of violence, racism, and prejudice to be our truth. The truth begins with us. Instead of passing each other like ships in the night, we must fight until our truths stretch to the ends of the world.
We hear you Sandra!
The fight in your name continues…