My name is Felmara Greene, I am a rising senior at Blackstone Valley Prep High School. Although before anything, I am an African American, and the ongoing issues in this country have been troubling me deeply. Therefore, I am writing this letter because I can no longer be silent. I can no longer sit here and watch people die knowing I could be next.
I know none of this is any of your faults, but I am also aware that you can all help change what is happening and help lead us to a better tomorrow for America as a whole. We the people have the power to create a change. Please listen to what I have to say.
I am angry because people like me are having their lives stripped from them by people sworn to protect us and I feel helpless. Not only does it hurt, it’s heart wrenching that their lives were taken away so soon. They were like me, and they could have very well been your family or your neighbor. Some of them were teenagers with plans of creating a family and going to college or building a business or even curing cancer, but we will never know because their journey was cut short by one bullet, one knee, one traffic stop, one second, one finger.
More than angry, I am terrified for my life and the lives of others who look like me, not just here, but across the nation. I am terrified of what the new hashtag will be, of whose name will be in it, and if it will have my name in it.
Do you know the first time I genuinely realized I was black? I was about 7 years old and it was Character Day. I kept looking for a character to dress up as, but I couldn’t find anyone who looked like me. Do you get that? I was 7 years and was already aware of the fact that my color was not popular. Can you imagine how that made me feel? It made me feel so insignificant. The first time I realized my skin could get me killed was in 5th grade. An unarmed black boy, Trayvon Martin, was shot dead. I remember watching the trial and watching George Zimmerman walk free. I remember how angry my parents were. I remember how scared it made me. I remember thinking, “who is going to protect us from the cops when they are the ones meant to protect us?” What do we do when they become the most imminent threat?
This week my parents have gone through what to do every day if we, my sister and I, come in contact with police; place your hands on the dashboard, avoid any use of attitude, do what they ask, if they say license and registration and ask for an ID, move slowly, announce what you are reaching for, make sure you comply to every one of their questions, you no longer have any rights, your only mission is to stay alive to make it home, to not become a hashtag, to not have your face end up of Chanel 10 news.
It is not often that I find myself thinking about the color of my skin, but it happens in moments when someone crosses the street to avoid walking next to me; when the lights are turned off and I hear the all too familiar “Where did Felmara go?”, or “Felmara smile so we can see you,” followed by the eruption of laughs. It happens when we talk about slavery and suddenly I become the voice of the African American community; when I go to my school full of teachers who do not look like me; it happens when I’m in a public setting, desperately searching for a face that looks like mine so I can feel safe again. I think about my color when I go to search something on google and I have to put black in front of it, or when I’m in the store shopping for hair supplies and I realize that all the hair care for me is locked away.
I am an African American, and I am aware that because of my skin others view me differently. I am aware that I will always have to work harder for the same result than people with fairer skin, and I accept the challenge. I don’t know if that will change, but I pray it does. All we want is someone to listen to us we are hurt and we are angry. Black lives matter.
Their names were: George Floyd, Kendra James, James Perez, Quannice Hayes, Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Walter Scott, Deonte Keller, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Terrence Crutcher, Samuel Dubose, Jamar Clark, Akai Gurley, Ezell Ford, Jerame Ried, Antonio Martin, Jeremy McDole, William Chapman II, Antony Hill, Meagan Hockaday, Tony Robinson, John Crawford, Micheal DeanJames Johnson, Julius Johnson, Maurice Granton, Jonathan Hart, Partick Harmon, Dontre Hamilton, Miles Hall, Leroy Browning, Bettie Jones, Kevin Matthews, Micheal Noel, Darius Stewart, Kieth McLeod, Miguel Espinal, Brandon Jones, Stephen Clark, E.J Bradford, Brandon Webber, Robert White, Felix Kumi, Mario Woods, Gregory Gunn, Danny Ray Thomas, Alfred Olango, DeJuan Guillory, Terrance Sterling, Kieth Childress Jr, Anthony Lamar Smith, Jimmy Atchison, Bettie Jones, Nathaniel Pickett, JaQuavion Slaton, William Green, Victor White, and are still so many more. Their only crime was being born black in America. Say their names.
I don’t want to have to raise my children in a country like this. I don’t want to have to look at them when they are 10 years old and tell them that their skin color could get them killed. I don’t want to have my kids live in a world that doesn’t see their color for the beauty it is but, instead the threat some may think it imposes. I don’t want my baby girl to come home crying to me because she got called a monkey on her first school trip to the zoo. I don’t want to have to ever look my son in the face and tell him what so many of our parents are telling us now, “if you get pulled over don’t reach for your pockets” “make sure to announce in a clear and loud voice that you are unarmed and pose no threat” “if you want to go out for a jog don’t wear a hoodie if you go the store to buy some skittles, don’t wear a hoodie,” “Make sure you’re money is always real check it three times.”
When do our children, our babies go from being cute and innocent to a threat that needs to be terminated?
This isn’t just for this week or even this month or year we have to remember this and carry this forever or at least as long as we can we can’t forget. Please don’t forget. All we want is someone, anyone, to just listen. I don’t want to be next. I don’t want to live in fear.
This is my cry for help.
Pawtucket, Rhode Island