Historic Fiction by Angel Cheeks. Photo by CNN.com
February 9, 2015: In 1865, slavery was abolished and slaves were "freed" by the Thirteenth Amendment. When the Fourteenth Amendment was added to the United States Constitution in 1868, it declared that all persons born or naturalized in the United States are American "citizens" including African Americans. When the Fifteenth Amendment was passed in 1870, it prohibited each state's government in the United States from denying a citizen the right to "vote" based on that citizen's race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Hello, my name is Jean Johnson and I live in Montgomery, Alabama, in the Deep South. Ever since I was a little girl, life has been a fight for freedom. I have yet to feel "freed", to feel as if I'm a "citizen" or feel like I have an ability to "vote". The year is currently 1956, and with the Jim Crow Laws in place, our people put up with harassment, segregation, discrimination, and oppression. We have yet to feel like we belong in this country because of the these unconstitutional laws that have been put in place. This past week has been terrible for me and my family as well.
I currently attend school as a senior at Belleview High School, which isn't located in what would be considered "urban". Not too long ago, schools were segregated and we didn't have much except for some old books, raggedy tables and chairs and used chalkboards. The white kids got all the new stuff. But, because of the lawsuit Brown v. Board of Education, we are now allowed to go to school with whites. However, this makes things worse. The first day of school was horrible because about 10 others and myself had to be escorted by the army so that we would not be harassed by the white students who were against school integration. Yesterday after school when I was walking home, I saw an old man being harassed by a white officer. I don't even think the man did anything to him, but the officer just spat on him, called him all types of names, kicked him on the ground and beat the life out of him because he was black. In disgust, I hurried and ran home to my mom and two little sisters. She was cooking beef stew, my favorite, so I washed my hands and sat at the table. Before blessing the food, my mother asked how our day was in school. We all just said "fine". My mother is a smart woman. She knew we were lying. So she began to talk about how change will come, how she's sorry that we have to experience this, and how organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) will work hard to help have integration laws set up to desegregate the country and stop this injustice. Yes, my food was cold.
Change will come, but that night it hadn't. After I went upstairs to my bedroom, I heard a noise at my window. So I went over
to see who it was. Standing there was my best friend Stacy. She was trying to get my attention so she could sneak in. Quietly, I lifted up the window and she crawled on in. Stacy was my white friend who lived in this huge house and unlike her parents she was the sweetest person on Earth. I was kind of intimidated by her long luxurious hair, eyelashes and nails because I have short, kinky hair and nubs as nails, but whatever. We met about 2 years ago. She had seen me on the bus one day and noticed when I had to give up my seat for a white person. After I got off the bus, she stopped me and we had a good conversation about the state of the country. Ever since then, we've been great friends. Every time she came over we'd play board games, talk about "girl stuff" and then she'd leave. As she snuck back out the window and took about ten steps I heard someone say angrily, "Is this a nigger house?". It was the Ku Klux Klan. My heart dropped, I didn't know what to do, think, or feel, but I knew that Stacy and I would never be able to see each other again. Then I heard "What the hell are you doing here? Come on, we'll take you home little girl." But, that didn't mean they wouldn't return.
Rapidly, I ran and told my mom what had happened. She was furious with me, but there was no time to whip my tail. We had to hurry up and find a place to hide. Scared for our lives, we sat quiet as mice in a hideout under the staircase we had created a while ago. Suddenly, we heard a song from a distance. The words went like this. "Come on out, lil' nigger, we just wanna play, don't fuss, don't fight, just know we're right, now come on out and get hanged". We remained silent. They got angry and kicked down the doors, and then began knocking over everything they saw, shooting everywhere and kept saying repeatedly "Come on out Nigger! What you scared for?" They couldn't find us but they surely destroyed our house the best that they could. When they left, they left a burning cross on our front lawn with one of my little sisters doll babies nailed to it. The next day, and the day after that, and the day after that we received hate mail that said any hateful, dirty, and smutty things that you can think of. Sometimes I wished that I wasn't living on this Earth to see this happening.
But as a young black woman though, I know I have to stay strong, just like my mother. I know that with the help of all of our people and some whites, we can stop this madness. If we have to boycott, we will boycott; if we have to picket, we will picket; if we have to do sit-ins we will do sit-ins. I have faith that our people will stand up to this government of tyranny and help us all get our civil rights, including full employment, and develop a country focused on universal human kinship. There is no reason that I should have to lose my best friend just because her skin is paler than mine and my skin is darker than hers. We are both Americans, we both breathe the same air and live in the same country. So why should we not be treated the same? We are all so-called "free" but what exactly does that mean because we haven't been freed from discrimination, violence, hatred, inhumanity or evil. I can never justify that we have been free because we are not. Until we are, those documents mean nothing to me whatsoever.
Angel Cheeks is a senior at Friendship Collegiate Academy.