Thursday, July 26, 2012

Brother Author Letters - For the Next Group of Brother Authors

Post your Brother Author Letters Below:

Greetings, Dear Future Brother Author,

I write this letter to you because I learned so much from this program, and I want you to get the same lessons the program passed on to me - if you can, more. I came into this lesson only partially educated about black writing, and I wrote solely for the benefit of a good grade. Here, however, I was able to write from the depths of my heart, from the brother I held down there because I didn’t want to write words that would offend others, that would speak my mind without a care as to the feelings of my audience. Coming here released me from those bonds, it showed me that I was free to tell the world how I felt. I didn’t need an MLA format or rubrics to tell me what I should write; instead, I received a pencil and paper (actually, a laptop) and faced a wide horizon, with my first step facing anywhere I wanted it to go.
At first, it feels weird, to just write what you feel. Why get paid to write what was on your mind if you can do that for free? When I came here, I thought that Mr. Tatum either actually was going to restrict our writing was just throwing money at us, and that we’d learn nothing from this program.
I’m utterly glad that I’d seen that my thoughts about the program were completely wrong.
What I learned from here, what I am now able to carry along with me for the remainder of my life, is much more than I could have ever hoped to learn from a single place. Like you, I learned to just write whatever comes to mind, and to share my thoughts with fellow Brother Authors. It actually felt pretty good to share my thoughts with others, since I’m usually reserved and feel that others would render my thoughts towards my own culture as unimportant. Being in a midst of other young black males has not only encouraged me to share these thoughts about my race, but to take in what they had to say about us and to see how their voices come out in their writings, which was a fantastic experience.
By now, you would have written at least 14 different works. I truly hope that you have poured your soul into your writings, as I have done for mine. Now that we are Brother Authors, writers who are striving to make a change “for the benefit of others and ourselves,” I will be looking forward to reading your excellent pieces on the blog. I know Mr. Tatum has done a fine job of tasking you with several objectives, and I have one last task for you as you set out after this program is over: keep your warrior intact with your soul. Don’t ever take it out because someone may have felt offended by your writing. Keep true to what you feel, and stay proud in knowing who you are. That’s the lesson we’re setting out for other brothers, for those who have a voice and those whose lips are forever silenced. Keep this in mind as you walk out that door, and I promise you that your life will never be the same.

With best hopes,

Keelun J. Lawrence

Brother Author # 7 

Dear Future Brother Author,

I write this letter to you because I want you to have the same experience I had in this institute. It was great to let my words of feeling flow on paper. I got a few things off my chest that I wouldn’t tell anybody too. I came to this institute expecting to sit down and write anything on my mind but there are different areas where you have to let your writing take over to poems, short stories, children’s stories, and three chapters of a story of your choice. I was excited to soon get that $150, but I had to work for it and be in my seat every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. You will expect to write for the benefit of others and yourself. You will also use your language, which is English, prudently and unapologetically. Marking our time and lives from slavery days to MLK and Obama becoming president. You will learn to not hold back on your own writing about anything.
You will remember your ancestors of the past and keep them alive in the present. So, if you are reading this short letter just know that you will like coming to this institute to write about your feelings and what ever else you have on your mind. Dr. Tatum is a good guide to help you find something you can’t think of at any moment. I can just say it’s easy to trust him.

Jabari Harrell BA#6 

Dear Future Brother Authors,
I write this letter to you because I want you to understand that you should always educate yourself. The mind is a terrible thing to waste and so is your youth! You should never waste time worrying about trivial issues! You are a writer! Go out and save people! You have so much power with your pen! Writers have the power to incite emotions, to convince, to empower, and to create webs of details that have the minds of others wandering! You have power within your pen! 

When I came to this institute I never expected to gain so much knowledge. As a writer, the knowledge I have gained are precious jewels that I will always treasure. In school, I never really learned that you should always become more intelligent after you write. Before the institute I only wrote about things I knew about. My writing never expanded. After the institute I can honestly say that my writing has expanded drastically! You can expect to grow as a person and as a writer through this institute. At the beginning of the institute you may feel like you are lost as writer but at the end of this institute, I assure that you will find your voice.
When writing, you should always think outside of the box. You should never feel like you have limits. Write to save yourself and identify who you are. The pen is a deadly weapon; use it with caution. 

Dear Future Brother Author,

I write this letter to you because I want you to know that you shouldn’t be afraid of what you write. It’s time people heard your voice and saw what you're capable of. There is a something tamed inside of you that wants to come out, so let it out. Much more can be accomplished with a pen and paper. Wars were ended by the stroke of a pen. Why not show what you can start? This institute is the place for a reserved writer to become an “Author.”

From White Shoe Willie, to Juice Johnson, or a knight in shining armor anything is possible. Who will you make next to peak the minds of others? I came into this institute thinking it was all smoke and mirrors with no way of showing me how to hone my skills. But it turned out to be a wonderful experience with lessons I never knew. The people you’ll meet are one of a kind, and the opinions are much needed. Trust me, it helps me improve drastically.

You will learn how to become the voice others need. You will learn things certain schools don’t teach and come to know what a real “Brother Author” is. You aren’t just given the title you earn it so show Dr. Tatum and the world how to speak “prudently and unapologetically.” I loved this program and how it brings young brothers together, I’ll use what I learned here to teach the minds of everyone I know and you should do the same.

Corey Ellis
Brother Author #2 

Dear future Brother Authors

I write this letter to you because I want you to understand what a beautiful opportunity you have to write in this program. In this program, your writing will soar to new heights, your writing will go to a place where it’s never gone before.

I came to the institute expecting another boring program that my mom signed me up for.

You can expect a fun, challenging program where you meet other Brother Authors and learn new things about writing different kinds of pieces like short stories, children’s stories, poems and more.

You will learn how to use language in an unapologetic way where you use your writing to touch others and engage others.

Have fun and write to benefit others as well as yourself. If your writing can make a father reconsider leaving his children or prevent a teen pregnancy than your writing has helped others.

Diwani Greenwell 

Dear Future Brother Author,

I am writing this for you because I am trying to bring the best out of you. You’re the next generation of powerful, black men that can lead their communities. You have the power to change your city for the best because there is nothing we cannot do. I am positive that the world will recognize you, and you have to go out and get that recognition. The only way people will know that you exist is to tell them, and the best way to tell them is to write. I can tell you that the institute will be fun. There are a lot of great people around you, and you will want to stay here forever. Nevertheless, the institute is only for 5 weeks. I hope that you will realize your full potential because it is there. The capacity to change yourself comes from within. Always believe that you can actually change the world, and you will go far.

Jhaylin Benson
Brother Author #5 

Dear Future Brother Author,

I write this letter to you because I want to help you realize that you are far more powerful than you think you are. The power of a writer that lurks inside you is waiting to explode; be seen, heard, read, and felt! I came to the Institute expecting to just be writing and writing, and write some more. I was right! Moreover, my writing was critiqued by fellow Brother Authors, and with their insights on my writing, helped me develop the skills I needed to make my writing more powerful and realistic. You can expect to not only improve your skills as a writer, but also expect to develop a bond with your fellow Brother Authors. One that will hopefully, last a lifetime. You will learn how to live the Preamble through your writing, by expanding your knowledge on certain topics and widening your imagination.

Quote from Ryan Blackwell
“Let your words shape your future.”

From last summer’s

Brother Author 4 

Dear future Brother Author

I'm writing this letter to raise the sprit that is within you. You have a great deal of authority within the hands that follows power, peace, joy, pain, and happiness. I want tell you to be prepared to write when you walk through the doors of the Reading Clinic. Don’t be afraid to walk through the fire with your writing.
I came to this institute expecting to learn how to write better than I all ready knew how too. I was also expecting just to write with a lot boy who wanted to be writers. I was expecting to set my soul free through my writing. I was expecting just to write a black people and there struggles in life.
Expect to live with your eyes open at all time of the day. Expect to learn the preamble because it is the yellow brick road in which we walk talk and write.
Expect to write from your soul. Expect to look at all angle of life.
You should learn the voice inside of the cage that wants to be released. Learn how to define yourself in many different ways in your writing. You will learn your how to engage others with your writing; encourage the reader so they know that they can make it through the storm.
To conclude this letter is to remember that there is a writer in all of us. We can change the world with one pen at a time. Talitha Cumi Damsel Arise mean rise up and be you.
Brother Author 14
Jarell Charleston 

Dear Future Brother Author,

I write this letter to you because I want you to ignite the power available at your fingertips. You have the greatest responsibility to empower the generations to come with your knowledge, experience and efforts through your pen. It's daunting, but the reward that comes with your talent is so much greater. Writers learn to warp their words to help and inspire others, and you will do the same. As a returning brother author, I came back expecting to improve on what I had learned from the first time at the institute. Through what I learned from my time away, I practiced shaping my craft into something to be shared with my colleagues and the children that would come after me. I had the privilege to have my writings critiqued and be pushed for publishing by Dr. Tatum, and I will be forever grateful for being given the opportunity to have my writing shared among hundreds of people. You can expect to write—everyday. You will learn not only to write from a personal, creative space, but a universal one. People will look to your writing and be able to connect from their own experiences. You will be responsible for the inspiration of your posterity, and use that. Shape the minds of people who are lost in the world, let them know that someone is writing out there for them and their feelings. There are people who need a book, something to hold in their hands that contain so much knowledge and a spore of information. Writers should be afraid to share their stories. Being afraid of it means that you have something to lose. You put something into your story that you want to be heard, and made yourself vulnerable in the process. Use those nerves to your advantage. It is time for you to understand the power you have been given and abuse it. Make yourself vulnerable, because information is easier to convey through emotions rather than rhetoric.

Joseph Jordan-Johnson
Brother Author 10

Dear future brother author,

I write this letter to you because I want you to understand that your writing can make a change to this society, help others, and define who you are to the world. When I came to this institute I was expecting to be pushed and taught new ways to write. I will take this new learning to high school so I can exceed to the highest level I can. You will learn how to write in your comfort zones and your uncomfortable zones. I had a great time and a great experience here at this institute.

From, Derek Beavers BA15 

Dear Future Brother Author,

I write this letter to you to because I want to explain what goes down here in AAAMSLI. I came to this institute expecting that we would just…write, but it was more to it than that. You see, I had to learn that I couldn’t write from just experience, but from research. Dr. Tatum, your brilliant teacher, told me I needed to teach and learn when I write. Not only does it teach, it makes writing more powerful. You can expect to make many revisions to make writing sweet and for you to be strong. You’ll learn what a pen can do and, trust me, it’s much stronger than a sword.

Write Hard!

Ellington Webb BA 12 

Dear Future Bro Authors,

You will learn a lot from Tatum so take as much as you can.

He will help you with your trouble

And he’ll tell you all he can

Make him your friend and you will not regret it. 

Brother Author 11 - AV

Young Witness Bearers - Day 14

Dear Brother Authors,

I want to thank you for being "witness bearers" with your pens. I enjoyed our time together, and I have learned a great deal from each of you. In short, you were simply impressive. I am rooting for your success as you move beyond this institute. I have radical love for each of you. I will never forget your fearless voices. I look forward to your final pieces today. Because of your pens our people will be in Chip Chop Shape. See the two poems at the end of this post.

I wrote the following poem to call all Brother Authors:

Brother Author
Are you out there?
Are you out there?
Putting your thoughts together for me

I want to situate myself comfortably in your pages
As you write about uncomfortable truths
You don’t have to be nice to me
Just be fair
I can handle it

Are you out there?
Are you out there?

I woke up this morning expecting something good to happen
I knew I was going to find your words
Words that lift me up without tearing me down
I am waiting for you
Maybe you are already hidden in the stacks
Finish this for me www…
So that I can Google you

Are you out there?
Are you out there?

Are you keeping up with what’s happen to me
 Making sense of my actions so that I can act differently

Brother Author
Brother Author

Where are you?
My ears and hearts are open
I know you know that I cry on my pillow at night
This is when my humanity comes to light – in my own personal darkness
I need to find you before my personal darkness becomes the world’s darkness

I need to find you, Brother Author, so that I can find myself
I showed up again today and again nothing
I stared at the pages and I did not hear you speaking to me
You were not there to tell me who I am and what I can become

Tomorrow, Brother Author, I hope I find you
I am still looking, waiting, praying, crying

Here is my final piece of writing for this summer. It is from my novel, Chip Chop, that I am still hoping to have published.
Chip Chop Shape
This is my last journal entry this year. Graduation is two days away. Can you believe Mr. Tillman worked us from the roota to the toota.  He used this expression instead of the beginning to the end. We had our first lesson on the first day of class and here I am writing with just two days to go. He told us that he would work us through tomorrow if the end of the year assembly had not interrupted the schedule. I am glad for him. He needs to take a break too. I cannot believe he is going to start all over again with students who may not believe in themselves the same way I did not believe in myself. This year’s word wall has been taken down. We all agreed that Hank should have it. After all, he wrote a manual for building vocabulary. Mr. Tillman has to start a new wall again next year. I hope that resilient is the first word. It was one of my favorites. I also like reciprocity because I read it as re sip pro city when I first met the tag. I have to find words to tag on my own. I even like Mr. T’s cologne now. He’s even beginning to grow a beard that looks sort of strange on him. I think I am going to turn over copies of all of my journal entries over to Mr. T. so that he will always remember me. I have to keep the originals for myself. An aspiring writer never turns over all his masterpieces.  I got to have my archives for my grandchildren who will never believe how great a writer I was in eighth grade. This genius is something I had to work towards. To tell the truth, I think Mr. Tillman read some of our journal entries throughout the school year. He knew when to push us, pull us in, listen to us, talk to us, or leave us alone. I don’t think he is that much of an emotional reader. I wonder if he knows how much he really means to us.  If I had to tell Mr. Tillman one thing, I would tell him that I love him. He made me believe in a black boy’s dream even when the black boy’s sister was killed, even when the black boy did not get in the school of his choice, even when the black boy was suspended, even when the black boy felt like America’s darkest son. I will always remember the poetry, the magazine articles, the books, the speeches, and the read alouds. He introduced me to a lot of brother and sister authors, people I did not know existed. I sorted of feel sorry for Mr. Tillman at the same time. He really believes that he can change kid’s worlds with reading. For some kids, I believe it will be too little too late because of what they go through. I sometimes wonder if Tiff would still be alive if she heard all those wise man statements. I wonder if Mr. Tillman could have saved Tiff or the boys who killed Tiff. It just seems like it is too much for one man to do. I know he will keep trying. He always told us that the world needs a little more naivety. Sometimes we have to be na├»ve to believe in ourselves when the rest of the world does not. I believe him now. By the way, I got into University High. Mr. Tillman made phone calls every day to tell the admission counselor about me. He also shared my essay with them that I left printing in Mrs. Terrell’s office. He also found a sponsor to provide a scholarship. Alex is stuck with me for the next four years. I think we need each other. I think God heard the prayer I wrote. Mr. Tillman is saying time is up. So I am.  Until next time, peace to Mr. Tillman and peace to my posterity.
                                                Jamal Taylor
                                                Writer (Nobel winner J)
                                                University of Chicago Graduate (one day)
For the past two days, Sheila and I have been practicing our annual manual speeches for graduation. When I volunteered to read part of my annual manual first, Alex said that we should have a girl to read from her manual. The class thought this was fair. Being in this class was like being with the family you always wanted to have. Everybody selected interesting manual topics for manuals that I will never get to read because they will all be sealed and passed on to next year’s graduating class. Everybody shared their titles:
Manual for Humanity
Manual for Moving On
Manual for Understanding Dr. King
Manual for Walking through Doors
Manual for Dealing with Racism
Manual for Building Vocabulary
Manual for Moving Beyond Mediocrity
Manual for Dealing with the Alex (es) of the World
Manual for Supporting Each Other
Manual for Happiness
Manual for Assigning Yourself
Manual for Creating Wise Woman Statements
Manual for Circling Up in the Time of Need
Manual for Getting Ready for High School
Manual for Being Young Gifted and black
Manual for Writing Manuals
Manual for Finding Good Books
Manual for Dealing with The Lost of Someone You Love
Sheila wrote a Manual for Being a Strong Black Girl in Chicago. She identified ten tips and wrote a page about each tip. The part she shared in class was about feeling black and beautiful in the world without long hair or blue eyes. She talked about how sister author Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eyes was a must-read for all black girls. I liked when she talked about black girls and coffee. She asked, “If the whole world loves coffee and it is brown, why can’t the whole world love me. I am brown too.” She talked about how she loved her hair and loved her complexion. “There’s nothing wrong with being covered with skin of brass,” she read. “And there’s nothing wrong with being the color of chocolate,” she added. She then asked us if we could imagine world without chocolate bars, or chocolate chips cookies, or chocolate shakes, or chocolate cake, or chocolate ???? – that’s right chocolate girls. We bring color to the world with our chocolate sons and daughters? Then she started saying that Oprah Winfrey is chocolate, and Fannie Lou Hammer was chocolate, and Maya Angelou is chocolate, and Rosa Parks was chocolate and Queen Latifah is chocolate, and, and she then ended by asking a question, “Who am I not to feel beautiful with all this beautiful sister chocolate in the world?”
            Then it was my turn to read my Manual for…
            Well look at the next page. I secretly wrote my manual twice because Mr. Tillman did not allow anyone to make a copy. You get a chance to read my whole manual.

Manual for Future Writers
By Jamal Taylor

            If you are reading this manual you are probably getting ready to graduate from Mr. Tillman’s class. You probably just finished writing your own manual to pass on to your posterity. I hope you learned this word this year. It was on our word wall. What is your favorite word from the wall? Was it indefatigable or sagacious? What statements did the wise man use this year. I believe Mr. Tillman was the wise man, what about you? Did he tell you to protect your reputation everyday, protect your reputation in every way? What about keep your head about you when all others doubt you. My favorite wise man statement was “read with great passion and authority.”
            Well my name is Jamal. You may have seen me walking through the halls or sitting in the cafeteria last year. I was the young man who lost his sister. Eighth grade was a little rough for me. I hope your year was not as bad. I am sure if you had any bad times Mr. Tillman had your class circle up. Out of all the things he did last year, I loved the journal writing the most because I want to be a writer. I do not want to be any type of writer, I want to write to tell our stories so that the rest of the world knows that black kids on the south side of Chicago matter. I want them to know that we are different, but that we are also the same. I believe the world needs to hear our voices. They need to know that Alex wants to become a doctor. Alex is the kid I hated at the beginning of last year. Well, I did not really hate him, but he irritated me because he thought he was “so smart.”  I started to really like him at the end of the school year because he kept telling us that we all need to be “so smart” because that was the only way we could change things for ourselves. Do you think what he said makes a lot of sense? I hope so. We all need each other to make it in this world. Sometimes the world can still be cruel and unfair to the people who live in our neighborhood. Sometimes we are cruel and unfair to ourselves. Nobody told us not to learn how to write the pledge. Did Mr. Tillman have you write the pledge on the second day of class? How many words did you spell correctly?  Enough of the small talk (oops, I mean small writing). Now I want to talk about becoming a writer, becoming a brother or sister author. I want someone to call me brother author Jamal Taylor.
Mr. Tillman told us it is better if we give clear tips in our manual and then use examples to explain our tips. I have five tips for you and then I am going to share two poems to explain my tips. I will also leave you the words from my eighth-grade word wall and all the wise man statements that I can remember.
TIP # 1: If you want to be a good writer you must read a lot
I feel like my writing changed when I started reading about all those brother and sister authors. I remember we read this book, Handbook for Boys by brother author Walter Dean Myers. I liked his style and how he wrote about the life of boys like me living in Harlem. It made me want to write about my own neighborhood. So, I started thinking about all the things I can write about like White Shoe Willie and a guy named, Tunes, who whistle all the time because it is something to call his own. I got a lot of ideas like Handbook for Protecting Sisters or Handbook to Stopping Gun Violence. When I was reading last year, I found out about the Scottsboro Boys, I would never found out about them if I did not read. Now, I believe that if I do not write people ten years from now may never find out about a group of six boys who spent time in jail in Jena Louisiana. I am not sure if you ever heard about the Jena Six, but they were talked about on the news a lot last year. You may want to search for information about them on the Internet. You see reading will give you a whole lot of ideas for writing. You can find an author you like and emulate his style. Do you have a favorite brother or sister author from this year?
TIP # 2: You have to love words if you want to be a writer:
            I hope you read brother author James Baldwin who used words like I never heard words used before. I still have this strip of paper in my wallet with his words that talks about not making peace with mediocrity. He also uses words that talk about how someone can die twice.
Words are a writer’s best friend. Without words a writer is like a loner at sea without anyway to come ashore. Words are his raft.
Did you like that sentence? I was playing with language. I have been doing this a lot lately. It is actually kind of fun. Words are like mashed potatoes. The way you use the words is like putting gravy on mashed potatoes. Look at the difference in the two sentences.
            I was sad. (mashed potatoes)
Sadness crept upon me from every angle; it was suffocating. I need to find a way to escape, to breathe again. (gravy)
Sometimes, you just want to write you are sad. Other times, you want to write about the effects of sadness. You have to play with different sentences. I want people to remember my sentences the way they remember lines they hear in movies. We were both lucky to have Mr. Tillman and his word wall because he gave us a lot of words to play with.
TIP # 3: Write all the time if you want to be a writer
Pick up your pen and write is a good way to become a writer. Last year, I wrote a poem about names. I wrote a prayer. I wrote in my journal. I wrote an essay for a contest. I wrote a letter to get into high school. I just kept on writing. After awhile, I started to like my own writing. My spelling even improved as I used some of the same words over and over again. I started using new words when I got tired of the old words. I started using words I saw in the newspaper. I started using words I heard on the news. I saved all of my writings from eighth grade. I hope they will be published posthumously (this means when I die). People always discover great works of art after people pass away. They are still finding old Tupac songs. I want to tell you a secret, but do not tell Mr. Tillman. I even kept a copy of my manual. I wrote it twice so that it will always be a part of my repository of writings.  I also wanted to remind myself of the tips I am giving you. Even future great writers like me need to keep a manual handy.
So, I want you to write something as soon as you finish reading this manual.  If you are having a hard time thinking about what to write, you can write about how great this manual is. Just kidding. The key to writing all the time is writing about the things you care about. This takes me to the next tip.
TIP # 4 If you want to be a writer you have to have a story you want to tell or create
I used my journal to write about how I felt when I smelled Mr. Tillman’s cologne. Did he still wear that strong cologne? I also wrote about how I felt when my friend, Russell, was killed. I wrote about how if felt not to be able to spell words. I wrote a poem for Tiff, my sister and how she was like the sun to me. I am telling you this because you have a life that you can uniquely call your own. I always think about being unique after hearing this from a guy named Tunes. I also think about being a link breaker and breaking the monotonous chain that we talked about in eighth grade. Every writer has his own life and his own story. You must tell your own story as a writer because no one can tell it the way you can.
A writer can also bring different stories together to create a new story. This is why it is important to read. You can read something about the past and make it work for the present. Just imagine writing a story called, Having Dinner with Dr. King and Jay Z or Having Dinner with Jackie Robinson and Tiger Woods. You can create a conversation between two people who never met based on what you know? As writers, we can create all type of stuff in our heads. Read the paragraph below:
As the night approached, the carnival goers became fearful because of what was about to happen in the small town. There was a rumor flying around that this would be the night that no one would ever forget. Finally, the time had come for John to appear. He was the great great grandson of the town’s first mayor. He was going to reveal the truth about the carnival’s construction and what was buried beneath the soil where the carnival was held for the past eighteen years.  We all knew something was wrong that caused so many people to become sick, but did not know exactly why this was happening. John then told the crowd of more than 150 people that…
This is the power you will have as a writer. I created a situation about a town and sickness that many people wanted to hear about. Do you have any idea what I was going write? It really does not matter, but you have the power as a writer to create the ending and create your own story. I want you to finish the story and pass it along to someone else. Remember, writers must write and play with words to be good writers.

TIP # 5 Write because it is important for people from our neighborhood to write
Last year in Mr. Tillman’s class, I learned that a lot of brother and sister authors wrote something because they thought I would enjoy reading it. There were others who wrote to give me direction for the future. There were others who wrote to teach me about my history and the history of other people. I would not know anything about other people’s history if I did not read, The Devil’s Arithmetic, in which I learned about the Holocaust.         One day other people might want to read about our neighborhood, our experience, our struggles, our pleasures, and our pain. We need to write about our lives so that people understand who we are and where we come from. They need to know what happened in 2007 and 2008. They need to know where Alex came from when he becomes a great doctor the same way we know where brother author Ben Carson came from. They need to know where I came from when I win the Nobel Prize in Literature as a writer from the University of Chicago. The world needs to know where you came from as you become a writer or whatever else you decided to become. We do not want our stories to become extinct. Our lives and our stories will become extinct if we do not write about them. We need to write jokes, comics, essays, books, and poetry. This brings me to the end of the manual. I want to end with two poems. I hope they inspire you to create your own poems. The names of the poems are Chop and Chip. Chop is about black boys who live in cities like the south side of Chicago. The eighth-grade boys wrote it last year. I wrote the poem, Chip. I will read both poems at my graduation. I hope you enjoy Chop and Chip. When they become the world’s favorite poems, remember you read them first.

Poem by the Eighth-Grade Boys

This is not about a pork chop or a lamb chop
This is about chop chop
You see when I extend my hand and you do not shake it
Chop chop
When I say something and you do not like the way it sounds
Chop chop
When I wear my pants a certain way and it causes you to frown
Chop chop
When I read like I need help and you blame it on me instead of helping me
Chop chop
When I make an adolescent mistake in your presence and you cast me away
Chop chop
When you start that anecdotal record that grants me entry into that special type of education without putting my voice on record
Chop chop
When you begin to dislike me and believe that I am dislikable
Chop chop
When you say that I do not love who I am because you have not found a way to love me
Chop chop
When you leave me alone and this cycle starts all over again
Chop chop
When you cage me up
Chop chop
When you lock me out
Chop chop
When you leave me out there on my own
Chop chop
When you bury me too early
Stop stop
There is no more chopping, because I have been chopped up.
I came into this world whole and looked what happened to me.
Chop Chop

By Jamal Taylor

This is not about a potato chip or a computer chip
This is about chip chip
I recognize that things are not perfect
Chip chip
I do not live in the best community or go to the best school
Chip chip
I had teachers who did not understand me, therefore could not teach me
Chip chip
My own brothers sometimes approach with felonious ideas
Chip chip
But I met this one Brother named Ben who taught me how to think big
Chip chip
Then I met another Brother named Mosley who told me I was a tall blade of glass, not a short barrel. I am the same height but somehow feel differently
Chip chip
Then there was Brother Fanon who refused to accept that amputation and let his chest expand without limit. I realize I have a chest too.
Chip Chip
Then there was Brother Myers who helped me get that monkey off my back when others called me a monster
Chip Chip
Then there was the teacher who introduced me to all these brother and sister authors so I could chip away at the things I believed were holding me back.
Chip Chop
I no longer have a chip on my shoulder, but a chip in my mind
Chip Chip
And it is because of all that chipping that my life will turn out fine.
Chip Chip
All thanks to that teacher who gave me brother and sister authors who chipped away their pain, that chipping reached me just the same.
I am now in chip chop shape.

Until next time,


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

White Shoes and Red Socks:The chapters continue - Day 13

Two Brother Authors provide authentic portraits of the high school experience. Their words captured the realities of other Brother Authors. The senior BA was struck by their words. He offered, "It seems like you are writing about my life in high school." Again, I was deeply impressed. The quality and content of your writings have been superb. I hate that the institute has reach the 11th hour. We have one more day to go.

Your pens have been instructive. They can help shape the pathway of this generation and the next as you continue to write to engage others and build capacity.

I am sharing Chapter 21 of  my novel, CHIP CHOP. Meet White Shoe Willie and his red socks in a chapter in which Jamal is trying to move beyond his pain.
I Want …
Chapter 21
After I finished The Devil’s Arithmetic I felt a lot of hate.  I hated the way the Germans treated the Jews. I hated the way white folks treated black folks. I hated the way men mistreated women. I hated the way people treated people on welfare or the way people treated the homeless. I hated drug dealers and I hated the way people treated people who were drug dealers, especially the police. I hated the way teachers treated kids who couldn’t really read or write. I hated bullies.  I hated being in the house alone, out of school, without a sister. I did not want to be alone. I wanted to talk to my mother, my father, my sister, or Mr. Tillman. I wanted to write in my journal and anticipate Mr. Tillman calling out, "Time is up." I wanted to be free of all things that were making me full of hate.
 I wanted to laugh like I did when White Shoe Willie told jokes to all the kids in the neighborhood when were younger. I wanted to laugh at how he wore bright red socks that came to his knees in the summertime. He always wore red socks. He told us it takes a strong man to wear red socks and white shoes, not even the President of the United States could get away with it, only White Shoe Willie. He told us he wore white shoes to keep his feet honest. I never really understood what that meant when I was younger. But now I understand what he meant when he explained that a man did not need stains on his life’s path as he made his journey.
“What better way to show the world than wear white shoes,” he would say.
“No stains on the feet of White Shoe Willie.”
He did not want us to deal with if I woulda, coulda, shoulda. When we asked him about the socks, he told us he was just stylin’.  I miss White Shoe Willie. I hate that he died in a car accident when a drunk driver ran through a stoplight and hit his car on the fourth of July.
I want to smell my mother’s home-baked yellow cakes that she made from the box. I used to lick the spoon with the cake mix and help put on my favorite strawberry icing. Tiff liked chocolate.  I miss the aluminum pan that she always used. She stopped baking cakes when we got older. I never asked why. I just got used to not smelling the cakes. I just want God to love me! I know he does, but it does not feel like it sometimes. I remember how my Sunday school teachers would tell us that God’s grace was always with us even when it did not feel like it. Church would always end with the pastor and the church singing I Know it Was the Blood, that explained how God died for our sins. I feel like I am being punished for something. I try to be a good kid, but things are not going the way I want them to go. Sometimes, I feel like just giving up. I want to know why it is so hard to be me. I want to know what to do and where to go.
Dear God,
What do I do? How can I make my life better?  I feel so alone sometimes and I do not think people understand me. I am not sure if they want to understand me. I want be strong, but I feel like my strength is wethering withering. I want to go to a good high school so I can learn how to write better. I want to grow up and write for other boys like me. I might even want to become a teacher like my teacher who helped us this year. I want to make my sister proud even though she is gone. God, why did you let Tiffany die? I miss her. What do I do? God, what do I do? I just want to make my life right. I want to know what to do with the rest of my life. Will I ever be somebody that I am proud of? Will I? Please let me know what to do? In your YOUR name I pray, AMEN.
This was the first time I ever wrote a prayer down. I hope God hears my prayer. I can’t wait to get back to school. Three more days to go before the suspension ends. I want to get back in and get ready to graduate. Maybe high school will be a new beginning for me, any high school. I might even go to college one day like Mr. Tillman said I could. Any college. It would feel good to get away from this place. I may even leave Chicago and go to Iowa or to a state with mountains like Colorado. I might even go to California; that’s far away. Who knows? I am just ready to start over. That’s what I want.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's Novel Time:Chapter 1 - Day 12

I want to introduce you to Mr. Tillman (Tatum wink wink) and Jamal. Young Jamal is an aspiring writer who  manages to capture his thoughts and ambitions while in eighth grade. I fell in love with Jamal and his journal as I wrote his story. He is one of my agenda builders. Below is chapter 1 of Chip Chop.

There is something in me that I don’t understand. I feel angry when I don’t know why I am angry. I am triggered by the wrong words or the wrong looks. I want to smile sometimes, but I can’t. Somebody may be watching me laughing too hard and I don’t want to seem vulnerable or weak. I need help at times but won’t even ask for it. Then I blame the thing that’s wrong on someone else. It’s easy to write this in my journal. It feels private, but I want others to know how I feel. I just don’t know who to trust. You know people start feeling sorry for you. Or, blaming you for stuff. Or, giving you those long talks that you have already heard before. I don’t need any more “pep” talks. I have been talked at enough. From my mother. From my big brother. From the principal. I even get tired of talking to myself. Nothing seems to change.  I am still in the same school in the same neighborhood.   Others tell me that I don’t care about who I am. What type of nonsense is that? I even ran across an article on my teacher’s desk that said the problem with black boys in schools is that they think being smart is uncool. Who wrote that nonsense? Do they think I want to ruin my life just so that I can be black?  That does not make sense to me. Are people getting paid to write this type of stuff? Mr. Tillman is saying time is up. So I am up. I check you later journal. Until next time, Peace.

            To make sure everything remains confidential I have decided to change some of the names in the pages that follow. I want to make sure that the identity of others is protected. I am going to reveal some real stuff that could get me in trouble if people actually knew I was talking about them. This is something Mr. Tillman calls anonymity. I thought that word was cool the first time I heard it. He is always throwing big words at us telling us that we need to fill our bags with tags. Each word is a tag. He tells us that a brilliant mind is able to tag a name to things.  He does not want any more this, that, or whatchamecallit. 
He must think we are headed to Harvard or the University of Chicago where they pass out all of those Nobel prizes for economics and all that other stuff. He told us that not knowing where Harvard is was okay, but we had no excuse for not knowing about the University of Chicago.  It is only twenty blocks away from our school. Can you believe this? People come from all over the world come to learn in a school right down the street. He keeps telling us that we can practically walk down the road to a new life. But it is not that easy. He always gives us these statements from the wise man without telling us anything about the wise man. Just last week he told us that the wise man said, “Read with great passion and authority.” The wise man said, “Forwards ever, backwards never.” The wise man said, “Keep your head about you when others doubt you.”   I used to hate all his sloganeering, but he will not stop it.
If he knows the wise man, why didn’t the wise man tell him that teaching in a school twenty feet from a housing project with paint peeling off the bathroom walls is a waste of time? Why didn’t the wise man tell him that there is more violence in our school than there is learning?  I did not want to hear all of that crap. It just did not seem real to me. I just see another plastic teacher gearing up for another year to holler at us and blame us for not being successful.
I sat down the other day and decided to test myself to see if I could remember all that so-called wise man stuff so that I could challenge him on each point. I could not believe that I could remember each and every one of them. I am ashamed to admit that I used one of the wise man sayings on my little brother. He was doing something stupid the other day and before I knew it I said “The wise man said stupid acts can set you back.” I wonder if the other eighth graders are doing the same thing. I was ready to challenge him on the day he offered another saying. The wise man said, “You are being prepared today for a tomorrow you know nothing about. Don’t do anything to get in your own way.”
I heard what he said, but I hated him.  I don’t know why. We always get these new teachers with high hopes for us. By the second week, their hope goes away when they find that some of the kids have little hope. They expect us to greet them as saviors. Oh my God, Jesus Christ has arrived.
I remember when Ms. D. came to our school last year and laid down some rules on the first day. Her first mistake was not saying good morning. She ignored our humanity. Mr. Tillman always talks about humanity and the common good of society. Well, back to Ms. D. She introduced herself, took attendance, and told us how things were going to be. She laid out the following rules:
1. There will be no profanity.
2. We will respect each other always.
3. A penalty will be given for late homework.
4. Hands must be raised and acknowledged to speak in class.
5. Fines will be given to anyone who writes in the new textbooks.
6. Appropriate dress is expected at all times.
7. Parents will be called if the assignment notebooks are not signed nightly.
8. One warning will be given for breaking any of the rules.

I immediately wanted to shout out  to show her how I can be disrespectful for not raising my hand and break two  rules at once to challenge her warning system.
Each year these teachers start off with the same set of rules to tame us the way wild animals are tamed.  I wonder if they are taught that respect leads to respect. Mr. Tillman calls this reciprocity. It means you give something and receive something in return or something like that. I hope you did not read it as re sip pro city like I did the first time. Sometimes I have to say a word a few times before it becomes a part of me.
This year was very different. I expected to hear the same rules over again. I was braced to find a way to get around the rules to annoy the teacher. But I could not go too far because getting suspended during the eighth-grade year can catch up with you around graduation time.  Teachers hold power over you all year long and threaten not to let you graduate for any little infraction. I used to use the word mistake, but infraction is one of those words in my bag of tags. It means the same thing as mistakes, but I find myself using some of the words taught by Mr. Tillman. I resisted for a long time, but now I feel comfortable using them. I was afraid other students might look at me funny. I just got used to it. Anyway, that’s not the point I want to make.  I was talking about how the first day of eighth grade was different. Mr. Tillman gave rules too. He only had four. They were:
1.      You will read with great passion and authority.
2.      You will learn things that you have never heard about before.
3.      You will learn who you are and what you can become.
4.      You will become prepared to compete in this society.
I had no idea what any of this meant.  I was going to read the way I always read which meant as little as possible. And I already knew who I was and was not about to let a teacher tell me what I can become. After all, he was not living my experience. He was not washing his clothes in the sink because he did not have a washing machine. He did  not have to borrow sugar or toilet paper from his neighbors because his parents sometimes ran out of money before the next check day. He did not have to experience the shame of using a Link card at the grocery store. He did not have to use the hard one-ply toilet paper.  He did not have to hear his parents curse all day long because they seemed to be mad about something all the time. His sister was not on that stuff. He did not have worry if he was going to be safe on his way to school and on his way back home. Who was this man who thought he was going to help me figure out what I can become?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tasting Life: Last Day of Children's Stories - Day 11

I rediscovered Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself"

The past and present wilt — I have fill'd them, emptied them,
And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.
Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?

Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
(Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a
     minute longer.)

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through
     with his supper?

Who wishes to walk with me?

Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too

Today, we will create agenda builders for the next generation. We will use our pens to create "real estate" to guide, support, encourage, to serve as a compass for our younger Brothers.

Our goal is to create a new character like Cornbread or Huey.

For a long time, I have wanted to create the Kindergarten Poet.

Young African American males are often referred to as Lil Man. What about

Lil Preacher
Lil Teacher
Lil Garderner
Lil Artists
Lil Politician
Lil Professor
Lil Nascar
Lil Golfer
Lil Swimmer
Lil Poet - The Kindergarten Poet (I want to create him to talk to other young brothers about the power of language).

Create your Lil ????? What do you want him to do?

The Kindergarten Poet begins:

My mother named me, Langston.

Let's work today to create the Lil Files with young African American male characters who can taste the power of life and are full of energy.

The Lil Files should aim to protect the agenda.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Children's Stories Continued - Day 10

From the first day of kindergarten to stolen berries

From daddy's closet to another galaxy

From the video game king to the spelling bee

I loved your little dudes and dragons. The BOOOOOMS and Tickkkkkks were delightful.

We had a blast reading children's stories yesterday. We will continue.

There are times when kids deal with difficult issues. I wrote the following piece to capture the loss of a pet.

Gizmo’s Spot
Alfred W. Tatum
January 11, 2010
5:57pm on the Metra

This was his third trip to the doctor in as many weeks. The hope we once had was gone. Last night was the hardest for us as he lay in the dark basement in a spot that comforted him. He refused to eat, refused to move. Nothing worked. I was not only concerned for him; I worried about his best friend, Andrew. The loss of a friend is hard to swallow when you are really young.

“He’s going to make it dad.”

These were Andrew’s words earlier in the week when he heard about his friend’s disease. I tried to explain that some things are just out of our control. He covered his ears and refused to listen to me. This was the first time Andrew acted stubborn. He was usually an easy-going kid. The idea of losing Gizmo changed him.

“Look what I got!”

These were mom’s words when she surprised Andrew with a kitten. Frankly, we were all surprised. This was Andrew’s first pet. He had his very own kitten. Small. Cute. Playful. The kitten started reaching for the string on mom’s white coat.

“Mom look, he likes your string. I got a string.”

Andrew ran up the stairs and removed a string from an old shoe. He rushed down the stairs almost tripping before sliding on the floor to be close to Gizmo. He pulled the string and Gizmo chased it. He held the string over Gizmo’s head and Gizmo reached for it. They were in string heaven.

“This is the one,” I said.

“Mom, can he sleep in my room?”

“We have to help him get used to his litter box first.”

“How long will that take? I will take him to the litter box when he has to use the bathroom.”

“Cats are not like dogs, Andrew. They train themselves.”

Gizmo was going to his litter box before bedtime. Andrew left his bedroom door cracked and a nightlight on hoping that Gizmo would find him. The next morning, to his delight, Gizmo found a spot near Andrew’s feet.

“Mom, Gizmo slept in my bed. He likes me.”

For the next three months, Andrew found Gizmo at his feet when he woke up in the morning. Then one morning, Gizmo was not there. Instead, he slept in the corner of Andrew’s closet. He did not follow Andrew down the stairs to breakfast as usual. He did not chase after the string. Gizmo stared at Andrew with his adoring eyes, but he did not move.

“Do you think Gizmo is overweight,” my wife asked.

“I notice some bloating in his stomach, but the rest of his body looks normal.”

“We should take him to the doctor just to make sure everything is okay.”

Three days later, my wife took Gizmo to the veterinarian. By this time, he had stopped eating. His water bowl was full at the end of the day. The bloating was not going away. Gizmo stopped running, stopped chasing the string; he stopped being, Gizmo.

It was a gray Friday afternoon, but Gizmo seemed happy in the doctor’s arms. His eyes turned toward Andrew as he was lying on the examination table.

“It’ll be okay, Gizzy. The doctor just needs to help you get better. You’ll be chasing strings again before you know it.”

The doctor decided to keep Gizmo overnight. This was Gizmo’s first night away.

“Is he coming home tomorrow, mom?”

“Yes, Andrew. The doctor just wants to make sure he’s okay.”

Gizmo came home Friday afternoon, but he was not better. Andrew was just happy to have his kitten home.

“Mom, Gizmo made a mess on the floor.”

This was the first time Gizmo failed to use his litter box. He did not have the energy to go to the basement. My wife called the doctor and explained what happened. Gizmo would have to return to the doctor on Monday. He was placed in the basement over the weekend because he did not have the energy to climb the stairs.  It was a long weekend. Gizmo was starving himself. The smell of home cooked potpies did not entice him to eat. We blasted the music and danced around him with dangling strings. He followed us with his eyes, but he did not move. We were all sad.

I was at work on Monday evening when my wife called.

“Well, I just received the news about Gizmo. He will not be able to return home."

Immediately, I thought about Andrew. As suddenly as Gizmo came into our lives, he was leaving us. I asked to speak to Andrew before my wife shared the sad news.

“Hey Drew.”

“Hey dad.”

“How was school?”

“Not so good. I was asked to write about a problem and explain how I dealt with it.”

“What did you write?”

“Nothing. I just live my life. I don’t have any problems. I am just a happy kid.”

“We’ll talk about it when I get home tonight.”

“Here’s mom, bye dad.”

Gizmo had twenty-four hours left. We decided to let Andrew stay up as late as he wanted to be with him. He decided to sleep in the basement on the couch near Gizmo’s bed. I went down to check on them just after midnight. They were both sound asleep. Andrew and Gizmo were enjoying their last night together.

“How was it,” I asked my wife.

“It was pretty sad. It seemed like he knew what was going to happen.”

“Why do you say that?”

“During his final trip to doctor’s office, he refused to come out of his carrying case. He just meowed and meowed and meowed. I never heard him sound like that.”

We shared the news with Andrew tonight. He did not say much at the dinner table. This was unusual.

“I think I am going to bed early tonight.”

“Okay, I’ll be up to tuck you in.”

I went upstairs twenty minutes later and found Andrew’s door shut for the first night in three months. There was no need to keep it open. I heard him crying softly. When I cracked his door, I saw him lying at the other end of his bed. Andrew was lying in Gizmo’s spot. My son’s best friend was gone and he knew it.

Today, you will write another children's story that aligns with the aims of our Preamble.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Children's Stories - Day 9

I see you. I hear you. Tickle. Tickle.

There is no better joy than witnessing a young boy fall love with reading. I appreciate their first attempts to use words and language to navigate through their young worlds. They need authors who write for them for this to happen  We will write for the next generation of African American boys to let them know - I see you; I hear you. Let your words seep into their young lives.

We will write children's stories for those who come after us. Think about the young brother and sister sitting in the classroom, bedroom, or library bored because they are struggling to find a book that resonates with them. Let's write for them using colorful words and rich language. Help them smile, laugh, feel warm, get excited, or get lost in their imaginations. We can also write to empathize with them and show them that we care about their young pains.

I wrote the following to capture kids' growing pains and pleasures.

Could Barely
Alfred Tatum

I sat in the car.
I could barely see out of the window.

I went to the park.
I could barely shoot in the basket.

I went to the carnival.
I could barely reach the line.

I got a new bike.
I could barely turn the pedals.

I went shopping with my mom.
I could barely carry the bag.

I took a long trip.
I could barely stay awake.

I was racing my big sister.
I could barely keep pace.

I was playing baseball with my father.
I could barely throw the ball.

I watched a scary movie.
I could barely sleep.

I started doing things made for five-year-olds.
I could barely believe how much fun I was having.

My little sister came to my room.
She could barely do the things I do.

I could barely stop laughing.

A BA from Institute 1 wrote:

Missing Teeth
By Deonte Jones

My name is James. I can wiggle a front tooth and don’t know why.
Sometimes it gets boring and I sigh.

When I kept wiggling, my mom said stop.
When I didn’t listen, I got popped.

I asked why I could wiggle my tooth.
My mom said because it is loose.

What will happen to my tooth?
It is going to go poof.

Why is my tooth,
Going to go poof?

The tooth fairy will fly through your window,
And she will get your tooth from under your pillow.

I don’t want her to take my tooth.
How come she just cant go poof.

You should let her take it sonny,
Afterwards, she will give you money.

Well, I can’t say no to money.
I’ll think about it over some bread and honey.

This bread and honey is very good.
You should make some more, you really should.

Mom, mom, my mouth feels funny.
Where the tooth is feels kind of gummy.

NOOOOOOOOOO! My tooth fell out.
It just dropped right out my mouth.

The tooth fairy will come take my tooth.
I don’t want it to go poof.

Mom, mom, help me please.
I’m begging you. I’m on my knees.

Tell the fairy to go away,
to come again another day.

Tell her to get a different tooth.
I don’t want mine to go poof.

Wait, Wait, I do want money.
Then maybe you can go buy more honey.

That would be great, it sure would.
It might go well, it should, it should.

Now I can’t wait for the fairy to come.
Now I don’t think that she is dumb.

I can’t wait to loose another tooth,
So the tooth fairy can make it go poof.

Let's have fun with our words and characters.

You will post your children's story here today. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Placing Your Voices at the Center - Day 8

This is our last day of Black Shorts. Continue to capture the moments.

Humor - Captured by your voices
They (bullets) Have No Names - Captured by your voices
Human Trafficking - Captured by your voices
Fear and Anxiety - Captured by your voices
A Day in Paradise - Captured by your voices

You are writing for yourselves and writing for others. Your voices are capturing the universality of who we are and what we need to pay attention to.

I was so impressed by the words and reading of Brother Author Armand. His voice and text will stay with me forever.

Other BAs are providing smooth descriptors that ease you into their stories.

Elie Wiesel stated

When human lives are endangered, when human dignity  is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.  Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe.

Thanks for placing your voices at the center of so many issues.

Post you completed short stories here today.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Representations - Worthy or Unworthy - Day 7

Brother Authors,

I noticed that several of you have "rushed" representations of African American males and females. Your writings provide representations of language (e.g., goonies) and images (e.g., she had a nice body).   What impressions do your representations leave? Are you taking "care" as a writer to shape lasting representations? I want you to be honest and fearless with your pens, but I also want you to be extremely thoughtful and protect your agenda.

Let's think about our representations in our writing. Essentially, the representations you provide will dictate how you are viewed in the world's imagination.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

We Must Teach! We Must Instruct! - Day 6

Too often, African American males are reduced to the "percentage strategy."
"Black Percentage Strategy"

"Gun violence is up in Chicago, but the crime rate is down 10%. This is good news."

This is not good news to me. This is tragic when you think about who is most affected and afflicted by gun violence.

I read the following in today's Chicago Sun-Times:

"And how long will a young person who is struggling with basic reading, writing and math skills be content to sit in the back of the classroom pretending to learn. It won’t be long before that kid finds himself carrying a gun like a bookbag."

Let's continue to write to teach beyond the percentages.

"If only 5% of you die, then we are successful."

"If only 20% of you drop out, then we are successful."

"If 70% of you had fathers in your home, then we are successful."

"If 60% of you are employed, then we are successful."

Black Percentages - what are they? Conduct the research.
Which percentages matter?

"Most likely to..." - Conduct the research

What story can you write to prevent African American males from being whacked?

I wrote the following short story, Black Bag to stress the need for us to redefine our strategies and spaces.

Black Bag

            Lil’ Joe sat in the back of the car with a stupid look on his face. The large graffiti-laced t-shirt and hanging jeans with large cuffs hugging the ground at the back of multi-colored gym shoes marked him as a young man looking for trouble. The bulky bag he was toting raised suspicion. His run-in caused him to imagine the weight of Mrs. Jackson’s disappointment. He heard her saying, “Stay out of trouble.” He was excited and scared at the same time. He would become one of the guys after sharing what happened tonight; he was now a first-timer, an official member of the brotherhood. 
            Lil’’ Joe felt the sting of the man’s tone when he was asked, “What’s in that bag?” Unfamiliar with the protocol, the caringly harsh question that he knew he had to answer troubled him.  He hesitated to speak. Saying the wrong thing could escalate the situation. An inner voice remind him of a conversation when he heard, “I ‘ont say nothing when they ask me questions. A second later he remembered, “I make up any old lie.” But, there was no reason for him to lie.
            “Did you hear me ask you a question?”
Shaken from his thoughts in his tightly squeezed space, Lil’’ Joe was about talk when the cell phone mounted on the dashboard rang. On the fourth ring, the phone answered automatically.
            “Hi, are you busy right now, dad?”
            “No, what’s going on?
 “I am just sitting here with one of your brothers.”
            “Not again.”
            The boy on the other end sounded like he was about the same age. It was quite stirring to hear the other boy use the word dad in such a warm way, he thought.  He remembered his days as Little Man, but that name didn’t fit his 6’ 1’’ 177 lbs frame anymore.
            “I just wanted to say goodnight and let you know that I finished the project we   started.”
Lil’ Joe was fifteen, and he hadn’t seen Big Joe in more than six years. Big Joe just stopped coming around one day. For months, Lil’ Joe longed for a phone call or visit, but they never happened. Trying the ease the pain in his heart, he just decided to bury Big Joe. Hearing the boy on the other end of the line reminded of how Big Joe’s hands swallowed up crayons and pencils as they worked together.  Big Joe always talked about how important it was for a man to have big hands. It made Lil’ Joe happy to see how his father could make other people smile with those hands. Strangely, in some sick sort of way, Lil’ Joe was proud of his daddy’s hands.
“Mom wanted me to tell you she wasn’t able to pick up your package. So you have to pick it up in the morning when you get off.”
            “No problem.”
            “Be easy on them out there.”
            “Will do. Love you, son.”
            Lil’ Joe thought to himself, I love you too.  He mouthed the words silently as he heard them coming through the speakerphone. Instantly, he felt angry. He wanted to reach and choke the boy who called him, Brother. He is no Brother of mine, he thought.  His brothers, who were with him all the time, were in the bag he carried.
            “What’s your name?”
            “ Lil’ Joe.”
            “Is there a Big Joe, and does he know you are running the streets?”
            “No, there is no Big Joe. He died long time ago.”
            “ So, what’s in the bag?”
A call came over the radio reporting a shooting on South Aberdeen Avenue and 72nd place. Sirens were blaring in the background, but Lil’ Joe he had a weakened state of anxiety. Sitting in the car several blocks away from the call, the officer told Lil’ Joe to get out of the car and go straight home. The warm tone the man used on the phone turned harsh again. Lil’ Joe grabbed his black bag and jumped out of the door on the left side near the curb. His first run-in was not as exciting as he thought it would be. He would be laughed out if he talked about being in the back of car with a man who loves his son; works on projects with him; and who has to pick up his own clothes in the morning. He couldn’t share how he started missing in his own father.
            Lil’ Joe almost had the chance to share what he was doing.  Maybe the officer would see him as being different and safe, not just another one of the Brothers that he tells his son about. As he walked home, he felt his bag becoming bulkier. It was light three years ago when he started carrying the bag to honor the memory of his best friend, Ray Ray.  This year, there were more than twenty-six deaths in one school year. He was using his bag to keep his real Brothers alive. He was sketching images. Among the main images, were cars, trees, a front porch, a vacant, a basketball court, a school, a park, a gym, an el train, and a bus stop; each with a face and name that others have forgotten or will soon forget. There were images of Carl, Derrick, Phil, Main-Main, Corey, Eric, and Dusty placed in the shadows of city’s flag. He scribbled the same note under each image that said - This flag does nothing to protect the brothers who live under its banner. Tomorrow, there might be another name and another image in the shadow of the same flag. Lil’ Joe had more images to capture. The weight of the bag could not compete with the burden in his heart. He then wondered if this is what Big Joe meant when he said it was important for a man to have big hands. 

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