Interviewer – “If anyone in the audience hadn’t heard it already, these were the exact words of Ms. Lynon”

“Yes, Carters Reynoldsburg High School, where youth care more about their ‘street cred’ than their actual education. A failing public district school that doesn’t seem to produce any more graduates than they do criminals. At Reynoldsburg, students seem to simply disregard their education as unimportant as they don’t even show up. According to the national center for education statistics, the attendance rate is just below 41% but this cramped building holds around 720 students. Out of all the students walking down these hallways, guess how many will walk down the graduation aisle? Well if you guessed at least 90%, you are sadly mistaken. The graduation rate here is only 44% because the majority of these students are instead going on to become rappers, drug dealers, and even teen mothers! 

* The cameraman proceeded to zoom in on Akiela’s locker memorial* 

And there goes Akiela- Abisai Brown, the teen mom who passed away last year. Seems like the staff allow students to pay remembrance to her. I hope they also teach their students to not go down the path she did. Unfortunately, it seems many young African American teens at this institute are already headed on that path. In everybody’s best interest, the parents of these rebels will instill a sense of direction in them. I’m Jessica Lynon, thank you and back to you Jake”.

Interviewer – “My name is Lauryn Baker and I am here today with Carters Reynoldsburg High School sophomore, Chandice! Chandice, we appreciate you being here. It takes a lot of courage to speak out publicly against such a big news outlet. We appreciate you standing behind your school and friend. The words used to describe your Reynoldsburg on the ninth of June were extremely offensive and insensitive. Please tell us how you feel.”

Chandice – I just finished my freshman year at Carters Reynoldsburg High School. It’s one of the many high schools of district 9 in the neighborhood I live in. I live in an area where trends are started, music is made, and cultures are celebrated. It’s full of life here! But unfortunately, it is also full of death. Murders, to be more specific. However, the only murders that are being reported are the ones that are at the hands of my brothers. Out of all the culture that resides here, America is only being shown our gang culture. The only music artists from here mentioned are rappers whose lyrics are used to create criminal narratives of them. The only street dancers that I see on TV are the ones strung out on drugs. I have a problem with the fact that I never see the students who are now thriving in STEM fields be praised for coming up against the odds. I never saw the numbers put out regarding how many of our people’s lives are taken from the guns in police officers’ hands. Not once have I seen any of our up and coming indie or neo-soul singers be promoted on the news. 

Interviewer – “It must be difficult for you to hear your high school be talked about in such a negative light. I’m glad you, an actual student, are here to get your story out. Can you recall your reaction to the report on Carters Reynoldsburg High School?” 

Chandice – I remember turning to our local news channel that night and seeing the headlines “Carters Reynoldsburg High School has more dropouts than graduates, more drugs than textbooks and more fights than classrooms”. Something about that headline had sparked a nerve. The choice of words just hadn’t sat right with me. Grabbing my attention, I continued to watch the news reporter cover what was titled the “horrendous state” of our school. I had a feeling it would only go downhill from there because we did face our lowest graduation rate this year. However, the collective mourning we are in due to the loss of my best friend wouldn’t be taken into consideration. I motioned my mother to the living room so that she could watch the news with me. She was appalled. 

Interviewer – “I think the most shocking words that were said are around your dear friend’s death. How do you feel about Reporter Lynon’s choice of words?”

Chanice – Akiela did not simply pass away. She was murdered in cold blood by a white man with a badge. Akiela would have walked down the graduation aisle with her cap and gown on. I would have been walking right next to her. She was not a criminal, her body was criminalized. She was more than a teenage mother and much more than a statistic. She was not killed by her daughter’s father or by a girl she had beef with. She was killed by a trigger happy, racist, police officer. It made me feel that justice was never served for Akiela. It makes me feel like, despite her murderer being fired from his police force and put behind bars, she was never actually given justice. It confirms my idea that her life and her baby’s life was never truly valued. It tells me that Akiela was just a hashtag to performative activists. 

Interviewer – “So how will justice be achieved for Akiela, Carters Reynoldsburg High School, and Reynoldsburg county?”

Chanice – Reynoldsburg’s fists will continue to remain tight and up in the air. Our protest signs will remain high. Our sidewalk art depicting her beauty will continue being made. The volume in our voice chanting “JUSTICE FOR AKIELA” will raise. We will be marching down to that news station headquarters. Rain or shine. Her murderer did not care when he dragged her across the wet streets that rainy night. We will keep signing petitions against this biased coverage of Akiela, our neighborhood, and our schools. 

Interviewer – “Lastly, how do you respond to those who say, “Her death was last year. Why are you still fighting now?”

Chanice – Akiela and her baby girl’s life were taken away in 2019. In 2020, her name is still being tarnished. She, her child, and all of her loved ones are still being disrespected. Reynoldsburg is still being disrespected. I will not apologize for the fact that we are not writing papers in classrooms right now. It is difficult to put a pencil in your hands when that pencil could be dropped the next minute at the shout of “HANDS UP”. I’m sorry fewer of us are throwing our graduation caps up this year because we are too busy throwing our hands up shouting “Don’t shoot”. We would rather be throwing our hands up signing Party in the USA like the white kids do but instead, our hands are thrown behind our backs, and that’s only if we are lucky. We can’t fight for a new gymnasium or cafeteria because we have to fight for justice first! 

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