This personal essay is part of the Chalkbeat Student Takeover: a weeklong project meant to elevate the voices of students at this pivotal moment in America. Read more from the takeover here.
To my future self:
I am writing this letter to express my frustration about the things that are happening in my community today, things that I hope are no longer issues in your present. As a Black young man, I am terrified for you. You may be killed for things that a person would consider normal, but here we are today, worried about things such as jogging in public, walking to the corner store for candy, playing with a water gun, and sitting in your own house relaxing. I want to explore the world and not look over my shoulder to make sure my life isn’t in danger.
I plan on attending college four years from now, and I want it to be an experience that I will remember. I shouldn’t be afraid of anything. The only thing I want my mother to be concerned with is if I’m keeping my grades up or how my football season is going.
I am George Floyd! I am Ahmaud Arbery! I am Trayvon Martin! I am Tamir Rice! As a member of the Black community, I can see myself in all of these men. At any point and time this could be my family in these situations because a white person who feels as if he is privileged decides he wants to end my life.
My life matters.
Your life matters.
I am someone important. I will grow into a successful adult who will make a difference in this world.
I will do all that I can to ensure that my community is in the best hands by becoming the best me and giving back. I hope you are, too.
Jasin Shiggs originally wrote this letter to his future self as part of a school assignment in response to the recent killings of Black men and women throughout the country. He just completed eighth grade at KIPP TEAM Academy in Newark.