A Letter To The Friend I Never Got To Say Goodbye To

A Letter To The Friend I Never Got To Say Goodbye To

I will take your memory with me wherever I go.
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Dear Justin,

I'm sorry this took so long, but I wanted to make sure I obtained the platform that both of us could be heard on before I even considered writing this. For so long you ran through my mind because I felt I never properly got to say goodbye to you, but now what better way would there be than to let everyone know how much you meant to those around you, and for anyone else feeling the same way to know that it's going to be OK.

Throughout our lives, you were always teaching me lessons on the block. Among the big kids, we always tried to fit in. We played basketball, football, man-hunt, and boxes on the Brooklyn sidewalks of Washington Avenue between DeKalb and Willoughby for years. We were the little ones of the group, as we always tried our best to fit in with those who were years older than us. Bumps, bruises, cuts, and scars on our bodies were the gifts that the block that raised us, left on our bodies as memories that we would hold dear for years to come. I know you remember just as much as I do being laughed at, and enjoying the summer days because we had nothing to worry about as kids. You were one of my best childhood friends, whether it was inside playing Xbox, or outside creating mischief, no adventure was too big for us to embark on.

July 2017 was a period that helped me grow much more than I thought it would. One of those reasons was because of your passing. I remember seeing you two days prior, and everything being well. Of course, with time we didn't talk as much as we should've, but we both knew what the deal was. Whatever you needed I was there and vice versa; it was always just good to see that youth we grew up with was alive and thriving. The news soon came and sent disbelief throughout the building we grew up in, and the hearts of those who raised us. You know it doesn't really hit you at first; one day you're making sure everything is good with each other and the next you realize that was the last time I'd see you. We got together, made a vigil, and parted ways as we tried to retain our best and most important memories with you.

These memories, these events, helped me grow in ways you may have never realized. For a while, I forgot what it was like to lose someone so close to you to senseless acts of violence, not that I wanted to remember, but it reminds you sometimes of the things you fight for on a daily basis. Prior to losing you, I lost my cousin in the same fashion. By a gun and the hand of someone who can only be defined as a coward. This reminds you that as a black male, or black individual in general, life can be very short. One thing I never expected at age twenty was to lose someone who I called my friend for pretty much my whole life. You never expect to see something like this. You expect to grow, watch each other succeed and be there at the end of the day to say "I got you, no matter what." But sadly, that isn't the reality youth like you and I get to see because of the world around us.

I watched your mom shed tears like I've never seen, and hope to never see again in my lifetime. Every time I see her, I know that there's a piece of you that she carries everywhere, and every time we speak, I know that I'm speaking to you too. If I could tell her one thing, it would be thank you. Thank you for playing a pivotal role in my childhood, and thank you for letting me grow up with your son, as all the memories we made are memories I'll cherish for years to come.

For months I continued to battle with myself on how I should remember you, and why I couldn't get over the fact that you were no longer going to be here with us. Every day I credit you for my successes and growth as a young adult. I wore your memorial shirt underneath my button-up and tie to my interview for Hunter College, and I credit a big part of my acceptance to you being with me throughout the whole process. Wherever I go I keep your "In Memory" card in my wallet, and your spirit in my heart.

During your vigil, while your mom was speaking, she talked about how she wanted the youth there to succeed and carry on a legacy that you didn't get to. Out of emotion, I yelled and said that we would, and we would carry you in our hearts and on our backs. It was that promise that I will never forget, and it's that promise that I will hold true in every walk of life that I embark on. For you, I will continue my fight against gun violence, continue to fight for the empowerment of Black youth, and continue to become the social worker/psychologist I know I can be. You are my inspiration because you help set the blueprints for my life.

The 1000+ words in this article only capture a glimpse of the adventures and tales we would leave behind in our journey to adulthood. For anyone who reads this, I want this article to be immortalized so all know not only how much you meant to those around you, but so they also know that it's OK to mourn. Everyone is different, and losing a friend is hard, therefore no one should judge how one deals with the loss of a friend. Let your story be a message to those who need it. Remember to put down the weapons, and enjoy the moments you'll always remember with your loved ones.

Justin, I love you, and I will take your memory with me wherever I go.

Cover Image Credit: Kory Longsworth

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10 Things Someone Who Grew Up In A Private School Knows

The 10 things that every private school-goer knows all too well.

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1. Uniforms

Plaid. The one thing that every private school-goer knows all too well. It was made into jumpers, skirts, shorts, scouts, hair ties, basically anything you could imagine, the school plaid was made into. You had many different options on what to wear on a normal day, but you always dreaded dress uniform day because of skirts and ballet flats. But it made waking up late for school a whole lot easier.

2. New people were a big deal

New people weren't a big thing. Maybe one or two a year to a grade, but after freshman year no one new really showed up, making the new kid a big deal.

3. You've been to school with most of your class since Kindergarten


Most of your graduating class has been together since Kindergarten, maybe even preschool, if your school has it. They've become part of your family, and you can honestly say you've grown up with your best friends.

4. You've had the same teachers over and over

Having the same teacher two or three years in a row isn't a real surprise. They know what you are capable of and push you to do your best.

5. Everyone knows everybody. Especially everyone's business.

Your graduating class doesn't exceed 150. You know everyone in your grade and most likely everyone in the high school. Because of this, gossip spreads like wildfire. So everyone knows what's going on 10 minutes after it happens.

6. Your hair color was a big deal

If it's not a natural hair color, then forget about it. No dyeing your hair hot pink or blue or you could expect a phone call to your parents saying you have to get rid of it ASAP.

7. Your school isn't like "Gossip Girl"

There is no eating off campus for lunch or casually using your cell phone in class. Teachers are more strict and you can't skip class or just walk right off of campus.

8. Sports are a big deal

Your school is the best of the best at most sports. The teams normally go to the state championships. The rest of the school that doesn't play sports attends the games to cheer on the teams.

9. Boys had to be clean-shaven, and hair had to be cut

If you came to school and your hair was not cut or your beard was not shaved, you were written up and made to go in the bathroom and shave or have the head of discipline cut your hair. Basically, if you know you're getting written up for hair, it's best just to check out and go get a hair cut.

10. Free dress days were like a fashion show

Wearing a school uniform every day can really drive you mad. That free dress day once a month is what you lived for. It was basically a fashion show for everyone, except for those upperclassmen who were over everything and just wore sweat pants.

Cover Image Credit: Authors Photos

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Look For People Who'll Hurt You, Help You, And Hinder You

Learn from the people that you encounter and simply move accordingly.

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We do not necessarily know if people are real and truly genuine to you and we don't know what people's intentions are towards you. So we have this guard up to the point where we don't even speak to new people. It's a little deranged, but from my experiences and situations I've realized and learned to try with some people without this guard is up, and also being aware to who I let in my life.

Learning that not everyone's intentions are good you kind of have to keep an eye out, that does not mean do not trust anyone, but it means to have your own back first in many situations. I know when to go to people and I know when to distance myself. To get by in life you are going to go through various amounts of people and some will stick around, some will go and some with come back in your life. You just have to learn how to determine what wholesome person is for you and who will stick around with you.

They will Hurt you, they will Help you, and they will Hinder you; the 3 Hs (HHH):

They will HURT you because I believe some people do come in your life to teach you lessons on what not to do in the future. You can't control the actions of others so this WILL happen. You will get hurt. You will have to learn how to deal with this encounter.

They will HELP you there are (believe it or not) people that are genuine and actually mean what they say to you. Those people are rare but we do have at least one person in our life that are like that, and if you think you don't check your roster! There are millions of people in this world with different hearts, you are around one.


Lastly, They will HINDER you Because some people come in your life to kinda set you back. They will keep you from doing certain things in your life to benefit their own needs. You may be blind to such people and you may not know it but look for the signs in people that will only look out for themselves around you, they will set you back.

All in all, the people around you may or may not have bad intentions but it is entirely up to you to determine who is there for you and who has your best interest at heart, I am just here to give you some awareness towards doing so. xo

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