You Could Have Been Kenneka Jenkins

You Could Have Been Kenneka Jenkins

I wish the world cared.

The Kenneka Jenkins story urks my soul. I can’t get it out of my mind. I have obsessed over it, the situation, the room, the atmosphere- I have watched speculation videos, I have read countless of articles about her mysterious death. She was your typical teen out on a typical night headed to a party. She didn't know this would be her last night on earth. Her mama didn't know she would never see her child again.

I care about Kenneka Jenkins just like I care about the young women in my community. Kenneka was found dead in a hotel freezer. Police are saying drugs and alcohol were possibly involved. This death would have slipped through the cracks if it had not been for social media. I cannot digest this story. In someways, I feel our community is responsible for her death. In regards to our young people, we must do better.

Kenneka wasn’t just a teenager; she was a daughter, a sister, and a friend. Kenneka had a purpose. This death is a tragedy, not a spectacle. Like many black women, we have been ridiculed by society.

Our own community exploits, abuse, and bullies then discards us like old news. We have no protectors; there are no groups that advocate for black women. Black women are taught from an early age to "trust no one" and be independent. Why? Because who has our back?

A teenage girl lost her life due to negligent friends who didn’t give a damn about her. She made poor choices, but how many of us haven’t? I can only imagine what happened that night and it’s not good. I wonder how could someone's “friends” leave their friend drunk an unattended.

Kenneka could have been you. You could have been the drunk girl that no one cared about. You could have been the girl found mysteriously dead in freezer- a cold case.

Imagine this:

That hotel room was filled of aggression, drunkenness, and hormones playing Russian Roulette. The men there were expecting sex and seeking pleasure. The crowd just wants to have fun. We all know this game, the game of risk and pleasure, the game of tension and sex.

Open bottles of White and Brown liquor lay on the table. The jelly shot you made and the mixed drinks your best friend stayed all night making are scattered on the floor. Future is playing in the background and everybody is high and enjoying life, smoking and drinking, chilling. It’s a kickback, going to the club gets old and you are tired of turning up with strangers. Your best friend told you weeks in advance she was going to hook up with older dude from a local college. She wants you to hook up with his friend.

You see him on social media. He’s cute. He follows you on the gram, you follow back, DMs back and forth till the day of the party; you know him. You aren’t interested in him, but you don’t want to be a lame. Your best friend tries to convince you he’s cool. You don’t want to ruin your best friends plan so you go along with it. The day of the party, she tells you to "wear something sexy." You pick a nice outfit to show off your figure. You pick a crop top and blue jeggings. You don’t want to overdo it. You not a ho and you not at the club so you want to be chill and cute. Besides people think you're stuck up.

You want to show people that you can have fun too. You're not planning on having sex, so you good, nothing to worry about. The kickback begins at 11. A few girls you don’t know well come over and then the guys come over. The ratio is right. For every girl, there is a boy. People are having a good time. Before you know it, it's one in the morning. You and let's call him Brandon are talking, but you don’t want him like that.

The party thins out its only 6 people left. Your best friend tells you she and her guy are going upstairs. You ask your friend confirmation on staying the night. She tells you not to worry. You’ll be straight everybody else will leave. You can’t say nothing, you didn’t drive, and the house is an hour from your dorm. You can’t walk back not in the dark by yourself. You didn’t plan on staying the night. Ole dude with you is drunk, the other guy and girl are leaving. So it’s just you and him.

This is what happened to me;

I was on the couch. He sat next to me.

“You want to watch a movie?” he asked.

I said sure. I was planning on staying up. I was uncomfortable and I didn’t trust him. He was a tall guy, 6ft 5, and sturdy. He put on some Netflix. He got close to me. I was stiff. He told me to relax, but I couldn’t relax. I wanted to run upstairs and tell my friend that I was ready to go, but I didn’t move. I was stuck. My body turned cold. I could feel my heart climbing up my throat.

It was like I was paralyzed. He rubbed the outside of thigh with his dry hand. He told me I looked good. I whispered Thank you. The room staled. The liquor on his breath stank and his gestures were clumsy. He cracked a couple of jokes but the room stayed still. He then tried to bury his face in my neck. I sprung up like I touched something hot. He stood up too. I told him don’t touch me. He told me to calm down. He was laughing, I wasn’t.

“I’m not going to mess with you” he said. He tried to scoop me up, but I planted my feet firmly in the ground.

I told him to stay on the far side of the room and I’ll stay on mine. He agreed. I sat on the couch, played on my phone until my phone went dead. His eyes stayed on me and when they left they look at the TV. Surprisingly, we were watching the movie Enough.

I was able to calm myself down, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of paranoia. I waited for him to go to sleep and when he knocked out a wave of relief came over me. It was 3:00 am. I decided to close my eyes and get some sleep. I fell asleep quick, but then I felt something sticky on my leg. I opened my eyes and I saw arm underneath my top.

A large hand was cupping my breast. His other hand squeezed my quad. A wet suction was on my neck. His hot beady tongue glided down my neck. I tensed up. A rough voice told me to relax. I nodded in fear. I didn’t make a sound and I didn’t try to leave. His left hand scurried to find my sipper a low moan escaped his lips. I stayed there.

He couldn’t find the sipper so he became irritated. He coaxed me rubbing over my leggings. He then tried to spread my legs open, but my legs were squeezed shut. I clasped my hands together and I crossed my ankles. I tucked my body in and rammed myself forward to the board of the couch. I squeezed my eyes shut and I grimace.

If he wanted to rape he would have to pry me open. He went for my vagina before he could touch it. I pressed my legs together so tight pain from groin shot up to my stomach. I continued to stay in the fetal position, he began to grunt and put his sex on my back. I folded myself together like a pretzel. I didn’t say anything. He fought to get my legs free but he couldn’t. He tired once last time to break me open, but I was like a rock. He could not move me.

Finally, he gave up. I stayed like that till morning. I don’t know how, but I fell asleep and when I woke, he was off the couch slumped over. My instincts kicked in, I went to the kitchen and grabbed a knife. When he awoke I told him the next time he touched me I would kill him or call the police. He left just like that. I never told my friends at the time what happened, but I never hung out with them again, because I knew real friends won’t leave you with a stranger drunk.

Real friends will protect you from anyone including yourself. Real friends will make sure you get home safely. Kenneka’s friends may have not set up her, but they damn sure didn’t try to help her when she needed them most. There is nothing wrong with having a “mama” friend because those friends that act like a mom, you know the ones that are Debbie Downers are looking out for you. And chances are when the rubber hits the road they will save your life.

Cover Image Credit: Chicago Tribune

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A Different Kind Of Normal

Should you try to fit in if you're eccentric? What about the other way around?

Any of my friends who know me on an intimate personal level will understand that I have made choices in the past and attempted to comport myself in a manner that would suggest a normal personality and temperament. Not necessarily an attempt to be one of the beautiful people, but, I would exert an unreasonable amount of effort into conveying a person that can be singularized to a particular identity, whether that be goth, nerd, Southern (which absolutely no one took seriously), grungy, and, even preppy.

One day, I would make the decision to wear khaki pants, a button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and a pair of Sperry’s. Then, I’d suddenly want to wear brown cargo pants, converse with Harley Quinn and the Joker, a black shirt and a grungy-looking coat. One can’t forget my brief and comedic attempt at wearing a synthetic muscle shirt, tight jeans, black cowboy boots, and, shamelessly try-hard sunglasses. I refused to be who I am, which is a genuine eccentric. Even when I attempted to wear one of these costumes that I designed with the attempt at portraying a typical role, I’d still meet new people, and, once they somewhat knew me after hanging out a single time, they’d refer to me as “strange,” and, whether they use that term in a positive or disrespectful manner (more often than not, it was in a positive manner), it caused me to feel very insecure and uncomfortable.

The classic “cognitive dissonance” theory states that cognitive dissonance occurs when you realize, either by your own recognition of a actions and characteristics or other people’s reactions and judgments, that the self-image you’ve programmed yourself to be pleased with contradicts your personality, social role, character, or, even morals, and you suddenly feel uniquely uncomfortable.

I remember my uncle, a person that I share generally eccentric quirks with, would sometimes remark, “Strange boy,” when I would state or do something strange or uncharacteristic of a normal person with a familiar personality. I can remember my professor telling me that I’d love her class because all of the movies are weird like me. I remember classmates in high school who desperately wanted to fit in with a clique would dislike me because of my eccentric nature. And, I would see my peers try so desperately to be unique or strange by awkwardly conveying a fake nature just as I did. I would think to myself that I was well-aware of my own eccentric nature, and, I didn’t understand why a normal person would want to be that way.

Being eccentric is why I say the things I say, do the things I do, and think the things that I think. It’s why I’m walking through campus, look at my watch which doesn’t tell the date, and wonder whether it could be two days too fast since it doesn’t tell me the date. It’s why I express random colloquialisms or use strange wording that I’ve never heard anyone use as if they’re typical phrases, like, “That is immensely exciting” or, “This is a very abstruse conversation.” Or I’ll restructure obscure quotes and say things like, “Hey, if you’re the chaos, then I’m the dancing star!” Or, maybe, “I wouldn’t stare into that abyss for too long!” Of course, both of these examples are Nietzsche quotes, but, it’s the only ones I could recall.

Being eccentric is why I sometimes walk without swaying my arms, and, it’s why I like music like Marilyn Manson and PJ Harvey. It’s why I sometimes wear black button-up shirts with black jogging pants and a pair of converse for the sake of feeling comfortable and slick. It’s why I sometimes initiate conversations with people asking them about their favorite movies or school subjects, or, maybe just asking, “Do you like anime?” And, it’s why, in an informal conversation, if you ask me a simple question, I’ll go on a long tangent that may or may not arrive at a point that relates to what you just asked me.

Being an eccentric isn’t an attempt at being “special” or “precious.” There are eccentrics the whole world ‘round. The importance of recognizing that you’re a genuine eccentric is not only recognizing that you’re different from the majority of people but, also, that we’re all the same. After beginning the process of coming to terms with my eccentric nature, I found myself becoming friends with people from drastically different backgrounds. Conservative and liberal. Straight and gay. Preppy and alternative. Warm and cold. Religious and non-religious.

Once again quoting my uncle, everyone’s unique like everyone else. Many fit in with the typical crowd, and many don’t. There are those that fit in that don’t mind, and there are those that fit in and thrive on it, but, there are also those who naturally fit in but wish they could be different or unique. Then, there are those who don’t fit in. There are those that are fine with that, there are those that thrive on it, and there are those, like I have been in the past, that desperately want to fit in.

I’ll spare myself the cliche of saying, “Be yourself.” I think it’s fairly clear that someone like me encourages staunch individuality. But, all I’ll suggest is that the only people who are truly unique are the people who desperately try to be anyone that they aren’t. Reconciling my eccentric nature and accepting my awkward social role is how I make friends, meet new people, constantly evaluate my principles and concepts, and slowly make progress towards a fulfilling life.

I’m eccentric. Maybe, you’re normal, or, maybe you’re not. We’re all alternative. And, that’s an eccentric way of conveying that thought.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Why you should speak your mind when nobody's listening

If you’re reading this, I probably know your name.

We’ve probably met in person anywhere from a few to a thousand times, and I would consider you a friend. You’ll likely continue to read the rest of this article out of either curiosity or an uncomfortable sense of obligation.

And if not, you’re probably an Odyssey editor who’s checking this article over to make sure that I’m not corrupting the public with Satanist propaganda or posting 46 pages of biology notes online because I think it’s funny.

The reason I feel so comfortable making all these claims is because I think most people are pretty lazy, and it goes without saying that I am no exception.

That’s why I’m writing this article about something so abstract and vague, simply because it’s easy to ramble about. Anyway, my idea here is this: because the general public is lazy (allow me this assumption for the sake of discussion), a vast majority of possible viewers of this article, or any other one, can’t be bothered to read it. Why should they be? To them, I’m an irrelevant name attached to another Odyssey article, which are generally pretty annoying to scroll through on Facebook, so most people opt out of it altogether.

What the hell is the point then? Even if you are a total stranger who’s legitimately interested in my opinion on opinions, I’m apparently so convinced that you aren’t that I’ve already dedicated half the article to explaining why I think you aren’t. So why didn’t I delete this article halfway through and quit the Odyssey? I considered it, but the answer is because I like talking to myself. And I think you should too.

The worst possible quality a human being can have is a lack of conviction. Personally, I find it to be a colossal turn-off. If you don’t think and believe of your own accord, you truly have nothing. In the face of the most severe misfortune and tragedy, all that remains is what exists within our minds, which can never be taken away.

Our opinions drive the way we live: the way we act, speak, treat others, and are perceived by others is dictated by our views. Without them, is not an individual, but a drifting sack of water and blood that can be swept up in the turmoil of the outside world without resistance.

Thusly, the constant formation and presence of opinions in our thoughts is an essential part of being alive. One of the best ways to foster this development is writing.

Because you’re my friend, a well-meaning editor, or a stranger who’s heard me out for this long already, I know you’ll believe me when I say that I honestly had no earthly idea what this article was going to be about until I started writing it.

To be frank, I wasn’t entirely aware that I had such strong opinions about opinions until the moment I wrote this sentence.

We assume that we know the ins and outs of our brains without question. This idea makes sense, but I don’t believe it to be true whatsoever. Scouring through one’s own mind through the act of writing, forces deeper, substantive thought to occur. Addressing a hypothetical audience makes the author work to fully expound upon his own ideas. The rationale behind this process is that the reader has to be able to understand the author’s writing- but doing so allows the author to get an even clearer perception of their own thoughts.

This is not to say that we need to write in order to “really” access the cryptic, foggy clutter of the mind. However, articulating your own thoughts, be it through text, speech, or any other medium, is an excellent way to flesh out concepts in an effective and fairly easy way.

Because you’re my dear friend/editor/unlikely reader, I want to tell you this: I don’t care if you write, I just want you to think. Writing helps me think, but it doesn’t help everybody- nothing helps everybody do anything.

Read a book, listen to a song, take 82,000 micrograms of pure LSD (maybe not). Whatever gives you the fullest command over your own thoughts, do that. I’m of the opinion that you should want to do it.

Because if you don’t think for yourself, what makes you “yourself?” Award-winning author Flannery O’Connor once said, “I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say.” So if you think I’m a pretentious jerk, maybe you should write about it.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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