"It's Why It Hurts," a stream of consciousness essay by Tomas Riviera, jumps from an acute awareness of the surroundings of the narrator, a young boy of Mexican descent, to flashbacks of conversations and experiences the boy has had while going to school. The essay is part of the curriculum of the Berkeley middle school where I volunteer as a Writer Coach. It is a difficult essay to read and a challenge for the students.
The essay shows us the growing realization of the narrator about the embedded prejudices in his school. He thinks about the bullies who picked on him, his fights with them, and his ultimate expulsion that day. We hear through his thoughts that his teachers and principal don't think of him as "one of our kids," and therefore he can be easily separated from the school. As he tries to understand what has happened to him, he walks through the gates of a cemetery. He likes the property because it is quiet and green. As he nears the exit gate, he looks up and sees the sign that says, "Don't Forget Me."
The image of the sign resonated with me. The message made me think of the horrific events in the last few weeks, natural and man-made. How many lives lost or disrupted, especially due to senseless gunfire. I want to say, "Don't forget all the people who have lost their lives, whose names are broadcast on the news because they have died of gunshot wounds, people like Trayvon Martin, or the police in Dallas, or those who lost their lives in Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas and more. They all need to be remembered, one by one."
They all cry out, "Don't Forget Me," and then they ask, "What are you going to do about it? Prayers and thoughts are not enough. We need your collective strength to be the change that we all need. Make that our legacy."
This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.