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Childhood's End

Salisa came to visit us in class last week. She was scheduled to graduate from Douglass last year, but somehow the scheduling process and transcript transfers left her missing one required class. Many of our students in New Orleans have faced similar problems since the hurricane. From missing course transcripts and botched schedules to lost scores on the state’s graduation exam, these young people continue to be pounded by the aftermath of Katrina.

Some of them give up. And some, like Salisa, persevere. It’s a skill she’s perfected. Last year she traveled from Algiers, on the west bank of New Orleans, to the other side of town. Her beloved Landry High had not reopened, and she did not want to be part of the charter schools on the west bank of the city, the only type of school that was open near her home. She “chose” to come to Douglass, and we were fortunate to have her in our English classes.

This brief narrative she wrote last year gives a glimpse of the strong will she developed from her parents. She’s taking her last high school class now, and she will graduate in May.

Not The White One
Salisa Johnson

salisa.JPG

I was 8 years old turning 9 in a couple of days, and I saw this “My Size Doll” commercial, and I ran to tell my mom. But by the time she came the commercial had ended. My mother and I went to Toys R’ Us, and they only had white dolls. Hearing “I’m not buying that White doll,” I screamed to the top of my lungs. I scratched, punched and kicked to get this doll. But it didn’t work.

The next day I told my daddy about the doll. So we went to Wal-Mart. They only had White dolls, but my dad still bought me the My Size Doll I wanted.

I was worried that my mom wouldn’t let me keep the doll. So when I got home I opened my pack of crayons and colored the forehead, the front of the arms, and the front of the legs brown. When my mother came home, she saw me playing with the doll. I was relieved that she was too tired to bother me about the doll. Later that night I fell asleep next to my newly tanned friend.

The next morning when I woke up my doll should have been next to me. I started searching high and low until my oldest sister said, “Mama threw it away.” My mother had broken the arms and the legs and put the pieces in the trash outside. I cried and cried, because that’s what I really wanted. The next morning was my birthday, and I received a Black “Walk With Me Doll” named Rita and a Black “My Size Doll” named Nune. I didn’t hold a grudge about my murdered doll. After all I was only 9 years old.

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