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Perspective | Breaking through concrete to navigate hard moments

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When students at Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies returned to in-person instruction, they faced a tense situation in Elizabeth City. Students from nine different counties were gathering in a new school building — many interacting with each other for the first time — soon after the police killing of Andrew Brown, an unarmed Black man. In response to racist incidents, the school allowed students to lead the way, building a school culture around respect and inclusivity. This series includes five student perspectives and two perspectives from the guidance counselors in their own words.  

My social studies teacher always explained to me that injustice starts with talking, so be quick to listen and slow to respond at all times.

My story begins in a small concrete of chaos. But through it, a rose can grow. Growing up, I had to watch my back everywhere I went. It took a toll on my character today. It’s sometimes made me feel like I am not enough.

I have had to examine that this year at school. With a new school building and everyone coming back, we had a lot of problems. Our school has people coming from everywhere experiencing everything. And experiencing things differently.

The killing of Andrew Brown and Black Lives Matter movements raised a lot of questions that opened a lot of discussion for everyone around. It made me question my safety and change the way I looked at certain people because of their responses to the situation that was vividly present.

All of these problems felt like the concrete of chaos that stumped my way of moving forward. It forced me to close my eyes and decide between becoming a product of what I witness every single day or choosing a different way.

What I have to remember is to be slow to respond to feelings — to choose another route than the one that feels chosen for me. And to be sensitive to the fact that everyone is not going to come with me or, better yet, stick the process out. Because change isn’t comfortable.

I have to remember to go back to the problem and truly dissect my situation. What were the feelings of the people around me? How did I go about explaining things? Was I empathetic? Do I make the best choices for me and other people?

Throughout high school, I have buried feelings under this concrete of chaos that looks like division among my peers here at the school and even throughout life itself. But I will be slow to respond, to choose a different way.

Janarria Wallace
Janarria Wallace is a rising senior at Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies.