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South Carolina Honors College

"Hands Up!"

by Brookelynn Little

Who can tell me more about our former vice president? Says Mrs. White; 
My private school teacher for the past two years. She still doesn't know how
to pronounce my name, 
I've been reduced to a single letter. 
It is mandatory to learn about the presidents. 
John C. Calhoun's home is available to tour in Fort Hill, 
which means a class field trip! 
We watched Amistad for the remainder of class. 

A week gone by 

“Christina” is our tour guide. 
“The late John C. Calhoun's former home, which was gifted to his wife. 
She continued to operate the slave laboring plantation after his death. 
Calhoun made his fortune from cotton cash crops.” 

What about the hands that cultivated the cash supply? 
Must we only remember those with the natural advantage of the 
pale paste covering their bones? 
But not honor the millions of working bodies buried and forgotten in the 
asphalt whose skin matches its color? 

Being the only colored in my AP US History class, 
I feel every eye that pierces through my thick curls and into my skin. 

A week gone by 

How can we overlook the generational trauma enforced by these praised leaders? 
Do we merely forget the stolen lives who created everything for thieves? Why is 
our justice system an enemy to proud black skin? 
Why do my Caucasian peers have to approach me every time my hairstyle changes? 

“Girl, is this your like real hair this time? I actually like your straight hair better.” My braids 
are my culture. My ‘fro is my heritage. My lace front is generational progression. 
“Is it true that weave is horse hair?” 

A week gone by 

There's a bonfire tonight. It ends at 10 but “there's no time limit on fun” as much as I 
know my mama would tear me up. The feeling of fitting in when you’re already 
alienated by your skin, hair, and voice for 180 days, is undeniable. 

10:53 pm 
7 minutes before I should be home from “the movies”. 

75 mph on Forest Dr. 
Blue, white, blue, white, screeches behind us. 

I don't notice the snapping pictures of the murder hearse behind us in the rearview mirror. 
I noticed my soul leave my body as my heart sank through the floor of the car at the 
first sound of the sirens. 

I noticed the way my hands automatically flew to the dashboard. 

I noticed the lack of fear in the other four seats of the car. 
I noticed how the officer respectfully speaks to the 16-year-old blonde in the driver's seat. 

“What is that in your lap ma'am” he eyes my
suspicious black phone case, 
ignoring the identical one in the hands of the driver. 

My heart dropped to the earth's crust. “My my phone,” 

I say as I quickly, but slowly and discreetly shift it into the front slot of my 
shorts, momentarily going against everything my elders have ever taught me. 
“I'm going to need you to exit the car, for my safety” 
The officer opens the passenger door. 

I think of my mom. 
My my phone drops to the ground as soon as I exit the car, 

Following the ever-so-startling life-shattering “clack.”’ I don't notice the overdue 
looks of horror from my “friends,” 
still sheltered by the metal of the 2016 Honda Accord 
as the state trooper reaches to his hip. 
I pray. 

I’m South Carolinian, born and raised, now 
seeing my life flash before my eyes in my hometown,
with the perpetrator being someone who has sworn an oath to protect 
kids like them, and kids like me. 

South Carolina, the confederate state, remember your real roots. 
I wish this southern state would appreciate the jazz, the blues, the hymns, 
just as much as they appreciate country music. 
I wish every school celebrated black history month 
just as we celebrate white history for the other 11 months of the year. 

Educate our students, 
Educate our adults. 
I want field trips that highlight black successes 
as much as they applaud the accomplishments of slave owners. Even a history trip 
that doesn't implicitly minimize lingering black trauma, if that's not too much to 
Simply to be able to coexist with educated, white peers without 
feeling like a rarity in a museum full of wealthy onlookers. 

I wish I could be pulled over and taught a lesson, 
without being seen as a threat, 
and without it costing my life. 

Brooklyn Little

Brookelynn Little, third place winner

Brookelynn Little of Simpsonville is a senior at Woodmont High School in Piedmont. The daughter of Kim and Tarik Little, she plans to study communications, theater, and psychology in college. An AP/IB student, actress, model, director, and athlete, Brooke credits her motivation to her loved ones. Throughout her time in various honors societies, community service organizations, and multiple extracurricular activities, Brooke has been able to do what she loves: write and create meaningful, personal work.

Brookelynn Little on Instagram.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.