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Sunday 25 September 2022
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Teen Poets Express Fear of Daily Violence

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

Inglish Davis is using poetry to express her fears about gun violence in the city. Provided photo

Violence hasn’t touched 14-year-old Inglish Davis personally, but every day she feels its weight.

“It’s nerve-wracking,” said the freshman at Gates Chili High School. “When I hug my mom before I go to school, I’ll be scared. One day she might doing hair and somebody accidentally shoots her. Or my uncle, he might be with his friends at the gas station and somebody does a drive-by. It’s so scary because you never know when it may happen.”

Inglish and 16-year-old J’Manuel Cortes, winners of the previous two Save Rochester Juneteenth poetry slam, reflected on the record 71 homicides in the city so far this year.

“It’s really scary knowing that the person you love the most, you might never see them again,” Inglish said.

“This is not how things should work,” said J’Manuel, a junior at Rochester Prep. “I would hate to say it, but to me going to a city school, it’s like almost like another day at work. It’s like one a day, another one and another one, another one. It’s coming to a point where we are becoming accustomed to it.”

An overwhelming number of killings were from gunshots. A 15-year-old was killed on Nov. 2, and just days later five teens were shot on separate sides of the city. As of mid-November, 60 teens have sustained gunshot wounds.

The teens were part of a Save Rochester press event, during which organizer Mike Johnson announced the organization had received a grant for two five-week workshops to teach self-care and self-help skills such as financial literacy to at-risk young men.

“When will people wake up to actual solutions to the issue,” Johnson said. “We know strategic intervention methods work.”  

Save Rochester has been promoting ways to improve life for people trying to overcome poverty and to provide alternative activities for young people.

J’Manuel Cortes uses poetry to get people thinking about the effects of gun violence. Provided photo

“We should have different things to have kids coming out whether it be instruments, poetry, singing, dancing, just different things for children to come and just let loose and just really express how they truly are,” J’Manuel said. “I feel like the city has quite a lot of talent and it’s overlooked. I feel like that could also help children have a good head on their shoulders.”

The teens spoke the same day that Mayor Lovely Warren declared a state of emergency because of gun violence. The emergency order lacked specifics, but an accompanying news release from the mayor and City Council Vice President Willie Lightfoot said Gov. Kathy Hochul was making additional state troopers available. The news release said the city has asked the state and Monroe County for more resources to address mental health and to disrupt violence.

The release from Warren and Lightfoot, also chair of the Public Safety, Recreation and Human Services committee, said law enforcement efforts would target people known to have committed crimes.

J’Manuel said he was torn on the need to bring in more troopers.

“It depends on how you go about it,” he said. “If they come in, they actually do what they’re supposed to do and lower the crime rate. Then I believe I do truly believe that it would be good for our community. However, in the same breath, I feel like they must build a bond. They can’t come and be like, oh, I’m the state trooper, you have to listen to me.”

Here are the poems read by each teen:

Isn’t that Wild? By J’Manuel Cortes

This is how I view the world
Through this distressed pupil eyes of mine
Wondering why me
Am I bound with a curse having to watch all my
friends die
This lens is interesting indeed
Everyday I wonder but God why me
I’m Struggling Can’t you see
I don’t feel safe in this city
But then again thank you because that wasn’t
me


Mothers shouldn’t worry
Is this the last time I will see my child
Isn’t that wild?
Almost a war zone isn’t it?
All these bullets flying
Mothers crying
Kids dying
Isn’t that wild?
A mother burying her own child
Weeping a never ending stream walking with
her son’s casket in single file
Isn’t that wild?

Right Place Wrong Time by Inglish Davis

I am scared
No I’m terrified
That today might be the day
I’m at the right place at the wrong time
I shouldn’t be afraid of going
outside

I shouldn’t be fearing for my life
I’m too young
to be scared I’m going to die

How many people have to die
How many bullets will fly?
How many people have to cry

BANG another kid,
taken
From their mother’s life
But was at the right place
At the wrong time
Another mother has to wonder why

How many people have to die
How many bullets will fly?
How many people have to cry
We are no longer safe

So enough is enough
The violence must stop
Another young person drops
So many in the ground it is like planting crops.

I shouldn’t be
looking at the news and see my friend I just said hello to dead.
In the right place just at the wrong time!

Can’t go to Walmart because I still can see the blood on the ground in my mind.

Looking around making sure things are fine it is so far to my car.
Nervous, I am at the right place please don’t let this be the wrong time!

I wake up and look at my mom’s pretty face.

Then a headache wondering when she leaves the house to work.

Will a bullet fly and I will never see her so I pray God give her grace! Please don’t let this be the right place just at the wrong time