Originally published on Youthradio.org, the premier source for youth generated news throughout the globe.
By: Tierra N. McMillan
His name was Ditiyan Franklin Jr., but we always called him "Tang." He wasn't only my friend; he was my best friend. Starting from the summer of 2009, he was like the brother I never had. I was 13 and he was 15. Tang was a nice guy. He was quiet , but he always wore loud colors: red, purple or turquoise. With his deep dimples, he had one of the prettiest smiles I'd ever seen. He wouldn't say much if he didn't know you, but he wasn't mean. You just really had to know him before he'd talk to you. And when he did, he was actually a funny dude.
We were always together -- my sisters, his brothers, our cousin and the two of us. If you went looking for Tang back then, you'd probably find us too (or at least you knew we were somewhere close by.) We all were just kids, wanting to have fun and hang out .Yeah we went to parties. But we always got up the next day and went to school. Some of us were slacking, but that's why we had each other to bring us back up. All we wanted was an education and to see how it feels to be successful.
But it wasn't always easy. One time we were staying at my mom's place in the 80's block of Oakland, and the house got shot up. We were all chilling in the living room listening to loud music and talking, when all of a sudden we heard the shots. All we could do was drop to the floor. After it was over, I looked up and saw glass had gotten all on me and my cousins. My mom decided to call the police, but when the officers got there, all they did was stare at the bullets in the wall and take notes about the shattered glass. They didn't ask us any questions -- they didn't seem to care that much.
The only thing the police officer said to us was, "Just move away."
After the shooting, my sisters and I decided we needed to do more for our boys. They hadn't done anything to harm anybody, but trouble always seemed to find them. My sisters and I promised we'd be there to help them when they needed us. No matter the case, we had their back.
But then a few years went by, and we all started to get even more serious about school. Tang and the other boys started going to Castlemont High school, and I went with my sisters to an independent study school. We still had our connection with everyone but we also had to take time out to be able to do what we had to. Being apart, it was harder to protect each other. But out of everybody, Tang was the one who still came around the most.
Then came the day I will never ever forget. Tang and my brother decided not to go to school and wanted to hang out all day. They came back to the house to eat something. My mom peeked out at them and saw Tang riding the bike up and down the driveway, just stalling time. She shook her head, laughing. "Boy, those boys are something else." Soon it was starting to get dark and Tang decided to go home. But he never made it there.
Tang was only 17 when he died. He was just about to graduate from Castlemont High School, before that man took my brother's life. He didn't even think twice about murdering a boy who just wanted to live a happy peaceful life. For our group of friends, Tang's death split our world in two. But you would never know it the way the police handled it. To them, Tang was just another black male dying in the streets of Oakland.
It's been a year and some months, and it's still hard for me to think back on that day -- most of all because I know for a fact Tang wanted to do something in his life. I saw it in him... just like I see it in all my brothers and sisters. We may make bad choices sometimes, but we learn and bounce back from them. At least, that's the way it should be. But sometimes it seems like the system is all messed up, and the people that sit higher than us love to see people of all colors hurt each other. But I know that's not the moral of Tang's death.
This city is where we come from; this is where we lay our heads. This is the place that's going to take us further than where we are now. Because despite the city's problems, it's filled with the people we love. So instead of telling us to move away, we should try and stop the violence and make the streets better. Even though it is the place Tang died, Oakland is still our home, and we are one big family.
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