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[Review] The Perspective of Today’s Youth is Found in the Text of “The Day Tajon Got Shot”

April 4, 2018


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Beacon House Writers, K. Crutcher (Ed.), Z. Gatti (Dsgn.). The Day Tajon Got Shot. 230p. Shout Mouse Press. March 2017. PB $14.80. 9780996927451. Ages 13 to 15.  I think this has been one of my favorite books in the past seven months because when I picked it up to read, back in September, it was right before grad class and so good, I couldn’t stop the sneaky reading throughout class. When class was over, I literally set in the parking garage and finished the story otherwise I probably would have pulled over enroute home to finish the book, I was so stoked. The hooks to this story hypnotized me, a feat which has not happened for a long while. When I shared this book with an 8th grader just to preview it, he went home and had his mother go online and purchase the title.  This was a student that rarely if ever finds engagement in the text that’s offered in school for him to read.  This book, contained the majical formula: own-voice authors, culturally relevant to the reader’s lived experience, short chapters that serve to heighten the reader’s anticipation, and photo-illustrations that help create an illusion of debth that has readers wondering if the story is not based on events that actually happened in real life. 

I couldn’t believe, at the end of the story that 10 separate individuals wrote this one single narrative. I couldn’t believe that young adolescent girls were the voices of their elders, were voices of their adversaries and were voices of males old and young. When the story opened up with Tajon Williams selling weed because he was driven to help his struggling mother, the same old repetitive story rung loud of the male son trying to step up to the man’s role in the best way he knew how against the advice of everyone that had a vested interest in his well being. With that said, Tajon had no business selling weed. It was illegal and as Rakia warned, a bad decision.

When Pete the policeman pulled up on the last sell of Tajon’s life, it really wasn’t a sell, but a thief, for Tajon’s supply had just got stolen by the thug he thought he was making a sale to. When Tajon saw the policeman, his mistake was to turn and run while reaching for his phone and because of course, the policeman seeing the cell phone shot him at point-blank range saying he feared for his life in the ever-repetitive cell-phone-that-looks-like-a-gun-in-the-hand-of-a-perp-not-turned-in-the-direction-of-the-cop scenario. Rakia, Tajon’s best bud who just happened by to see if he was still out, got it all on her phone.

PICK-UP FROM GOODREADS: This scenario can’t help but bring to mind a dystopian-like rite-of-cultural passage existing in this society today which is to teach young black males to tie their shoes, memorize their addresses and phone numbers, never call the police in an emergency, never go in your pockets in the presence of a policeman, when walking down the street and you see a policeman…change your pattern of direction by casually crossing to the opposite side of the street (practice them) / turn the corner / go into the nearest building until they pass.

Albert Einstein, Einstein, and It has become  appallingly obvious  that our technology  has exceeded our  humanity  --Albert Einstein

As an adult, if pulled over in your car as passenger or driver NEVER go in your dashboard after you have told them you are licensed to carry and never think for one minute that your life is viewed as precious in a society that is locked into a systemic pattern of genocide against your race and gender. Unfortunately, I hate to go there with this subject matter, but that is basically what the climate is for the teen authors of this novel who are seeing their peers, families, neighbors, and friends profiled in D.C. and that was the catalyst that stimulated their writing of this story. In fact, the authors kept track of every police murder of unarmed persons in the country from their project’s start in 2015 to finish in 2017, but as they stated in the back info pages of the book, there wasn’t enough space to add the entire list of ALL the white, black, Latino, Asian, and Indigenous male deaths that occurred over the 2 years of their project, so they listed the unarmed black deaths.

What made this book so special was the perspective of the youth through the voice of the characters. The policeman had children that attended school with Tajon, Ashley and Zach. In fact Zach was a good friend with Tajon, while Ashley played on the school basketball team. The policeman (Pete) that shot Tajon was white and he couldn’t even tell his son and daughter what happened. Pete’s loyalty to the neighborhood and to Tajon was gallant. The retribution on these children, however, was brutal. Both were beat up. Ashley was left battered by her own basketball team on the bathroom floor, not even knowing why. When the family moved to another part of the country, Zach remained behind and stood up against the storm forsaking his father and his family for he like the youth that was mostly of color and hostile against him due to his association as the son of the policeman that shot Tajon, was more torn from Tajon’s death and just as hurt if not feeling deeply guilty that his own father was the cause.Related image

The duality of this existence was a nuance that is seldom given light and is also reflective of the diversity our youth living in today’s world experience, one in which the socioeconomic racial lines are blurred, for the youth of today might hate and be angry.  In the situation concerning Tajon’s death, the clashes were racial because the youth were black and white but not necessarily from the traditional intersections of black and white aggressive behavior. In this book, it would have happened to whoever the son and daughter of the policeman was. It didn’t matter what the race was.  The characters just happened to have been white. For the police aggression against black males in this society has no color. It’s those in blue against the males whose skin are brown and black, and according to academics, researchers, and writers at the Roots <>, nothing’s going to change because the police are going to consistently get away with the shooting deaths, due to their close collaborative work with the prosecuting attorneys’ offices across the country in a one hand washes the other arrangement.  As Michille Alexander has so eloquently stated in The New Jim Crow, “The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid” (2013, p.6).

Image result for meme of march for our lives

24 March 2018 –  MarchforOurLives rally in DC

The literary use of alternating voices and short chapters in this title will keep even the most reluctant readers vested and engaged with anticipation. The use of multimedia graphics, such as newspaper headlines, black and white journalistic photos, social media text, and protest signs and posters aligns this books’ storyline directly with the headline human rights protests and injustices that have occurred since the book’s publication. Of particular interest that comes to mind are the women’s’ rights protest marches in January 2017 and the Parkland, FL. school shooting, which led to the March for Our Lives rally in Washington on  24 March 2018.  There’s also the continued police killings of black males with cell phones in their hands, such as 22-year-old Stephon Clark in Sacramento, CA. who was shot 6 times in the back and 2 times in the side 18 March 2018, in his grandmother’s backyard, by multiple police personnel who saw him as an endangerment to their lives (see 30 March 2018 Washington Post Article on Autopsy Results for Stephon Clark).

Youth who enjoyed books on this subject such as THUG by Angie Thomas, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, Ghost Boys by Jewel Parker Rhodes, All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, and How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon, will enjoy adding this title to the list and rejoice in knowing there is not a single story being told to this tragic phenomenon.




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