Jamal Johnson was a seventeen year old African-American male from the infamous streets of Harlem, New York. He was a very caring person and never got into conflicts with anyone. His friends often went to him for advice for he had wisdom much beyond his years. He was also a very intelligent young man, and strived to do the best he possibly could in school. He used to tell his mother, Rashida, that education was the only true road to success.
Jamal also had a brother who was almost the exact opposite of Jamal. His name was Malik Johnson and he had just recently turned 24 years old. He always had a cold look on his face and seemed angry at the world and everyone in it. While Jamal was still a baby, Malik witnessed his father beating his mother. Every night he heard his mother screaming while he was locked in his room, watching over Jamal. Finally, his father came into the house drunker than usual and stole all of their families most valuable belongings and left, never to be seen again. Malik then had to become a man and provide for his family by any means necessary. When Jamal was in Kindergarten, Malik had already dropped out of school. He began dealing drugs at the age of 12 and joined a gang in order to have some sort of protection.
Time went on and Malik eventually became a notorious gangster on the streets of Harlem. He was involved in organized crime, theft, and drug dealing. He visited Jamal and his mother much less often than he used to due to his busy lifestyle. In the meantime, Jamal was a senior in high school and was focusing on grades and his education. He wanted to get out of Harlem and hopefully get into a state university. With a degree, hopefully he could get his mother into a nicer home, one that she deserves. He also tried to make his friends, as well as other classmates focus more on school rather than neglecting it and taking it from granted. He studied of Malcolm X and was dumbfounded by his intelligence. Inspired, Jamal became obsessed with reading and eventually he had read almost every book in the school library. His teachers had great respect for him and he was one of the top students in the school.
While all of this was occurring, Malik was living alone in an apartment about half an hour from his old home. He had just came back from the casino, where he had lost half of the money he earned last month. Infuriated with himself, he went outside to go smoke a cigarette. After a few minutes, a Hispanic man approached him. He was wearing black basketball shorts and a tank top, revealing multiple tattoos. “Yo, are you Malik Johnson?” he asked mysteriously.
“Do I know you?” barked Malik, while reaching for the knife in his back pocket.
“Relax, brother. I ain’t trying to fight with you. I just came along to tell you that my boys in Brooklyn been talkin’ about you and not in a good way. They ain’t happy about you selling your stuff on their turf” replied the man, cautiously.
“Tell your boys that I’ll do what I want, where I want. I’m Malik Johnson son I’ll go to your turf right now and call all you jokers out. You better get outta here quick before I end yo’ sorry life right now” said Malik, with authority.
The man walked swiftly and got into what looked like a 1988 Cadillac, all-black with chrome rims. As drove past Malik he said “You gon’ regret disrespecting me and my crew like that.”
Malik shook his head, amused by this threat. He walked back into his apartment, with not an ounce of fear in his body. Months passed and he hadn’t seen the man again.
Jamal was about to graduate high school, and was already accepted into New York University. It was a very happy time for Jamal and his mother. “I always knew you were going to make something out of your life Jamal, I am so proud of you” said his mother, whose face was swelling up from tears.
“Ma, my goal in life is to get you outta this place and get you a nice apartment, you know, where all them white people live at. I also want to get Malik to stop living like a thug and start being your son and my brother again” remarked Jamal.
It was the day of Jamal’s graduation and Malik surprised Jamal and mother by coming home. Jamal smiled uncontrollably and hugged his brother until he grinned and said “Alright now get off me, dang son you are too soft.” Malik then greeted his mother, who was in tears from seeing her son after a whole year. The three of them began to reflect on how much they have been through together and before they knew it, it was time to go. They got into Malik’s car and arrived at the graduation a few minutes later. Jamal showed Malik and his mother to their seats and then left to join his other classmates.
The graduation ceremony had begun, and they began calling up students to receive their diploma. Jamal’s name was the last to be called. “Last but certainly not least, Jamal Johnson! Congratulations Jamal, you earned it” said the principal.
“Thank you so much sir” said Jamal. He then walked off stage and ran to his family. He hugged his mother and brother and they both were very proud of what he had accomplished.
“Jamal, I’m really happy that you gunna get an education and all that. Don’t forget where you came from though, you feel me? said Malik.
“I feel you big brother, don’t worry I’ll lend you money when your broke a—“ began Jamal.
“Boy I know you ain’t going to say what I think you is” said mother, jumping in on the conversation. “Malik, I know you ain’t broke now, go on and take Jamal and me to that nice restaurant you always be eatin’ at.”
“If you say so Ma, but its Jamal’s big day so I’m gunna take him to an even nicer place” bragged Malik.
All three of them got into the car and were on their way to the restaurant. Malik said there was a shortcut so he went through several alleys. They ended up in a random neighborhood, that didn’t look too friendly. Suddenly, gunshots were fired and Malik pressed the breaks, coming to a screeching halt. Behind them what looked like a 1988 Cadillac, all-black with chrome rims. The driver of the Cadillac had shot the wheels of Malik’s car.
“Stay in the car” ordered Malik. He then got out of the car, reached for his knife but was shot several before he could retrieve it. Barely moving, he looked up at who shot him. He was a Hispanic man, wearing a tank-top that revealed tattoos all over his arms.
“I told you to stay off my turf” said the man. He shot him one more time and then proceeded by shooting Jamal and his mother. He then got in his car and drove away.
This was the story of the Johnson family. Malik was already headed into a life of crime, but Jamal had a bright future ahead of him, and his mother was completely innocent. Was it fair that all three of them had to die for Malik’s foolish and irresponsible actions in the past? No. Life isn’t fair, and good people die every day.
©2012 Bilal Qureshi
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