Lauderdale Lakes Campus
Regarding the neglect and lack of awareness and incompetence of justice reform, the system has failed people of color for generations. Growing up in a poor and disadvantaged community, it is hard not to get indulged and become part of the environment. In other words, you could become a Product of My Environment -P.O.M.E. My norm is to constantly see police brutality against African-American men and see them get arrested all the time.
I have seen this kind of injustice happen a lot. As an African-American man, I have been teased, “boomed” on my head, in and out of juvenile detention centers, and I was directly profiled as a young man for a crime that “so-called” friends committed—thinking that because I was a teen I would get a lesser charge. I have seen the police beat my brother and friends and their excuse was that we were trespassing and resisting arrest. I have been chased by the police for no reason, bitten by police dogs, and violated for coming from church five minutes late. Since I couldn’t answer the phone, the probation officer said that I was doing something and was somewhere I had no business being. I have been profiled and arrested for looking suspicious in an area where “I do not look like I belong.” I was a victim of bullying, because I have always been small and short. When a sheep finds itself in a situation of being pushed around, it gets tired and then finds a way to defend itself against the wolf—trying to protect itself. As for me, I try and protect myself, then social determinants call me violent and an aggressor, so that leaves me in the wrong.
We are illegally being persecuted and being killed for reaching for a driver’s license during normal traffic stops, jogging while black, or being asleep in our own homes when police kick down the door and start to shoot. How would you feel if every time you get pulled over, you did not know if you were going to make it home! How would you feel if you could not get a job because of how you look or your background from years ago, and it is still held over your head! How would you feel if you couldn’t call on the very people that vowed to protect and serve you? George Floyd’s cruel and horrific death was the cry of all people of color. Black people everywhere are simply trying to breathe another day. Dear America, LET US BREATHE!
Regardless of my past mishaps, I was given a second chance. I was not working at first because I was in the streets. My mom did the best she could for us, and she helped me get into an apprenticeship program called Step-Up. It gave me a chance to do something better with my life. I graduated from Step-Up last year. I have to say that I have stepped it up, and I’m still learning how to become a young leader and continue to stay a hard-working father for my three-year-old son. Currently, I work within my community as a maintenance and handyman fixing up houses, painting, trimming trees, irrigating systems, putting indoors, changing out toilets, doing special projects, and installing cabinets in brand new complexes. I also do community work with my mother’s nonprofit organization: On-Call Leadership, Inc. so I give back to the community I was raised in. I gift toys to kids who need them at Christmas and assist with my mom’s Back-to-School supply and book bag giveaways. My mom is a great example as to why we as young black men and women must get involved and stay active in our communities. She marches in the streets advocating for young black men and how things need to change and emphasizes how great she wants us to be. More importantly, she never stopped or gave up on the PEOPLE. She then ran for city commissioner and got a lot of push back, but came out successful in my eyes.
During the day, I work for the Housing Authority of the City of Fort Lauderdale. I enrolled in school in the evening to become an HVAC Technician. I also go back to work overnight as a part-time employee at Walmart, as an essential worker during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was homeless for a while and now I have an apartment of my own. I was using public transportation and now I have a vehicle that gets me where I need to go. I didn’t have anyone to watch my son, and now I am in a position where I can afford to pay for daycare. Overall, I’m thankful for the opportunities I was given because every young black man doesn’t get many opportunities, and that’s why I take them when they come.
Like my mom, I stay determined. I recall when I needed a second job, I kept applying to Walmart after getting told no twice, but they gave me a chance. I NEVER gave up! The process was not easy and it was long, but I got through it. A wise man once told me, “All we’re ever given in this world is an opportunity, and if you don’t respect a penny, you don’t deserve a dollar.”
As you can see, I took the opportunities I was given and made “water turn into wine.” Nobody is perfect and the only thing we do not know is what we have not seen or been taught. Now, I say what I want so I can see what I said. We have seen firsthand what has been going on in this world for years, and it looks like it’s the same end game. But, Ghandi said, “You must be the CHANGE you want to see.” So, to our leaders, teachers, parents, and all those who have authority - what part will you play in making a difference in our communities for black people all over this world?
Sincerely the youth and younger generation, Malic H.