Cracked Sidewalks

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Because we have walked these streets abandoned, without a loved one as a compass to guide and point us in the right direction, we have lost our way as children.

Because our parents weren’t in a good situation or in the right state of mind to have a child, but chose to anyway, now your child walks this lonely road we call life.

Because they brought us into a world of pain and hate, where it’s a dog-eat-dog world and no place for a child to grow up, especially if they can’t protect us from drugs and violence, guns and gangs, pimps and hoes. Police shooting black people everywhere we go.

How can our parents protect us if they are letting people bring that stuff in our homes? Where we lay our heads in the place we call home? We kids are angry, ‘cause of the choices our parents made.

We kids are so numb to feelings and pain, we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. We lost who we are and where we come from. We are like the walking zombies, constantly hungry for change, but it’s never enough.

Because parents are so weak, we feel we have to be in gangs to look out for each other and sling dope and carry guns and things just to comfort ourselves and make a living, so we won’t starve and be out on the streets at night.

Because I have friends, homies, and ninjas that’ll hit licks with me, I stay on these streets with money in my pockets and clothes on my back.

So you say your heart hurts, but so does mine. You sit up at night, crying, and wonder why we are locked up or in a hospital, dying, with bullet holes in our bodies?

Because I grew up this way, constantly looking over my shoulder, I can say I grew up without a father or a mother, ‘cause they lost their minds in the drug world.

Look at what I’ve done to myself: I have been locked up for three months and have taken a strike [of the three-strikes law]. I’m here stressing and losing my mind, but where were you? Not at my court dates. You don’t show up for visits. I’m in this alone, like you left me in the streets.

When I get out and turn 18, I pledge to do right and never be like my father or my mother. I’ll always be there for my daughter. I’ll protect her from drugs and violence.

I’ll never let a drug addict in my home.

Me and my family will always stay together forever, and strong.

Shabaka is 17 and currently in the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center.

This column appeared in The Beat Within, a publication of writing and art from incarcerated youth. David Inocencio founded The Beat Within in San Francisco in 1996. Weekly writing and conversation workshops are held in California, six other states and Washington, D.C. Submissions and new partners are welcomed. Write to him at

One thought on “Cracked Sidewalks

  1. Wow, Shabaka, I am knocked out by your writing. You have a voice, girl!
    May God continue to anoint your writing, turning your straw into gold, for
    both yourself and others. Our heavenly Father, our one and only true father,
    turns our ashes into beauty, (Isa 61:3). He is the great alchemist!
    Lifting you up in prayer–for God’s graces and divine assistance in helping you find
    His path for your life–blessing you with all the resources: people, places and things,
    to help you become, the Godly woman He has created you to become, (the best version
    of yourself), and to fulfill His beautiful plan for your life. I pray you discover, as I did,
    that Christ is more than sufficient to meet all of your needs.
    I too am a spiritual orphan, and God in His mercy saved a wretch like me–blessing me
    with His abundant life and streams of living water, that never run dry. The answer to the question: is God enough–when I am completely alone in this life, to help, protect and provide for me: is a resounding YES! Put your life in His hands, and find a Spirit filled church that nurtures, sustains, and supports you, as you journey heavenward. And keep writing, mydear sister. You have a God given gift!
    You are in my daily prayers!
    In Christ’s love,