To Make Progress, You Must Feel Emotional Pain: Musings from a 13-year-old Annapolitan

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Anne Arundel County Residents take part in a rally to commemorate the March on Washington. Several carried posters of those killed in police shootings. L-R, DaJuan Gay, Yasmine Jamison, Dawn Lamonica. Photo: APat

I went to the Annapolis rally for the anniversary of the March on Washington at in Annapolis on August 28, and it was wonderful. But let me just say something. Some people were holding the ENOUGH IS ENOUGH posters with photos of people, mostly of color, who have been killed by police, and it got me to pause. I looked around at all of the people at the rally. Some I knew. Some I did not, but let me tell you this. I felt nothing but love in my heart for each and every one. These people are from all walks of life. They’re old, young, and in-between. There were people from the really rich neighborhoods, from the poor neighborhoods and people all in-between. There were people who had been or will be given every opportunity, and people denied many opportunities. I felt nothing but love, for each and every one.

Now I know not all people feel the same. Maybe some are taught to hate the people that don’t look like them. Maybe some aren’t born with nothin’ but love. But let me tell you something: Those are not good enough excuses to be okay with people being attacked or killed because of the color of their skin. I do not care if you “feared for your life” because the kid had a damn pen, or a Nerf gun, or a bag of skittles or nothing at all.

I looked around and saw pictures of smiling people on the ENOUGH IS ENOUGH posters, people that are dead because someone decided to kill them. This person is not going to say hello to their mammas or their daddies or their children tomorrow. These people had lives. These people had memories. These people’s families have one less now. And that was someone else’s call, and I got very, very sad.

I have a hard time coming to terms with death. People die, and it’s so strange. A person’s here, and then they are not. Then the world’s got a big hole where someone once was. And how do you deal with that? Now I’m not an expert on that, but let me tell you:

Don’t do what I did.

When I was eight-years old, I found out that one of my “grandpas,”(grandpa figure, family friend) Zastrow died. Now no one teaches you how to get over people dying. I guess it’s one of the things you have to do yourself. But since all I knew was, “When I think of Zastrow, I get sad. So I’ll think of something else.” Then a couple of years later our beloved Pip died too. And I pushed down those feelings as well.

About four months ago, I was at a screening of the movie about those two awesome guys, and I saw all these videos of Pip and Zastrow and I started sobbing. People die, and when you see them again, all the memories and pain just come up. When I finally let myself feel the sadness, I was able to embrace my emotions. And because I let myself feel the pain, I made progress in healing. I can now think of Pip and Zastrow and have happy feelings about the times I spent with them.

When I hear about police killing unarmed people, I do the same thing I did with Pip’s and Zastrow’s passings. I push it down because it’s too hard to bear. It’s too hard and scary to know that the people that we put in charge of protecting us are killing our people. People are dying and the government lets them do it. People’s lives should not be threatened by the people set to protect them. That is not ok.

I think that the reason that we haven’t made progress and solved this horrible problem of Police shootings of unarmed people in our country is because too many people have been doing what I did— pushing down the pain. You need to feel the pain in order to take action and make change. Don’t push down your anguish. Once you feel it, you become energized to act instead of ignore. Wake up, feel. It’s okay. We can make things better. We really can.- Eliza

Eliza Lastnamé is a 13-year old 8th grader from Anne Arundel County who loves music, crabs, bike riding, and swimming in the South River.

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