By Kayla, 7th-grade student, City Springs Elementary/Middle School
What happens when a community decides to tackle some of the most complex issues of our time? What happens when we decide to stare racism and police brutality in the face and seek to find ways to overcome it? We came together as a city to try and fix the challenges we as a city are facing, and to do so through the book Dear Martin by Nic Stone. What was so unique for our city was that it wasn’t just one class reading the book, or one school, it was the entire community, thousands of youth and adults coming together to read together, reflect together, and grow together.
Dear Martin was a book that shook you to your core. It was a book that was heartfelt and honest. It was a book that made you reflect on your role in your community, and how you were either empowering others or holding people back. It not only captivated me because of the life of Justyce McAllister, but it captivated me because it was so heartbreakingly realistic.
We are a community still grieving from the loss of Freddie Gray. The smell of burning buildings still fills most of our nostrils. The sounds of mothers crying still haunt our ears at night. I can still see the police lining the streets, and the protestors chanting with fists raised in the air.
Dear Martin opened my eyes to the truth of what it means to be black in America. What it means to grow up in a country that has not yet realized what true equality looks like. It was a book that showed us the struggles of what it means to be a young black male in our world.
The book came alive when its author, Nic Stone, chose to visit our city and share her journey with us. Meeting the astounding author was nothing short of a mind-blowing experience. To meet the brains behind the brilliance was a true honor. As a young black girl who has the dream of becoming a writer, having Nic Stone stand in front of me, in all of her black girl magic, allowed me to see the person I want to become. Her brilliance is what I hope to put into my own writing someday.
Nic came to our city and put her love and energy into it. She spoke with students, teachers, and community members. She challenged us to think more critically about the world we live in and use our voices to create positive change.
As I read Dear Martin, the book became damp from the tears falling from my face. I cried and I cried, thinking about the very real life situations this book highlighted in our community. But as I finished up reading it, I wasn’t left with a sense of hopelessness. I wasn’t left with the belief that our city could never improve, or that the horrors of racism would always haunt our streets. I was instead left with a deep belief that things will get better. Things must get better. Through our voices and through our actions we will take the steps we need as a community to improve. We will take the steps to help Baltimore live out the potential it has. Reading Dear Martin did not make passive students, it created active citizens ready to do whatever it takes for a brighter future.
Students across Baltimore read DEAR MARTIN by Nic Stone as part of the One Book Baltimore program throughout the 2018-19 school year.