Freeing Kodak Black

"I’m not a bad kid, I just didn’t have no guidance"—Kodak Black, “Can I”

“Free Kodak Black, he ain’t do nothin wrong!”

The lockers blatter together like church bells, clattering under the fists of students running amuck in the halls. Snickers erupt from outside the room, snake under the closed door, and fill the room like smoke. The footsteps grow louder, flowing towards the room, and a young girl walks in, asking for tutoring in math—and the noise ebbs away behind her.

My former calculus AB teacher returns back to our conversation, her brow creasing with worry.

“Jesse, can you help her? I’m late to a meeting.” In a flash she’s out of the room, and I turn to greet the girl. She’s a senior, graduating in a month, and prepping for a math placement exam. She’s tense, tells me that she’s been practicing for days and doesn’t want to waste her money in college by taking a remedial class.

She pulls out a practice exam, chock full of circles and erasure marks. We go over the problems she’s encountered so far—order of operations, probability, single variable algebra. Her phone rings incessantly, but she refuses to check it.


“Whoever it is, they can wait. I need to get this down.” She pulls out her calculator to correct a problem from earlier, subtracting six from negative five.

“I can’t get this wrong.”


I stayed until the last bell rang, until the students’ attention spans were razed, and security guards raised gates in the hallways, chaining them shut. I even stayed past most teachers—I stayed until night school began.

Then seeped a handful of students into the building, no more than eight or 10 in total. These students were unable to attend school throughout the day due to issues such as extended suspension or legal troubles.

I walked into a class to greet my senior English teacher, who was in the midst of reading a play with two of the students when one of them receives a phone call. She takes the call, ambles outside, and rambles on about her day, casually mentioning that she stole that phone from a twelve year old girl at the mall the day before.

Administrators in the hallway chastise her for being on her phone, and she curses them out reflexively, hanging up. Calmly, she re-enters the room and picks back up the play, folding her phone between her thighs like a secret, anxious to continue her role.


While talking to my junior English Lit teacher’s current class, a student asked me a question: “Why did you go back to high school after your first year of college?”

Some would say this is a rookie mistake, that the nostalgia of the “good ‘ol days”—where the faces were always familiar and sleep wasn’t just a five letter word—is enticing, but should stay in the past. High school was an experience that had a beginning and an end, a finite blip on the line of one’s life. Why knot these threads needlessly by drudging up the past, by involving one’s self again in the problems of yesteryear?


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