It was already black to begin with but there are some elements in the story that are being reexamined for certain reasons. There’s no way anyone can ignore what’s going on today, with the disturbing images of police brutality and the gut-wrenching incidents of racism. As a kid growing up in Prince Georges County, which is branded as one of the blackest counties in America, I experienced hatred from non-blacks on so many levels. I saw my parents get disrespected and discriminated against, family members get mistreated in the classroom by white teachers and got called all types of names walking home from school on many occasions. All of these incidents took place within the confines of my neighborhood and day-to-day life, from people who were supposed to be neighbors, community leaders and even friends. Disturbingly, it became a norm of sorts. We knew to expect it wherever we went and deal with it accordingly. Now that I’m in the midst of restructuring my original short story into a novel, there are a few opportunities to expand certain scenes, plots and characters. And I’m totally here for it. Look at people like Breona Taylor, Amadou Diallo, Eric Gardner, Atatiana Jefferson, George Floyd and so many more. Their voices have been snuffed out, violently and before their time. Now we’re left with putting the pieces together to tell their story. As I’m working on this novel, I’ve been reminded that it my duty to be a part of that fabric that will weave their powerful stories for the world to know. Amadou Diallo was a West African immigrant who came to America to make a life of himself like so many family members of mine, including my own father. I know what he went through, trying to achieve that American dream, overcoming daily discrimination and racism by people who didn’t hesitate to tell him, “go back to where you came from.” He overcame all of that just be shot mercilessly by cops, while he was unarmed. Breonna Taylor seemed like a brilliant, ambitious young woman who was just getting started with her life. She was serious about her education and was well on her way to establishing herself as a successful career woman before her life tragically ended at the hands of police officers who mixed her up with someone else. Each tragic story of a life ending way before its time makes me think of the different characters in my book. Many of them, including Asuma, the main character, are simply trying to find their way in life. They may not have made the best decisions or are not sure of who they are just yet, but they are on a journey, trying to find their way. They’re not out to get anyone, they don’t impose harm on anyone; they’re pretty much minding their business. Most of them make it through without experiencing death, leaving them in a position to tell their story. Everyone has a story to tell. That’s why its devastating to see someone get robbed out of the opportunity to tell the world what they have to share. I’ve always believed that we all have our own story to tell in our most unique ways. No one’s voice should be silenced. Not only that, relationships that may have been damaged won’t have a chance to be repaired. Relationships that were blossoming are now frozen, desperate for a lifeline to continue growth. Asuma’s relationship with her parents is tarnished at some point, but opportunities present themselves for the relationship to be either repaired or improved. George Floyd’s daughter, Gianna, will never know what its like to have a loving relationship with her father as a teenager or adult. Being able to tell your story is more powerful than we realize. It’s something that you are in control of, and it can have such a ripple effect on you, those in your world and beyond. I’m putting more energy into my work in progress because too many voices have been cut short. Too many lives have been taken unfairly. I write and speak for those who have been silenced.