A/N – So, a new story. I have watched this movie a few times, and I gotta say, It's up there with Remember the Titans for me.
Warning – rating for foul language, violence, and reference to rape
Disclaimer – I do not own Freedom Writers.
I couldn't remember I time when I felt safe. Around here if you're black, Asian, or Latino, you're in the middle of a war. If you're white, people believe that you think your better than everyone else, but that's not true.
When you're white, in a neighborhood like this, you're never safe. Yeah, we're usually in the advanced classes, but that's usually because we can afford the education. Some of us.
But being white in a place like Long Beach means always being afraid that you'll piss off the wrong people, or get caught in the crossfire of another gun fight.
Freshman year, 1994. I started Woodrow Wilson High School. My morning is spent making breakfast and waking my sister, getting her ready to spend the day with Ms. Ray, because Father would never take care of her, and she was only a few months old.
In Long Beach, teenagers are pack creatures. You have to have your gang to have you back, or you're as good as dead. I have no friends.
I missed almost a semester of school last year, and so everyone I knew, though I had no friends, was in honors classes while I was in the 'dumb' class.
I didn't want to go to class. I would be one of the only, if not the only, white kid in it. And it wasn't safe. But as we were ushered into class, I quickly made my way to the front, to avoid trouble, but the far corner, to avoid attention.
People quickly filed in and sat with their pack. Asians, blacks, and Latinos. There was one other white kid. Ben Daniels, I think. His friends used to bully me, before the integration.
The English teacher was clearly inexperienced, because as everyone came in and sat down and talked with their pack, her smile dropped and she looked extremely nervous. She was white, but rick white. Pearl necklace and earrings, and a clean red suit.
At least, clean except for the smudge of white chalk on her butt.
"Hey girl, you wanna give me some fries with that shake?" one of the black guys jeered at Ms. G. I couldn't read her cursive on the board, so I couldn't tell her name.
He high-fived his buddy and they stared singing 'fries with a shake' over and over as Ms. G turned around with a smile on her face. I rolled my eyes, she wouldn't last long.
"My name is Erin Gruwell. Welcome to freshman English" she said as the class went quiet for a second. Then, Ms. G started taking role, not that anyone could really hear her. "Brandy Ross" Ms. G read off. A quiet black girl raised her hand.
Gloria Munez" a Latino girl chewing gum and flipping through a magazine lazily raised her hand.
"Andre Bryant" I looked over my shoulder. He was black, hiding under the hood of his heavy jacket, in jeans just like everyone else.
"Eva Benitez" Ms. G said, pronouncing it 'E-va', with a hard 'e'.
"A-va" Eva correct Ms. G's pronunciation quickly, causing everyone to look at her. "Not E-va"
"A-va" Ms. G nodded, looking back at her list. "I have to go to the bathroom" Eva said, getting up and walking out of the room. "Okay" Ms. G agreed, "May sure that you-"
"I know" Eva dismissed her, grabbing the hall pass on her way out. Ms. G tried to keep her composure as she continued. "Ben Daniels" the only other white kid raised his hand.
"Paige Mallark" I looked up and hesitantly raised my hand, hoping it was just high enough to get Ms. G's attention. Thankfully, she looked over at me and I could quickly lower my hand.
"Sindy…" I could catch her butchering the girl's last name. One of the Asian girls looking at Ms. G from over her shoulder. "I'm right here"
"Is that correct?" Ms. G at least asked. The girl nodded as Ms. G moved on.
"Jamal Hill" it was the kid that had asked for fries. "Man, what am I doing in here? Man, this whole ghetto ass class got people in here lookin' like a bad rerun of cops!" he joked with his pack while they laughed. Everyone else looked at him in silence.
"Are you Jamal?" Ms. G asked pleasantly.
"Well, for some reason, they have you registered for this class" I rolled my eyes at how naïve she was. Hopefully she'll get it soon, and I won't have to deal with some 'we're all equals, so you should all participate' naïve little chick.
"Man, that's some bull" Jamal protested.
"It's the dumb class, cuz" André spoke up, repeating my earlier thoughts. "It means you're too dumb"
"Man, say it to my face, cuz" Jamal laughed.
"I just did. See what I mean? Dumb?" I smiled at Andre's wit. He was smart, although he had too much attitude for it to do him much good. Jamal stood up. "Man, I know you ain't talking to me"
Andre rolled his eyes. "Look, homie, I'll beat that ass, homeboy" Jamal told him, pissed off. I moved as close as I could to the wall to my left, away from the impeding fight. I tried to open the window next to me a crack, so if it got real bad, I could get out.
"Can you please sit back down!" Ms. G tried to order over Jamal's voice, but it wasn't working. Others were standing up, ready for a fight.
I closed my eyes as I heard people standing and moving around, and loud voices. The sounds were much to familiar. I could almost feel the burn of that scars as I heard the shouting and hitting.
I opened my eyes as the security guard came in and broke Jamal and Andre up. Slowly, they sat down, but I'd had enough of this. I dumped my stuff in my bag and stood up, walking out of the room and towards my next class. I was so done with this.
I stopped outside the door and slid down the wall, onto my butt, my bag next to me. I reached for the chain around my neck and lifted the locket that I had stolen to my hands, slowly opening it. Inside was a picture of Madison.
On one side was her when she was fist born. The other side I was saving for a few years from now, when she was older, to compare.
A few tears slid down my face as I thought of her. I needed to get her out, but I didn't know how. I wasn't even sixteen yet! I couldn't take care of a baby!
"Settle down" Ms. G said the next day. "Let's go over the first name on the list. Homer's, the Odyssey" she wrote it out on the board.
Great. I'd already read it.
"I know Homer the Simpson" Marcus joked from the back of the room. That got a few laughs, and I smiled.
"No, this Homer was ancient Greek, but maybe he was bald just like Homer Simpson" Ms. G laughed, trying to get in on the joke. I groaned, barely keeping it silent at her lame attempt.
A few others rolled their eyes and fake-laughed, easily letting her know that her attempt was lame, but she still laughed. "Okay…" she taught for a few, and then had everyone start working in the workbooks, but no one was really working.
I finished my work quickly, as I already knew the story, and was now reading out of an old, battered book that I had kept hidden from my father.
"Quietly, please" Ms. G asked while she was helping ben.
Suddenly, Gloria stood and yelled, "Ms. Gruwell, he took my damn bag!" pointing at Jamal.
Jamal stood as well. I didn't do nothin' to your damn bag" he denied.
"Yeah, I say you" Gloria said, pushing his back, although it was gentle. "Jamal" Ms. Go called over their raised voices. "Jamal, get her backpack" Ms. G knew it was him.
Jamal rolled his eyes and walked over to where he had stashed it. "Okay…" but before Ms. G could continue, there was screaming and the sounds of gunshots.
I gasped, and everyone went silent. I carefully put my bookmark in my book and put my book away. I was shaking, badly, the sounds too familiar. Ms. G went towards the door to see what was going on.
Some of the kids exchanged looks, knowing what was most likely going on. But Andre happened to look over at where those two white kids sat. That Ben kid was sitting there, looking nervous, but it was that Mallark girl that surprised him.
Her eyes were wide with terror, and she was trembling. Her skin was white, and her knuckles were even whiter from how tightly her fists were clenched.
The alarm sounded, and everyone ran out of that classroom, and out of the school. First one out of the door, though she wasn't standing and she was the furthest from it, was Mallark. Andre had never seen a girl move that fast, even from a bullet.
A few of the kids stayed seated, and Ms. G tried to keep them in the classroom, but anybody that knew what was going on wasn't gonna stay in no classroom. They were either gonna run, or fight.
Andre felt someone slam into his as he stood outside, watching the fighting. He heard the thud of something being dropped. He looked own and saw a head of dark hair and black clothes on the floor, trying to gather her things quickly.
He saw a battered book laying further away, closer to the fighting crowd. He grabbed in and knelt down next to the girl. She looked up and saw Mallark's pale face and wide, fearful eyes staring at him.
He silently handed her the book. He r hand shot out and quickly took it from him, jamming it into her bag before she stood.
She hesitated for a moment, staring into his eyes, but she turned and fled, sprinting away from the school.