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Take the Mic: Black teens speak out about police brutality and racism

Parker Miles Blohm
From left, Adonis Williams, Bitaniya Giday and Caliya Bullock shared their thoughts and feelings about the killing of George Floyd and everday racism they've encountered.

So many deaths of Black people at the hands of police in the U.S.

Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor — heartbreakingly, that's just a subset of names.

But now, the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, captured on video as he said repeatedly that he couldn’t breathe while a kneeling police officer pinned him to the ground, has sparked a new level of outrage that’s propelled people across the country to take to the streets.

For Black teens in Washington state, George Floyd’s death in police custody was sadly familiar.

“To me, it was a surprise and not really a surprise, honestly,” said Caliya Bullock, a 16-year-old student at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines. “It’s another innocent Black man killed.”

KNKX asked Caliya, Adonis Williams and Bitaniya Giday to share their thoughts about police brutality and everyday racism they’ve faced. Their stories are part of KNKX’s youth voices project, Take the Mic, which is an opportunity for young people to share in their own words what life is like for them right now.

Credit Adonis Williams
Adonis Williams, a 15-year-old who attends The Downtown School in Seattle, created this artwork called "This Is America" after watching the video of George Floyd's killing by police in Minneapolis.

Adonis, 15, attends The Downtown School in Seattle. He’s an artist who said he was inspired by the demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd to create a digital drawing that he calls “This Is America.”

“It was a lot of me pouring imagery onto the page, just me putting a representation of the Black person being strangled by this representation of white supremacy and racism,” Adonis said.

For Bitaniya, a 17-year-old poet activist who attends Newport High School in Bellevue, the video of George Floyd’s death was an immediate call to action. She draws parallels to a painful moment in U.S. history that happened before she was born — when Rodney King was savagely beaten by Los Angeles police in 1991, sparking protests and riots when the officers were acquitted a year later.

“In both the Rodney King police beating and in this one, you blatantly saw someone who was not resisting arrest, someone who was just being a Black man living his life, and him still dying — it’s like, how could you not be angry?” Bitaniya said. “How could you not be afraid? How could you not want to protest on the streets after that?”

Bitaniya Giday reads her poem "No Lives Matter"

Click on the audio at the top of this piece to hear their stories. We’d like to hear from more teens and kids about their lives right now as we experience an unprecedented moment of nationwide protests over systemic racism and a global pandemic. For more information on how to submit a story, click here.

Credit Caliya Bullock
The artwork of Caliya Bullock

"Stereotypes turn into racism" by Caliya Bullock White kills white = accident White kills Black= self defense White kills Muslim = ending terrorism White shoots up school - mental health issue Muslim kills white = terrorism Black kills white = murder Black kills Black = gang banger, thug, “I thought Black lives mattered” These are a few racial stereotypes. The type of stereotype where you see someone and judge them for their race. The type of stereotype where you see how people are discriminated against for their race. The type of stereotype where people are more privileged than others for their race. The type of stereotype that allows you to create a narrative for someone’s life. The type that makes you think of how society has glorified one race over others Oh wait...don't tell me...I’m saying too much, aren’t I? You can tell me to stop speaking all you want, but see I say too much because it is a gift. My gift allows me to speak up for my rights, My gift forces me to speak out against racist acts in our world. Teens are constantly being told to empower themselves, but don’t say what hurts. Don’t say what feels “uncomfortable”. “you will understand when you are older”, “you don’t have enough experience to say that”. “I lived life first or I know more and I know better.”. Even at the school when trying to ask questions or tell a good idea, Teachers tell us that we need to be quiet, wait till they are done, or come see them on their own time. If they invested the same time they spent silencing us into their teaching, we might… Nah, that’s a subject for a different day.. They wonder why us Black kids sit at school every day and don’t talk, Understanding that censorship and silence Don’t provide the necessary guidance To bring about change that these teachers so desperately need! And that's what we taught our generation. People want to talk about change They want to talk about, #Black lives matter #alllivesmatter Until it's time to talk about the real. This generation is going to act in the very way you raise them. We were raised to be racist. We were raised to judge. We were raised to discriminate. And we wonder what's creating all of the hate. All the hate we show our younger generation that will be continued year after year Nah history isn't repeating itself, it’s simply a continuation of the hell we currently live in A history being passed on through and to our kids with privilege How we have brothers and sisters and kids being shot in cold blood How my people were "freed" from slavery only to be thrown in jail How I don't see people who look like me when I'm researching people in power I am a young Black woman and already been through some things But that's my point right there... I'm only a 16 year old sophomore Young Black talented woman in high school and yet…. This is my reality... Knowing I have to always keep my head up Knowing there's more people out there that don’t like me for my skin color Knowing I could be racially profiled at any point in time I'm not here to lecture everyone. I'm here hoping you will listen to what I am saying One on one as a person And hopefully make a change A change where we can walk around where we will not judge each other for our race. Where we won't discriminate for our race. Don’t take pity on me, Just do better.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.