By Laquan McKever, VI Form
Social Justice and Why Every Life Matters
My unwavering pursuit of social justice for all has left me isolated from one of the very communities that I vigorously fight every day to progress: the black community. I am President of SHADES (Students Heightening Awareness of Diversity through Service), and I helped to facilitate a national Student Diversity Leadership Conference; still, though, I invest a significant amount of time supporting other communities. Upon learning that I support and defend the LGBTQ community, a student of color told me, “You spend too much time worrying about others while you need to be worried about the injustices we face.” In that moment, I began to realize my actions are neither understood nor taken lightly by those who think they are more invested in social justice for black individuals than I am. What most people do not know about me is that through horrid experiences from my childhood, I have developed a feeling of obligation to genuinely support anyone hidden in the shadows of oppression — including people outside of the black community.
At five years old, I witnessed my mother unsparingly attacked in what I now know to be domestic violence. Imagine a petrified five-year-old sobbing under a bed feeling hopeless as he cringes at each drop of blood shed from his mom. As painfully as I wanted to help, I felt as if there was nothing I could do but watch. At ten years old, I had to reassuringly cradle my seven-year-old brother for hours on end; kids at his school continually bullied him for his mental illness to the point where he wanted to end his life. Imagine living in a society where there are seven-year-olds who feel the need to commit suicide as a result of their experiences with being mentally disabled. At thirteen years old, I had a best friend, Quadrique Pretlow, who did commit suicide. According to the news reports, the middle schoolers who tortured him through social media admitted to believing that gay lives did not matter. Imagine living in a society where middle schoolers genuinely believe that gay lives do not matter.
Suddenly, growing up as a straight, underprivileged black male without a father figure to always look up to does not seem so bad to me. Those nights alone that I have to take care of my mentally challenged little brother, get school work done, and question why I was put in this position, all while still being a child myself, pales in comparison to the lives of those who will never have an outlet from their lifelong cycle of suffering. From these childhood experiences grew my everlasting ability to emit truly radiant waves of empathy. As I reflect upon these experiences, I wish I could tell my five-year-old self, “no more hiding under beds! Go make a change!” I wish I could tell Quadrique Pretlow, “someone is here and sees you! I care about you!” In the case of Quadrique, he did not have the liberty to live his life the way he wanted. The Pledge of Allegiance, “…for liberty and justice for all,” rings more true for me now than ever before.
There is nothing that makes me feel better than helping someone avoid suffering in the ways that I saw my mom, brother, and best friend suffer. Through endless hours of volunteering at suicide clinics, being the “therapy buddy” of a mentally challenged child, advocating for gay rights, and raising money for domestic violence awareness, I have come to believe that it is my Godsent destiny to unreservedly fight for the rights and propriety of every human in need. Through continuity, I will be the person who makes an impact on thousands of lives. I will help the world believe that domestic violence victims lives matter, sexual assault victims lives matter, black lives matter, gay lives matter, transgender lives matter, mentally challenged lives matter, every life matters.
Laquan McKever is a VI Form boarding student from Linden, New Jersey who will be attending the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. He currently serves as a Monitor and wrestles.