Writing for their Lives

by longformphilly

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Susan Snyder | Philadelphia Inquirer | June 2006

Friday, Feb. 17  Eighth grader David Leal stands at his desk and, in a deep voice, with a slight Latino accent, begins reading from his diary.

He wants his teacher to know what it’s really like growing up in Philadelphia.

“I’m from Philly, the city people call Brotherly Love, where brothers have enough hate in them to pick up a 7 millimeter and murder their own blood. And as for love – it doesn’t exist.”

His 30 classmates at Olney’s Grover Washington Jr. Middle School listen, rapt. Shifting from foot to foot, David, 15, continues:

“. . . I’m from where you can’t walk to the street, let alone from the house to the car, knowing it could be the last breath you take. . . .

“I’m from where the style of losing virginity at the age of 13 is in, and where the boy’s too stupid to wear a condom. . . . So there goes a child raising another child. I’m from the night where the bedtime stories are the bullets and the good sounds are the sirens.”

Writer bio: Susan Snyder, an Allentown native, wrote for The Morning Call for nine years before leaving for the Philadelphia Inquirer in October 1998. Snyder co-led a five-member team that won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2012 for an expose on violence in the city’s schools. 

Continue reading the “Writing for their Lives” series: Parts: 1 2 3 4 5

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