NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 16.2: Fall 2016 - Page 124

“ He also said he would force me to stay home , during the day of the state test , so I will fail 7th grade .” According to Ishmael , Abdullah said that all the boys in the school were “ pussies .” During silent lunch detention , he made Ishmael take off his jacket and uniform and stand outside the locked cafeteria door in the cold .
“ Tahj was there ,” Ishmael says .
Tahj , a golden haired boy with cornrows and the beginning of what I am certain is oppositional defiant disorder , nods his head . A few days before , he wished me a “ good morning .” It was the nicest thing he ’ d said to me all year .
I type up their statements and print them out , but I ’ m not sure what to do with them . I don ’ t look forward to presenting them again to the principal . She has never discouraged the reporting , but I get the sense that she underestimates the severity of the problem . He is hitting the bad ones , the ones who already feel guilty for having done something wrong . And it sounds more and more like he is doing it out of anger .
The following day on the recess court , I am waiting for my homeroom to line up , when Ishmael runs up to me out of breath .
“ Mr . Abdullah hit me in the head during silent lunch ,” he pants .
Abdullah emerges from the side door trailing three kids . They are the emotionally disturbed ones who cannot sit during class , the ones who have probation officers and stories of violence that still haunt and confuse them .
“ Ishmael , you ’ re putting me in a really bad position ,” I say . Abdullah strides to the far side of the recess court , lines his boys against the chain link fence , turns around and faces us . He barks Ishmael ’ s name .
“ Either go with him or find Principal Luciano and explain what is going on ,” I say .
He nods and takes off , fleeing into the building . I start my homeroom moving toward the door , and Brian , a small seventh grader calls out , “ Mr . Abdullah says he doesn ’ t need you to intervene , Ms . Freeman .” We share a look . I ’ m willing to let it go , the fact that he is trying to embarrass me in front of the children , but as we move away from the staircase onto the second floor , there he is marching towards me . He is hot and sweaty and leans into me , as he passes with a long threatening look . I step up to him and demand , “ What ? What Mr . Abdullah ? Can I help you ?” He backs away , saying he doesn ’ t hurt women .
Never before have I been willing to sacrifice my body for anything , but in this instant , it seems inconsequential , a small price to pay . It ’ s important that someone stands up to him ; someone has to point to the floor and say , “ here and no further .” Instead I hear myself inviting in the most sweetly menacing voice possible , “ Come try me , darling . Come try me .”
The whole class is gaping . This is theater at its finest . As I careen down the hallway , Jordan , a seventh grader who most certainly has attention deficit disorder and a brilliant , critical mind to go along with it , says , “ You ’ re the only one who stands up to him .” I take refuge in my room , and only a few minutes later I am called into the principal ’ s office . I bring a copy of the students ’ most recent statements .
Abdullah is already seated at the conference table , all crumpled in on himself like a fighter ’ s mangled fist . I sit back in my chair , relax . I am an English Language Arts teacher . I have words . I have always had words . This is my arena , beneath the office ’ s neon lights . He is outmatched and out gunned . We begin slowly .
“ You have never liked me ,” he says . The words leave from the side of his face , slide past a raised shoulder , emanate from the corner of his eye .