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Elijah Khalil Davis - 2019 Award Winner

Elijah Khalil Davis is just a regular 18 year old from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Actually, he is not. Born in Charlotte, North Carolina on October 19, 2000 to the incredible Wanda Doreen Davis. Unfortunately, Elijah has never met or seen his own father, but this has surely not set him back from what he needs to do. His very proud mother, has taken care of him for 18 years almost single handedly by herself and all he wants to do is make her proud and buy her a house before he gets his own. Yes, sweet isn’t it, but LIFE isn’t always been so sweet and it started out sour with a move to Philadelphia in 2000. Mom and Elijah moved back to Philly just in time for Thanksgiving and to move in with one of her youngest siblings as a live in Nanny who’s only Son was taken from her hence pursuing an ugly custody battle. Ultimately Aunt Angie, with the help of family won as a result of moving back and brought home cousin Charles!

Elijah begin his Pre-K studies at Settlement Music School in South Philadelphia. Along with studies, he began to take piano lessons at the age of 4. At a young age, Elijah learned his very unique and gifted skill of being able to hear music or beats in his head and play them back on the instrument. He later quit lessons and taught himself how to take on the mastercraft of learning the piano. Today, he teaches piano to 3 students, one 6 year old girl, one 45 year old woman and his now bestfriend, 15 year old austistic male named Trey Williams. From Kindergarten to 5th grade, Elijah attended Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School, which is now referred to as String Theory located downtown at 16th and Vine. Kids being kids and not wanting to change, Elijah was enthusiastic on staying at PPACS and continuing his studies and fun of French, ballet and chorus but his mother saw an opportunity that was too hard to pass up. After a bunch of calls, visits and a summer program, Stepping Stones, Elijah attended William Penn Charter School his 6th grade year.

Today, he is a proud graduate of Penn Charter and will be attending Morehouse College, a prominent, private HBCU in Atlanta Georgia. Currently his major is undecided, but we would love to see Elijah pursue his passion for acting and theatre, for he has been on the stage a numerous amount of time performing arts like The Laramie Project, Les Miserables and even appearing on PECO billboards and Kramer’s School Edition Books. Since a young age, Elijah has loved being in the spotlight, but never taking away anyone else’s shine. His mother, his church, Mother Bethel AME, and his community are very proud of Elijah and can not wait to see the great things he will do along his journey of life.

Their essay was entitled: Blue or Black, They’re Still Just Colors

Just today I had an encounter with the police. My mother and I were driving down broad street, on our way to drop her off at a workshop at Temple. I looked over at the dashboard and reminded my mother that she needed gas. We pulled over to the Sunoco off of Broad and Hunting Park Avenue. In the middle of the station, were two white female cops. Alongside them were a group of young black kids, probably aging from 13-18. As I came out the store from paying the cashier for gas, I could see the cops approaching the kids closer. While the gas was pumping, I sat in the car watching the police women and the kids go back and forth verbally. The very sad part was that my mother told me to take out my phone and record.

In this world we live in now, the only way murders, beatens, tortures and violence against our black people can be heard or known about is through social media. Sandra Bland, Eric Garner and Rodney King were all incidents where videorecording was taken place and then shown to the world. In many cases, like Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown, there is no video or it is removed and hidden. Since the day in time, evidence has been hidden or data has not been taken in order to prevent prosecutions of the police. My own aunt was killed by a drunk driver, in 2005, and the woman who killed her, had a prior DUI. Therefore, she was not even supposed to be driving or on the road. When it came time for the case, that information was hidden from the judge and my aunt’s killer only received a few months in a rehab facility. The point is, evidence is key in cases because its gives the burden of proof in order to defend or prosecute. Not all judges, lawyers or cops are “crooked”, but this is one of the many problems that we have in this world today. It really starts with the younger kids being taught by family traditions, ways of life and just how to treat people. That can go for white and black families. White families can teach their kids that white supremacy is the only way to success and that putting down our fellow human, regardless of race and skin color is acceptable. Black families can teach their kids that black power and success is essential in life and to stick to our roots and not let anyone put you down, especially caucasians. This type of installment in a youth’s mind can cause them to make assumptions, assertions and pre determined traits of how another race may act, feel, speak, etc. But at the end of the day, black or white, we’re all still people … right ?

How do we work together in order to lessen if not eliminate the tension and harassment between law enforcement and race? I believe it starts with, first, the teaching of law enforcement of when and when not to use certain force in order to take control of the situation, not the person. Resorting to using a firearm off the bat is, and has been a problem. In the movie, The Hate You Give, by George Tillman Jr, one of the women, April Ofrah, speak to the young main character, Starr, about using her voice as a young black female. She says, “It’s impossible to be unarmed when it’s our blackness that is the weapon they fear.” In most of the cases, the black male and females were unarmed, however the police, who are mostly white, “see a weapon” and believe their lives are the one in danger. Adrenaline and nerves are running threw both people, the one who was pulled over and the cop. However, resorting to fire a gun and ask questions later is not the correct way. We need to teach law enforcement, current and incoming cops about the correct ways to use firearms, how to conduct stops and how to handle situations in case they do escalate, and possibly try to not use guns. As far as the children, we need to educate them on not hating every cop. This is becoming the mindset of today’s children because of all the media we see. Turn on the news, pull up instagram or snapchat and 8 times out of 10 their is information or news about trouble and black people. The portrayal of black people in the news and media is another problem, but for another day! It is important that we teach our children and youth to first, get rid of the every cop is bad mindset. Next, reach out or have workshops or meet and greets with law enforcement. A great idea would be to have days where local cops go into towns, mainly poor and lacking communities and meet and greet the families there. This is will help establish relationships and connections with the communities and police. Change doesn't happen overnight, but with the hard work, determination and dedication, I think change can happen. As the famous abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Because at the end of the day, blue or black, they’re still colors. White or black, uniform or hoodies and sneaks, we are still human.