Our Friendship Matters
17-year-old best friends Sasha, a black teenager and Leah, a white teen are two girls from affluent backgrounds and live comfortable lives, attending a well-established private Christian academy in St Louis. As they enter their final year, the main things occupying their minds are graduating and their senior prom.
But the lives of two popular girls are about to undergo a transition that neither of them wanted or expected when Mitchell, a young African-American boy from the city’s East View High School is shot and killed while walking home from a basketball game, by a police officer who had mistaken him for someone else.
Now tensions are rising among the community where he lived, and the citizens of St. Louis are angry.
One night, while Sasha is out, she sees her old childhood friend, Ricardo, who is protesting the death of Mitchell. Curious about him and wondering if there is anything, she could do to become involved, Sasha talks to her friends about it.
They aren’t interested in getting involved however, and Sasha’s parents also forbid her from doing anything. As the closely held views she once had are quickly evaporating, Sasha makes a momentous decision and goes against all the advice she is given.
She decides to go against her parents and friends and protest downtown with Ricardo and his friends, Rashad and Victoria, who all attended East View High School. When Sasha feels like her friends have turned against her Ricardo and his friends are there for her.
But her determination to fight for justice for Mitchell causes a rift in her relationships. An argument with Leah drives a wedge between them and leads Leah to take the opposite viewpoint, taking sides with those who are supporting different viewpoints, while Sasha’s boyfriend is jealous of the time she is spending with Ricardo and breaks off their relationship.
But there’s a bigger problem that neither girl knows about the groups they support. A war has been going on for several months between them and now Sasha and Leah have been sucked into it by their new friends.
Realizing her error, Sasha tries to reach out to Leah, but her friend’s stubbornness prevents her from accepting the olive branch and Sasha has to accept that the friendship is at an end.
Then, one night, a confrontation in a club leads to Rashad being severely beaten by Jacob and Joshua, two of Leah’s group.
Leah witnesses the assault and tries to intervene but is threatened by them and pushed to the ground. Now fearful of repercussions Leah turns to Sasha for help, knowing that her father is a lawyer.
She goes to the police station to tell the truth, which puts her and her family in danger from Jacob and Joshua, so her parents send her to their private lake house in the Ozarks, which nobody knows about. Her friends Leo, Sasha and Cameron accompany her for her safety and to talk over what happened during the summer.
Leah and Sasha become friends again. Sasha has a big going away to college cookout, which she invites her friends she met this summer and her friends from her school. This is when they all say their farewells and discuss the views of protesting and get Sasha’s dad’s thoughts on the matter.
Excerpt from Book
“We ordered four large pizzas,” said Melissa.
“Seriously, pizza? No salad? I have to watch my amazing figure.”
I glimpsed out the window, people were still protesting. I had imagined that it would have all been over by now. There was Ricardo and some school friends marching in the streets holding signs.
“Chloe stay inside. I’ll be right back.”
“Where are you going?” asked Leah.
“I saw my neighbor, Ricardo. I just want to go talk to him.”
I must talk to him.
“Why?” Leah sighed.
“Because the guy killed by the police was his best friend.”
“There you go with that again.” Leah rolled her eyes. Alright, hurry and I will sit with Chloe until you get back.”
“Thanks, just make sure Chloe gets some pizza and save me a slice.”
I walked into the crowd, bumping into people, and apologizing. I started yelling for Ricardo. I found him but he was fading in the crowd. I focused my eyes on Ricardo’s red shirt and continued through the crowd like I was in a football game running between players holding the ball.
There was a soft tap on my shoulder, it was Ricardo. His eyes were red from screaming and chanting on the street while holding a sign. Protesting seemed like his career.
“What are you doing out here?”
“We won our volleyball championship game, so we went to the Fountain, but I wanted to tell you I am sorry for what happened to your friend.”
At first, I didn’t grasp that it happened to a boy at his school and a close friend of his, but now my heart desired to show sympathy.
“Yeah, he was my best friend, and we were on the basketball team together.”
“So, how did it happen?”
“They mistook him for a guy that robbed a gas station and the bad thing about the situation is they caught the real robber later that night.” As Ricardo was explaining what happened, his eyes began to turn red. “This is too dangerous; you shouldn’t be out here.”
I became interested in more of the story. Wondering exactly what happened to Mitchell and who would tell the story better than his best friend. So, I built up enough guts to ask him how he died?
“The police shot him by mistake, and nothing happened to the cop that shot him; that’s why I’m out here fighting for justice.”
My heart fell below my stomach after listening to Ricardo alarm me of Mitchell’s death. I never met the boy, but I mourned for him like he was my friend too. That could’ve been anybody. It could’ve been Leo or Ricardo. Hell, I could’ve been me.
“I’m sorry for your friend because I saw your post last night, and I wanted to check on you.”
I must help in any way that I could but what could I do? What if something happens to me? I mean the police were deep in downtown St. Louis, on every corner. What if they shoot me by mistake for helping the protesters?
As I turned to walk back to the ice cream parlor, Ricardo grabbed me by the arm.
“We have meetings in my basement every Saturday if you ever want to come to one.”
“I’ll think about it.”
Interesting, but I had too much to do with getting ready for prom and graduation. He kind of convinced me to go though. My skin started to crawl as my mind imagined such a tragedy happening at Chester Academy. We don’t have those problems, so we don’t worry about them. The kids at Chester should join in with the kids at their school to help protest. It would show them that other schools care. Although, it might not be a good idea because the kids at Chester are too rich and snobby to understand.
Leah was sitting with her arms folded, face wrinkled, and cheeks blushing red.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” I asked.
I know I’ve left her too long with Chloe, so I gave her a sorry smirk, pushing my lips out for her to forgive me.
Everyone left. She had to stay behind to babysit Chloe, while I chatted with Ricardo.
“What took you so long?”
“I wanted to ask Ricardo more questions about Mitchell, who went to school with them.”
“You shouldn’t be talking to him about that stuff or even be around him. You know how jealous Leo is.”
“I was just curious, and we were childhood friends. Leo has nothing to be jealous of and I won’t let him come between us because there’s nothing going on.”
Leah shoved the pizza in my chest and stormed out the door. Every time I brought up Ricardo, Leah’s face cheeks would flush and her lips would clench. So, why would Leo care if he’s not here? One thing is for sure, I’ve been Leah’s friend for so long that I know she can twist a story. So, I was making it a priority to rush home to call Leo.
When we got home, I ran upstairs to call Leo.
“I’m glad to hear your voice. I laid on my stomach in the bed with my feet in the air and crossed my legs.”
About the Author
Kimberley is a professional early childhood educator. She was born in the small town of Saint George, South Carolina, on September 12, 1982. Graduated from Woodland High School in 2000, Benedict College in 2004 with B.S., Child & Family Development, and from Ashford University in 2013 with a Masters in Early Childhood Education.
What inspired me to write Our Friendship Matters was when African Americans started the Black Lives Matters movement. I would search the internet and watch the news. I would see other groups, like Whites Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, and Blue Lives Matter forming against the Black Lives Matter movement, taking the focus off the real issue. In my view, it wasn’t fair or right. The reason Black Lives Matter started was to stop police brutality against African Americans, which has been happening for decades. Yes, all colors are brutalized by police. But in all reality, African Americans suffer the most.
Another reason I wrote this book is for African American parents who shelter their children from the truth. This isn’t good all the time. Children need to be aware of certain things that could happen because of who they are. That way, when they are faced with reality, they can handle the truth and know what to expect in certain situations.
The world is becoming more diverse and our children are the future that can make change. In this book, two best friends struggle with a friendship because they have been sheltered by money and do not appreciate the role race could play in their lives. Sometimes, we have to sit back and think to ourselves on the point we fought for. We need to think what we can do to make things better. It starts with the youth, who are the future. If we can reach out to them, we can help them, and they can help us make this world a better place.