The Day Tajon Got Shot

The Day Tajon Got Shot
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Foreword INDIES Book of the Year 2018
“In the Margins” Book of the Year 2018

We started writing this book in March 2015 with one central question: What happens in a community when another black youth is a wrongful victim of violence by police?  

We know this is a highly-charged issue, and our interest is not to fan the flames of anger or division. Rather we want to get beyond the #hashtags and explore the complexity of how it feels to be a human being on all sides of this event. We want to walk inside someone else’s shoes and try to understand what it’s like:

  • To be the black boy who is always assumed to be up to no good.
  • To be the parent of a black boy who must always fear for his safety.
  • To be the friend (or sister or girlfriend) who grieves/rages/defends, becomes an activist or slips into despair
  • To be the cop who commits the violence--perhaps out of fear, perhaps out of bias--and has to deal with the repercussions of his actions, to privately self-examine, to publicly self-defend
  • To be the child of the cop, who loves her father, but may have complicated reactions to what has happened
  • To be a witness, directly or indirectly, who must consider how to respond in a community torn apart, who can choose to sow division or to build a bridge 

This books builds on the tradition of Trinitoga--an insightful and uncensored view into the lives of smart, brave, passionate African-American young women in NE DC--with a new angle. In Trinitoga these authors explored the complex relationships between family, and they did so unflinchingly, and with heart.

With this book we wanted to do something more: to give these writers a chance to enter a national conversation that has become a new generation’s fight in our country's ongoing Civil Rights Movement. This book can make a powerful statement in a unique and compelling way, and it gives both these writers and their readers a chance to explore hot-button issues of race and violence in a way that is sophisticated and necessarily complex. These stories go beyond the headlines to explore the perspectives of people on all sides of the discussion. The book is powerful, and timely, and tremendously ambitious on behalf of these authors. We cannot wait for you to read it.

Authors at Work

Awards, Media, and Reviews

2018 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year (in the young author category) 
2018 “In the Margins” Book of the Year (for books appealing to at-risk teens)

As well as being placed locally in every DC public middle and high school, this national attention has prompted over 1,300 educators, librarians, and booksellers across the country to order copies. Teen authors have been profiled on TV, radio, and in print, and are in demand as speakers, representing the youth voice in discussions about gun violence and #BlackLivesMatter. 

School Library Journal – "10 Books to Read After The Hate U Give"
The Kojo Nnamdi Show, WAMU – "How Ten Teen Girls from D.C. Wrote a Novel About A Fictional Police Shooting"
WUSA 9 – "Local teens write a novel about police-involved shootings" 
Rich in Color review
DC Public Library Author Talk - February 8, 2018
Black Lit Matters: Unheard Voices on Race and Justice - AWP Conference


It’s the end of the day and I’m waiting for my customer. I’m in the alley beside the Corner Store and it’s still light outside. It’s only 4:00, and I see a lot of people standing on the corner. Some waiting for the bus, some begging for money. Some of them have been there all day. I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but I know that my mother needs me. And this is the only way I can get us out.

Looking around seeing all the crackheads and alcoholics makes me want to stop. I know everyone would be happy for me then. I know that day will come.
— Temil, writing the perspective of Tajon
When I got home that night it felt so quiet without my son, without my wife calling me names and arguing, without my daughter complaining about something. It was quiet but lonely. A thought surfaced in my head that it was my fault. My fault that my son was out there selling and got himself caught up in all this. Instead of going out and providing for my family, I chose to drink and waste money and then feel bad and beat on my wife. I hated all that about myself, but I can’t change who I am.

That night that my son got shot, I cried for all I could not change.
— Mikaya, writing the perspective of Tajon's father
Some days I’m still surprised I became a cop. When I was a little boy, I saw a lot of crime around my area, and I was getting in trouble myself. I used to follow the wrong crowd. People used to provoke me to fight.

So one day I got in a really big fight—8 or 9 guys, out in the street—and I didn’t know that there were cops on the other end. At first I was happy because I won. But then the police came over and put me in handcuffs. They took me to juvenile for two days. They said that they were going to put a monitor on my foot, and I was angry.

But then something changed. This one officer who’d been nice to me came to talk. He said, “Look, I can see you’re not a bad kid. You just gotta learn to control your anger. You remind me of me. I bet in the future you could even become a police officer. So we’re letting you go today, with a warning.”

I was thinking, What? Why’d he do that? But I was grateful for him believing I was not so bad. Not everybody saw that. And when I got older, he was right. I became a police officer, too.

But right now, I feel like I should never have taken that advice.
— Rose, writing the perspective of Officer Pete, who shot Tajon
I sit and listen to that door slam. Since Tajon got shot, Lucious started drinking more. He comes home at 5 o’clock in the morning, when he used to come home at midnight. He’s always been a drinker, a smoker. But these days, he’s just so angry. He’s angrier than he was before. And I don’t know if I should leave him or not. After fifteen years, I don’t want to leave. We have built a family. Our kids are almost grown. But now I have to sit here and worry about if my baby’s going to wake up, and I can’t handle much more.
— Jonae, writing the perspective of Tajon's mother