Education Opinion

Toni Morrison’s Birthday

By Jim Randels — February 19, 2008 2 min read
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We celebrated Toni Morrison’s birthday today. Students in our classes at both McMain and Douglass are reading Beloved.

Last year our English III and creative writing classes at Douglass read The Bluest Eye. Both novels have scenes in which kisses are important. Last year our students decided to write about kisses that were turning points for them. So this year, those writings have become texts our students read alongside the Toni Morrison novels.

Today we feature one of those writings by Vinessia Shelbia, a member of the first graduating class from Douglass after the hurricane. Douglass was the fifth high school Vinessia attended during her four-year high school career. As a ninth-grader, she was in our creative writing class at another public high school in New Orleans, McDonogh 35. And the summer after her 8th grade year, Vinessia attended our summer workshops with her cousin Rodneka.

Vinessia Shelbia

I don’t remember my first kiss. I remember who it came from, but that moment when our lips first touched doesn’t play in my mind. I do remember my very special kiss. It was the beginning of our relationship, when there’s no fighting and that person is always on your mind.

We hadn’t talked the whole morning, I guess because I was having a busy day at school. Usually I would find time to call and sneak in a “what you doing?” or “how your day goin?” But this day I couldn’t find the time.

Not talking to him had me very anxious. 3:00 that evening came, and school was over. I went on with my daily routine, walking and thinking about past conversations that we shared. I got home, put my bags down, and next I picked up the phone. Before it could get to the second ring my momma gave me the news that he had passed around the house looking for me.

When he answered the phone, my first question was “where you at?”

“On my way around there by you.”

I said “okay see you later.” I wanted to hurry off the phone, so I could take off my school uniform and put on some regular clothes. Before I knew it the phone was ringing. I knew it was him, so I didn’t answer because I wasn’t ready. After I spruced myself up, out the door I went.

We stopped at the Chinese place and got something to eat. After we ate we drove to the lake. We stood close to the water, and I felt cold. My eyes rolled up from the water, and the moon looked close enough for me to hold it. For the first time in my life, I saw the moon float on water. It was so beautiful.

I thought about how my world had changed. Down came the tears of joy. He looked in my face and asked why I was crying. I told him I was happy. He kissed me, and I took the place of the moon. I was the one, now floating.

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