By Ti’Andre Bellinger
August 3, 2015
Collaborative piece written by ASAS South Florida Alum with support from ASAS and America’s Promise Alliance (APA) teams. Originally posted on the APA website.
I’m an 18-year-old, African American man who fits the label of “at-risk” youth in almost every way. With so much police brutality in the news, people often ask me why I want to be a cop. Weaving lines of my own poetry throughout, this is my answer.
I still remember the day I decided I wanted to be a cop.
I can hear the sounds of desperations for unity
Screaming WORLD what did you do to me?
It was nine years ago, and I was only nine years old. I was watching an episode of Cops on True TV, and there was a domestic violence call. A mother was on her way to the hospital, and the dad on his way to jail. Their kid was about six years old. The cop picked him up and told him, “I want you to learn from this and be better.”
This scene still replays in my head. Before the cop leaves, he hands the kid a toy to play with—a police car.
What is this world coming to?
The craziest thing is I don’t know who I can run to.
That was rare to me, to see someone helping a kid like that. Changing his life, letting him see differently when all he saw was violence at home.
And I knew I wanted to do that someday.
At the time, I was living in a bad neighborhood myself, in a home with domestic violence. Gunshots and police sirens served as my alarm clock. I didn’t think I would survive. I didn’t think I would make it to 18.
I’m suffering from a fatal disease called lack of unity
And I look around and all I can see is poverty.
All I could do was just hold onto my dreams.
AFTER-SCHOOL ALL-STARS: An Alternative Path
Things started to change when I got to middle school.
In middle school, I was introduced to After-School All-Stars (ASAS), a program that gave me a safe space during school hours, helped me build friendships and provided role models and teachers that I could trust.
After joining ASAS, everybody saw a change in me. I matured, I started to laugh about the things that used to upset me, and then I became the one that lifted up everybody. Thanks to ASAS, I also found my release…poetry.
I’m on the verge of dying
Because this whole world won’t get their acts together and stop lying
Because kids want to kill kids and everybody won’t stop crying
Through poetry, I was able to say the things I always wanted to say in a metaphorical way. I was able to touch people. ASAS mentors told me, “You have a gift. You are going somewhere.”
I found my voice. I realized my worth.
And I learned that middle school is an important time for a lot of kids. High school kids and kids in elementary school usually have a lot of afterschool activities, but kids in middle school don’t. With nowhere else to go, a lot of kids turn to gangs, crime, drugs, and unsafe sex. Programs like ASAS provide an alternative path.
I’m a standing statistic of a single mother of four
Whatever my mom wanted she wanted more
I wouldn’t be where I am today without programs like ASAS and the mentors I met there. I wouldn’t be here without my mom and the confidence she instilled in me. I know how much them believing in me mattered, and I want to be able to do that for somebody else.
Walking in Our Shoes
In my senior year of high school, I joined the America’s Promise Alliance Board of Directors, which opened my eyes to how leaders plan to help youth and allowed me to share my own voice and perspective. We spend a lot of time talking about how to help at-risk youth, and at times it makes me think: I am an at-risk youth.
I wish more people knew what it’s like to walk a mile in our shoes. You never know how much someone goes through. A lot of times I feel like people in power never do what I think they should do first, which is put themselves in that person’s position.
All I can taste is a bitter hatred and the sourness of despair.
Then I think of the government and ask myself
Do they really care?
People often criticize me for going into law-enforcement because of the stories about police brutality around the country. But what’s happened Baltimore and Ferguson only makes me want to be a cop even more.
For every million or two million cops, there’s one bad one. And I know that I’ll be good. I’ve walked in the shoes of black kids and at-risk kids, and I know I’ll be able to relate to them because I’ve been them.
We ask ourselves it’s crazy what we may go through
But it is in our hands what this world comes to.
Start Your Legacy Now
Whenever I meet at-risk kids today, there’s one thing I tell them: “Start your legacy now.” Give people something to remember you for. A smile, a firm handshake.
The doctor came in and said, “In fact we’ve found a cure”
It’s called hope.
Make ways out of no ways. Don’t let where you wake up, the city you stay in, being fatherless, determine your fate. Make your legacy.
Dr. King had a dream
That’s what I’m trying to do. When I go into retirement, I want to have a kid say, like I said to my role models, “You helped me believe.”
Obama had a vision
Life will go on when I’m gone. I want to be remembered, to have kids play “Ti’Andre” in Black History shows, have streets named after me, maybe even a White House room.
Ti’Andre Bellinger had hope.
Make a change, make a difference, and make something out of yourselves. Start your legacy now.
Ti’Andre is a recent graduate of Miami Jackson Senior High School. Ti’Andre has served on the Miami-Dade County Youth Commission as a Youth Commissioner. While interning at the Miami-Dade County Commissioner’s Office of Com. Barbara Jordan, Ti’Andre flew to DC to represent After-School All-Stars at the National Summer Learning Day as a guest speaker and met Michelle Obama. He was involved in various high school programs, including serving as the Major for the City of Miami Police Explorers, Command Sergeant Major in JROTC, and won Student of the Year for the City of Miami. Recently, Ti’Andre received the George Kil-Patrick Community Service Award given out in Miami, FL. Ti’Andre is a recent high school graduate and aspires to become a police officer, a prosecutor, or President of the United States.