Rashanique, the Writer
I almost didn't write this.
Two weeks before my high school graduation, I had no idea if I was going to walk with my graduating class. I came up in the '90s during the times of standardized tests you could pass all your core subjects Reading, writing, math, etc. If you didn’t pass all three parts of the TAAS test Reding, Writing, Math the district would hold you back from graduation. Since sophomore year, I had been taking the Math part of TAAS so I could graduate with my class on time.
Every year they would give you 2 attempts to pass the exam. I went to special tutoring classes, during the day instead of my regular math class, I went to classes on Saturdays. I will admit some math teachers at Madison were very supportive, they were relentless they cramped those questions and answers in your head every chance they saw you. Some teachers weren’t as supportive, Mr. Carver told our TAAS math class that, If we hadn’t passed the test by now, we never would. What a supportive thing to say to a student, who already feels like a failure.
I am not the scholar of my family and I was not the shining example of the golden kid, so I needed to graduate so my Parents could finally be proud of something academic from me. It had been three weeks since the last time I took the math part, for three weeks we did Senior activities field trips, signing shirts, watching movies. For a second I forgot I was awaiting my results, I could just have fun.
Fun is OVER!
At, 8:20 am the school announcements instructed all Seniors to their assigned counselor's office for their TAAS test scores.
My heart dropped completely out of my body, I had to face it, ignorance is bliss, it was the moment of truth.
As I walked down the halls, of James Madison High School I could see the lines forming, hanging outside of the senior counselor’s doors. Then the screaming started, Ms. Jackson sat at her desk with a line of students a mile long “name", Ms. Jackson asked. Poker face intact she would look at your results then fold the paper and hand to you with no expression on her face. You knew if the student passed or failed based on their reactions. Valerie threw her purse in the air and screamed bloody murder. Another girl got her results you knew she failed, Melissa went stiff and fell back like she was sanctified.
The line was going faster and faster I wanted to vomit, I stood in line waiting for my execution just missing the blindfold and cigarettes. All those countless hours, of tutoring with the weird TAAS tutoring lady in Missouri City in between sessions she would sit and talk to herself. I had taken the Math part of this test a total of 4 times I couldn't pass the math part. My poor Parents they paid everybody including the devil himself to tutor me, to pass this math part of the test. My knees were bloody from praying, I had never prayed that hard, my parents prayed for me but, I had to pray for myself and I did.
Now I'm standing in this line waiting for judgment, name, Ms. Jackson said, Williams, she shuffled through the papers looked at my results folded the paper and handed it to me. Before I looked at the paper I prayed the deepest prayer ever, God if you love me you won't let me disappoint my parents, my family. I am the dumbest one in the family everybody graduated in my family even the slaves!!!
I turned the paper over, and I saw the three words "did not Pass". I felt like jumping into the floor like literally face hard on the floor, I blacked out some friends of mine Sharita, Toya and Michael helped me to my 1st period. Rasha, Rasha, I couldn’t hear, I could see people talking but I couldn’t hear what they were saying. I saw different students and their reactions; Damon went yelling down the hall into the streets, ya’ll thought I was dumb! Boys and Girls were crying in the hall with their friends, staff trying to keep them from harming themselves. My 1st-period teacher was located across the hall from my counselor’s office, after I could walk, I picked my things up and tried to move.
If I, promised to stop cussing the virgin angels in heaven, my teacher said she would let me use the phone.
Not only had I let my family down, I felt like God didn't want me to graduate high school. Later I was told some teachers were betting sodas on who was going to pass or fail this racially biased exam. Students were trying to prepare for their future lives and some Teachers dwindled it down to a bet of a freaking carbonated drink. MHMRA the receptionist at my mother’s office, holding back all my tears, Barbara Williams please, just a moment, this is Bar, she couldn’t get het greeting completely out, Momma!
What is it, what is it, she screamed, I didn’t pass Momma, I didn’t pass why am I so got damn dumb, wait baby what happened?
The test, Momma, she gasped, baby watch your mouth calm down, let me speak to your counselor, she can’t do anything, my head started to pound, my mother was talking but I couldn’t hear anymore, I felt like my body was crying on the inside from disappointment in myself. I put the phone receiver back on my teacher’s desk, I could hear my Mother still talking, Rasha we can something, I couldn’t comprehend language at this point. My teacher came back to her office and asked if I was ok. I didn’t answer her, I got my bag and walked out of the back door right into the street. Rashanique, Rashanique, your Mother is calling for you, I kept walking down the street. It was 98 degrees that day, all the windows were up in the school building, you could still hear screaming from some of the students coming out the windows. It sounded as if a slaughterhouse was nearby. Rashanique, I heard somebody screaming out the window, someone else yelled out the window wait for a ride, it’s too hot to walk. I just kept going I walked home.
I finally got to my two-story brown 5-bedroom house on Tidewater, my house, nothing was wrong if you make I home.
I dragged up 13 stairs, at home alone I could scream cuss or just end it, with no interruption. Staring at my sibling’s graduation pictures, my Great Grandfather’s graduation picture and he was a slave. Damn, Rashanique are you just completely backward! I started to cry, a cry that came from the pit of my soul, the only comfort I could find was my parent’s bed. I laid down on my Mother’s side, I saw a bottle of pills on her nightstand. I believe it was about 8 pills in the bottle, I took them all, closed my eyes, and went to sleep.
I was asleep, I was awake in my head and I had a very lucid dream. It was like a dream, but it wasn’t a dream, it was too real.
I was laying there in this smoky state colors swirling about, there is nothing in this space but color and my parent’s bed. I wasn’t afraid but I didn’t know where I was, but when he walked in and sat on my Parent’s bed, I know that it was God. I didn’t see or hear him, but I saw and listened. God was there but now how you would think. God asked me one question. You gone let a test take you? If you end it like this, you will never see what’s after. So why didn’t you help me pass I yelled but I couldn’t hear anything, but I could feel me struggling, why, why I thrashed about, if you didn’t want me to kill myself then you should have let me pass.
I didn’t hear any more from God, I felt really, alone, and I didn’t know if I was dead or not.
Finally, I heard WAIT. That’s it WAIT. Rasha, Rasha, my mother was slapping my hand, how long have you been laying here? Groggy I told her not long, my Father told me that he would take care of it, he was going to call the Superintendent of schools; he was getting lawyered up. No Father, I will figure it out, I promise. They are great Parents, but there comes a time when a girl must carry her load on her own. My Parents did what anyone would do with money, they sent me to South Africa.
3 months later
When I arrived in America after a stint in the Motherland, I came back ready to FIGHT. Although there are other alternatives to a high school diploma, I wanted the diploma I studied for since 1980. In July of 1993, I walked up to James Madison High School into the library, to take the TAAS math part one more time. They told me I needed 2 pencils I had 3, they said bathroom breaks can be taken at the top of the hour, I didn’t drink anything, they said I had 3 hours, it took me 45 minutes to finish the exam. I bubbled my name in so hard I broke my first pencil, I was furious that I had to smell this place again, the defeat, the disappointment.
I wanted the exam to take longer I looked over my answers, I studied my scratch paper, but I was done, I was done.
As I stood up, and pushed my chair under the table, the other students looked at me confused as I handed my test to the proctor. When I walked out of the library, I saw two people standing by the door facing the parking lot, it was Mr. Carver and the short security guard with the Jeri curl said, you back here again, I looked at both of them and said I won’t be back, put my shades on my face and walked smooth out.