This piece placed first for middle school writing submissions in the Ánimo Voices Writing and Art Competition, which invited students to consider a change they’d like to see in their community or the world and to convince an audience, through any genre of writing or visual medium, of the importance of this change. The competition was an opportunity to motivate, recognize, and celebrate our strong student voices through writing and art.
Dedicated to: Anyone who thought they had no choice.
CUT TO: Flashbacks of Leonardo and his whole life.
Leonardo. Age 14. Grew up on Union Avenue with his single mother, Veronica, and 2 brothers, Benny and Javier. His mother works day in and day out trying to support her family with 3 jobs. His brother Benny is in 6th grade, Leonardo is in 9th, and Javier is in 10th. Leonardo and Benny are very quiet growing up and never have trouble. But Javier was always a problematic child.
VOICEOVER: VERONICA (delicate voice).
“Todos son buenos...todos.”
“They are all good...all.”
FADE IN: The streets of L.A., the brothers are dressed in school uniforms with their hair neatly combed. Leonardo and Javier drop off Benny and start walking to school. Leonardo notices that Javier has fallen behind.
“Hey what’s going on? We are going to be late if you keep slacking!”
JAVIER: (yelling back, still focused on the alley)
“Yeah yeah, get going I’ll catch up later I promise.”
FADE OUT: Javier disappears into an alley.
VERONICA: (black screen)
“Tienes que protegerlos.” “You have to protect them.”
LEONARDO: (short pause before speaking in a stern voice)
“.....Hey Javier, wait up!”
CUT TO: Leonardo is running up to Javier with an alarmed face. Both brothers are in a messy alley, with trash scattered around. Leonardo kicks a flat ball as Javier steps on broken pieces of glass.
LEONARDO: (focused on the scene around him)
“Why are you here? Don't we have to go to school? Are you trying to ditch? You know ‘Ma is going to be disappointed in us if she finds out!”
JAVIER: (only looking straight ahead)
“There is no us right now. I got this by myself. Go somewhere else.”
LEONARDO: (stops walking and focuses attention on Javier)
“SIEMPRE SEREMOS NOSOTROS! IT'S ALWAYS GOING TO BE US! Now tell me what the hell is going on?”
JAVIER: (stops and looks at Leonardo)
“I found a way to get money. A lot of money! You’re too young to understand.”
LEONARDO: (with a puzzled face)
“You aren't trying to join a gang, right? You know that got him killed. There are other ways!”
JAVIER: (looking at the ground)
“We also didn't have to worry about money back then, not worrying about paying the bills late, what meal we were going to eat or how we were going to get it. Our mother wouldn't have 3 jobs right now if he was still here. That gang gave us what we needed.”
LEONARDO: (looking down)
“Things don't always have to be independent with you!
“I won't let anything happen to you. I promise.”
“What if we...you don't even make it out of this alley?”
“Calm down! We only need to talk.”
LEONARDO: (murmuring while looking at the ground)
“Communication doesn't always get us what we want.”
CUT TO: 3 men (20-25 years old), faces full of gang-related tattoos, one man has no shirt and gang-related tattoos crossing his stomach. The other 2 men are smoking and wearing sagged pants. Leonardo makes a noise by stepping on a puddle and catches the attention of all three.
MEN (talking to each other but loud enough for Javier & Leonardo to hear)
“Those look like Castro’s kids!?”
“He cost us millions! You don’t think they found out about what we did to him?”
LEONARDO: (in anger)
“It was you! It was you! You killed my father!”
CUT TO: The 3 men look surprised and start swinging at both brothers. The brothers are unable to fight back.
VOICE OVER WHILE FADE OUT:
“Todos son buenos… Todos” “Tienes que protegerlos!”
“I promise nothing will happen.”
[Continues: Light gets dimmer every time until the screen is black.]
What if this didn't happen? What if they kept walking to school? What if they actually had money to help around the house? What if they thought getting a job was a choice? What if. What if. Reality Hits!
CUT TO: Cheap Television, showing the news
“2 boys found dead in an alley, after being brutally beaten, no signs of fighting back.”
Television Cuts Off