author’s photo

The French Final

Alberta Wilson
10 min readSep 14, 2021

A true episode from a black child’s life — mine

A brilliant career pedagogue decided that all music appreciation courses in Junior High School 142 should take place in room 320. This meant three ninth grade classes were grouped together every Friday afternoon to learn songs no one would ever sing anywhere else. One of those classes was 9SP, my class. 9–2 and 9–3 were the other two. Music appreciation? More like, telling jokes, copying homework, throwing spit balls and general goofing off.

No kid who wasn’t in S-P liked us. Officially standing for “special progress,” it was routinely substituted with “stupid people” or “stinky piss” or whatever a not-so-imaginative adolescent mind could come up with. Our music appreciation classmates in 9–2 and 9–3, being closest to us scholastically and like the other ninth graders, older than us, were not the best choice to group us with. Our entire class had skipped the eighth grade.

The group dynamic wasn’t bad enough. I was at the bottom of the popularity charts in school and on the block. The very first day of seventh grade, I had been beaten up and sent to the hospital. My Amazonian aggressor pummeled me while repeating, “You think you cute!”

Our Brooklyn neighborhood, at that time pre-”Black is beautiful” sixties, was made up of lower to middle working class, ethnic, Black, and Puerto Ricans. On…