I Held My Ground

at 12:35 AM

It feels just like yesterday when I was walking down the halls of Garfield Elementary School. I braced myself for another day of pain and discomfort, from the feeling of being in a classroom with 25 students laughing or hiding giggles in my direction.

Looking back, it's unbelievable that all the misery I went through in elementary school came from my Granny's choice of hairstyle for me. I wore two ponytails and a long braid going down the back of my head, and, yeah, that was a good enough reason for elementary school students to hate me.  

Their stares made me rush to my seat, and hide behind a book. I hoped that if I made myself invisible, the giggles would soon drift away. Many times I felt like getting up and running to the nearest bathroom, to cry on the floor in the corner. But I held my ground.

I remember being asked to go in front of the class and work out a problem on the board. I was trembling, and my heart was beating fast. As I walked to the board, it felt like I couldn't breathe.

Then the boy who tormented me the most threw a pencil at the back of my head. The class went crazy. Screaming, laughing and calling me a name that still haunts me today: "Dookie braids Ashley."

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As the class continued to laugh, I turned around and quietly started to walk away. With little comfort in her voice my teacher told me, "Ashley you can go." Once I got to the bathroom, I crumpled down and I let everything go.

According to the National Education Association, 160,000 children miss school every day in fear of being bullied. Yet after my attack, I returned to school to face my classmates again. I never told anyone about my constant bullying. To be honest, I didn't even tell my Granny until much later.

I realize that I had to stand up for myself, have courage, and be patient. If I had run out of the room crying or stopped coming to school, I know I wouldn't be the powerful young lady I am today.

With a Perspective, I'm Ashley Hunter.

Ashley Hunter is a junior at The Life Academy of Health and Biosciences High School in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood. Her commentary was part of a Perspectives-writing project at her school. You can access her classmates' work, her teacher's story and educator resources by clicking on The Life Academy Project.