Wednesday, 22 October 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG

A Teenager Named Rachel Jeantel

Thursday, 11 July 2013 13:10 By Ife Johari, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

By now the world knows the name of the young woman who was the last person to speak to Trayvon Martin: Rachel Jeantel. Rachel has been thrown head on into the public eye in a way that NONE of us would ever want for ourselves. Imagine what it must be like: a high school student talking on the phone to one of your friends like you would normally do...then all of a sudden your friend is dead and your world is turned into a legal whirlwind!  Watching her tell the story of the last time she spoke to her friend Trayvon was painful. Watching defense attorney Don West questioning her, often times it was easy to forget that Zimmerman is the one who is on trial and not Ms. Jeantel. Rachel was judged very harshly by the public as people generally have a way of being overly critical, judgmental and just plain mean. Judging Rachel as if she should have been born ready to testify in court and to play any part in this legal system who is in no way on her side. What I saw was a young woman who knew the defense team was against her and out to discredit her, she knew that Don West had a particular impatience and dislike for her. Many people highlighted her behavior and her dislike and impatience for Don West but that feeling was definitely not one sided. She knew it, she felt it and she wasn’t afraid to show it to the world with her famous response—"that's real retarded, sir". She was standing up for herself and I was proud of her for doing so.

The media is not focused on reporting the strength and pain of who this young woman on the stand was... No... The media feeds the masses every negative criticism of her that has been said. From her level of education, the way she speaks, to even the way she wears her hair... all up for criticism. Highlighting the fact that she is a 19-year-old just entering into the 12th grade in high school. Highlighting that she can’t read or write in cursive. Never once questioning an education system that would allow a teenager to reach the 12th grade without knowing how to read or write in cursive. How did that happen? It seems that "no child left behind" has turned into "push them through the system and get them out of our hair". One thing is for sure, reading or writing in cursive has nothing to do with the real life lessons she is learning through all of the happenings in her life now. I can only imagine.

None of us know what life was like for Rachel Jeantel before the world knew her name, before her friend was murdered, before she took the stand. None of us know what she has struggled with in her life, what her dreams may be, what and who she loves in life. Have her dreams in life changed since all of this has happened? These are the questions I would like to ask her.

Since Rachel Jeantel has returned home she has been pretty active on social media. Accepting thousands of "friend requests" on her Facebook page. She even accepted my friend request. I was very pleased to watch her page become flooded with a great show of love and support. I have reached out to her like a big sister would and advised her to be careful on social media because the world is watching her now and as she is learning the world is not very friendly all the time. But it is obvious after all the criticism of her that she has probably read and heard—she needed this. She needed to hear the encouragement.

Her page is flooded with posts and comments such as:

"You have and will be in my prayers. I pray that God continue to give you strength. May he guard your ears and put a filter so you are not moved by the negative energy. Blessing to you my sister."

"Rachel Jeantel for president because she's honest and has no fear!!"

"I am extremely sorry for your lost Rachel!! I know it's been over a year since you lost your good friend Trayvon Martin. Most people forget to say things like that!!!! God is Good, and thanks for showing the world your true self, I love people who are simply themselves. Blessing Rachel!!!!"

Rachel even posted a picture with someone wearing a "I Love Rachel Jeantel" t-shirt. Her captioned read: Am I dreaming? This is crazy! Then there came a flood of people saying they too want a "I Love Rachel Jeantel" t-shirt (I want one too).

Rachel responded to the love and support with a status on Sunday, July 7, 2013 saying, "May God watch y'all thank you for the support I have been reading them thank you and have a great Sunday thank you may God bless you amen"

It is my hope for Rachel that all of this comes to an end soon and she is able to return to her "normal" teen-aged life but not before someone signs her up for a book, television or movie deal first!

I wish peace in the life of this teenager named Rachel Jeantel. A very strong, brave and honest young woman.

You did good Rachel! Much love and support to you! 

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Ife Johari

Ife Johari is a Detroit native mother of two sons and an activist for the betterment of conditions in the African American community.


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A Teenager Named Rachel Jeantel

Thursday, 11 July 2013 13:10 By Ife Johari, SpeakOut | Op-Ed

By now the world knows the name of the young woman who was the last person to speak to Trayvon Martin: Rachel Jeantel. Rachel has been thrown head on into the public eye in a way that NONE of us would ever want for ourselves. Imagine what it must be like: a high school student talking on the phone to one of your friends like you would normally do...then all of a sudden your friend is dead and your world is turned into a legal whirlwind!  Watching her tell the story of the last time she spoke to her friend Trayvon was painful. Watching defense attorney Don West questioning her, often times it was easy to forget that Zimmerman is the one who is on trial and not Ms. Jeantel. Rachel was judged very harshly by the public as people generally have a way of being overly critical, judgmental and just plain mean. Judging Rachel as if she should have been born ready to testify in court and to play any part in this legal system who is in no way on her side. What I saw was a young woman who knew the defense team was against her and out to discredit her, she knew that Don West had a particular impatience and dislike for her. Many people highlighted her behavior and her dislike and impatience for Don West but that feeling was definitely not one sided. She knew it, she felt it and she wasn’t afraid to show it to the world with her famous response—"that's real retarded, sir". She was standing up for herself and I was proud of her for doing so.

The media is not focused on reporting the strength and pain of who this young woman on the stand was... No... The media feeds the masses every negative criticism of her that has been said. From her level of education, the way she speaks, to even the way she wears her hair... all up for criticism. Highlighting the fact that she is a 19-year-old just entering into the 12th grade in high school. Highlighting that she can’t read or write in cursive. Never once questioning an education system that would allow a teenager to reach the 12th grade without knowing how to read or write in cursive. How did that happen? It seems that "no child left behind" has turned into "push them through the system and get them out of our hair". One thing is for sure, reading or writing in cursive has nothing to do with the real life lessons she is learning through all of the happenings in her life now. I can only imagine.

None of us know what life was like for Rachel Jeantel before the world knew her name, before her friend was murdered, before she took the stand. None of us know what she has struggled with in her life, what her dreams may be, what and who she loves in life. Have her dreams in life changed since all of this has happened? These are the questions I would like to ask her.

Since Rachel Jeantel has returned home she has been pretty active on social media. Accepting thousands of "friend requests" on her Facebook page. She even accepted my friend request. I was very pleased to watch her page become flooded with a great show of love and support. I have reached out to her like a big sister would and advised her to be careful on social media because the world is watching her now and as she is learning the world is not very friendly all the time. But it is obvious after all the criticism of her that she has probably read and heard—she needed this. She needed to hear the encouragement.

Her page is flooded with posts and comments such as:

"You have and will be in my prayers. I pray that God continue to give you strength. May he guard your ears and put a filter so you are not moved by the negative energy. Blessing to you my sister."

"Rachel Jeantel for president because she's honest and has no fear!!"

"I am extremely sorry for your lost Rachel!! I know it's been over a year since you lost your good friend Trayvon Martin. Most people forget to say things like that!!!! God is Good, and thanks for showing the world your true self, I love people who are simply themselves. Blessing Rachel!!!!"

Rachel even posted a picture with someone wearing a "I Love Rachel Jeantel" t-shirt. Her captioned read: Am I dreaming? This is crazy! Then there came a flood of people saying they too want a "I Love Rachel Jeantel" t-shirt (I want one too).

Rachel responded to the love and support with a status on Sunday, July 7, 2013 saying, "May God watch y'all thank you for the support I have been reading them thank you and have a great Sunday thank you may God bless you amen"

It is my hope for Rachel that all of this comes to an end soon and she is able to return to her "normal" teen-aged life but not before someone signs her up for a book, television or movie deal first!

I wish peace in the life of this teenager named Rachel Jeantel. A very strong, brave and honest young woman.

You did good Rachel! Much love and support to you! 

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Ife Johari

Ife Johari is a Detroit native mother of two sons and an activist for the betterment of conditions in the African American community.


Hide Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus