Amazing Kids! Magazine

Brother By Heart

By Leslie Valverde, Age 15, California


“I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of ‘interposition’ and ‘nullification’—one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

The words of a great man inspired me to stand up and protect a solemn young black boy. This boy was no ordinary boy. He denied being called African, because this boy stated he was not from Africa, but born and raised a colored American boy no different from the rest. This boy was my best friend, and this is the story of my best friend, and how I met him and how I lost him.

It was my first day of fifth grade, and it was July 20, 1964. The Alabama elementary school I attended finally abolished segregation, and this meant that white children and colored children could finally be friends with each other. I was so excited to see what great friends I could make. Momma and Poppa had warned me about the bullies; they told me that some children were raised to hate the colored.

Poppa said, “If you see anyone bullying a poor colored child, you go in and stop them, you punch ‘em if you have to.”

I laughed at Poppa and told him, “I’ll defend the colored, but I won’t resort to violence, Poppa. That’s just not good; you can’t fight fire with fire.”

I got out of my Poppa’s car and ran to my class, so excited to see and make new friends. I walked down the hallway and noticed two water fountains: one said “Colored Only” and the other said “White Only”. I didn’t understand this rule. Why would they separate the colored when they’re no different from us whites? I asked myself. I set aside my thoughts and ran to class before I would be marked late. I walked in and noticed that the left side of the classroom had only colored kids sitting there, and the right side had the white kids sitting there. I decided to sit on the left side. I sat right next to a very scared-looking, lonely-looking colored boy, who froze when I sat right next to him. I didn’t understand this.

“Good morning class, I am your teacher, Mrs. Walters,” she said. She immediately noticed me, and asked kindly, “Excuse me, young man, but what are you doing sitting on the colored side?”

“I see nothing different about the whites and the colored,” I replied in the most respectful way. “I am no different than the boy behind me or the boy next to me. Our skin color might be different but that does not mean that we should be treated any differently. We are all the same and in fact, I suggest that we have the colored and the whites sitting right beside each other.”

“Young man, the principal has been told to keep the whites separate from the colored.”

“Then where are the successes of the civil rights movement? That law is meant to bring together all the whites and colored. That law was passed to bring us together. And Ma’am, I am telling you this with the most respect, the separation of colored and whites is by far the most idiotic act the State of Alabama could ever do.”

By the next period, I was in the principal’s office.

“Mr. Holbrook, your son has done something of terrible proportions,” the principal said to my father.

“What has my good boy done?” he asked, confused.

The principal spoke of my conversation with the teacher.

“You’re saying my boy defended the colored children?” Poppa asked.

“Yes, he did indeed!”

“Now what’s so wrong about a white boy defending the colored? What’s wrong with the whites nowadays? You people are sickening! Now you let my boy go, and if he ever gets sent here for defending a colored child ever again, so help me, Mr. McCarthy, I will have you fired.” My father walked out the door, taking my hand. “Alright, son, now you go on and have a good day. Don’t listen to those crazy teachers; you go on and keep doing what you’re doing.” He kissed my forehead, mussed my hair and left.

I walked out to the playground with my lunch pail in hand and sat down alone at a table. Within minutes, a nice colored boy decided to sit right next to me.

“My name is Timothy Smith,” he said, a bit shakily.

“Nice to meet you Timmy,” I said with the biggest smile, giving him a giant hug. “I’m Johnny Holbrook. A pleasure to be your friend.”

“You want to be my friend?”  he asked, puzzled.

“Why wouldn’t I? You seem like a great person, and I feel like we’re gonna be the best of friends for a very long time.” I put my arm around his shoulders.

“You really think so?” he asked.

“Timmy, I know so.” I grabbed his arm and rushed him over to the playground.

“This is the white playground,” said Sheryl White, the mean girl with no respect for anybody.

“Excuse me Sheryl, but Timmy here is my bestest friend, and where I go, he goes.” I put an arm around Timmy.

Hearing this, three boys started to circle around Timmy and me. “Didn’t you hear the girl? Whites only! Johnny can stay but the N—”

“Don’t you dare say that word!” I told the boy who was speaking. “Don’t you dare call him that! We don’t use the ‘N’ word here. His name is Timothy, and you can call him that or you get out of here,” I said firmly.

“Listen here Johnny boy, you either stop this foolish act and leave that N-, Timothy by himself or you never talk with us whites ever again,” said the boy.

“Now you listen here, Wes, because I would rather spend all my days with Timmy than in the bad company of you! Y’all are starting to sicken me. Let’s go Timmy.” And with that, Timmy and I went to the “colored” playground and played and laughed our heads off, enjoying each other’s company, enjoying our genuine friendship.

Years went by and soon enough, Timmy and I were seniors in high school, I spent many grand years with Timmy, we protected each other, I reasoned with the bullies and he made sure to keep the bullies away from me as well. He and I grew a strong bond. We got each other through some tough times, like when Timmy’s mother passed and he wept and wept, and I was his shoulder to cry on. Timmy had no family other than his mother, so I let him stay with me. My parents were his parents, and we were one big happy family.

“Timmy! It’s our first day as seniors! Do you know what this means?” I asked enthusiastically.

“No.” said Timmy rolling back into bed.

“Timmy it means our last year at school! Prom, college, university—our future awaits us, Timmy,” I said dramatically.

“Boys get up time for school!” Momma yelled from downstairs. Timmy and I got ready at lightning speed, hurried downstairs and gobbled up our breakfast.

We arrived at school, and luckily, I had every class with my brother. I knew this year was bound to be a good one. We sat together in the front of the room as happy as two peas in a pod, but that quickly came to an end. “Blacks go in the back. Get lost,” said a very rude young man.

“Excuse me, my brother here deserves respect and he is no different from you or me, so you let him be,” I told him calmly.

“This brother of yours should go back to Africa where he belongs,” he retorted.

Timothy stood up. “Now you listen here, I am no different from any white man. I am just as smart, just as strong, and just as capable of doing what I want to do, and I am not African, because I was born and raised in the United States. I am American, and the color of my skin does not change my nationality, nor should it separate me from you. The only difference between me and you is the fact that I have respect for others. That unlike you, I have manners, I have a heart, and I will sit where I please and no one will tell me otherwise.” Timothy delivered the speech with rage in his eyes, and just like that, the boy left, and a content Timmy proudly took his seat in the front of the class.

Months passed, and it was finally time for Senior Prom. Timmy and I were as excited as ever, but my poor Timmy couldn’t find a girl to go with him. I walked over to my brother and said, “Timmy, any girl would be blessed to go to Prom with you, and if they won’t, then that’s their loss. Cheer up, because we’re going to Prom together.” I patted my brother on the shoulder.

“Are you sure?” he asked. “Prom with your brother?”

“Of course, Timmy. I would rather enjoy my last dance with my brother than any other human on this earth, so put on your dancing shoes Timmy. We’ve got a Prom awaiting us.”

And with that, we were off, just me and my brother, ready to have the best night of our lives.

We entered the Alabama Convention Center and saw dancing teens everywhere. The music was grand, and the punch was perfect. The night couldn’t be any better!

“Hey Johnny! Didn’t they tell your brother that the colored dance was at the Alabama state junk yard?” yelled a group of boys.

I was immediately fired up, but Timmy grabbed my arm. “Johnny, just calm down and enjoy the dance. These fools have been bugging us since elementary, and giving in to their insults won’t get us anywhere.” Tim had just persuaded me to calm down when a cold splash of cherry punch suddenly drenched my clothes.

“That’s it!” I yelled, grabbing the boy by his collar. “You disrespectful, poorly mannered human! You are lucky that I don’t resort to violence, but I will not stoop to your level! You’re a child with nothing, you’ll get nowhere with this, and I hope you find shame in your soul, and I hope you realize what you’ve been doing for the past seven years is unholy, and I hope it bites you right back, because what goes around comes around.” I let go of him. “Timmy, I’m starving. Let’s get out of here.” My brother and I turned and began walking out of the building. Before we had made it very far, both us of fell to the ground with a thud.

Light years later, I came to consciousness in a brightly lit room. “Where am I? Where’s Timmy?” I yelled for my brother in tears.

The nurses came in and tried to calm me down. “You’re at the hospital. Your brother and you were both wounded,” said the nurse, and I ran my hand over my chest, finding bandages.

“How did I survive? Where’s Timmy, and how did you know he’s my brother?” I asked, frightened.

“Calm down, sir. You were wounded in the heart, your brother was wounded in the leg, and your brother had survived the wound, but you nearly didn’t. But your brother did something valiant and courageous, and when complications showed he wouldn’t make it, he donated his heart to you,” said the nurse. “He gave his heart so you could survive.”

“No, no, no! My poor brother!” I screamed. Pulling the paper he left me close to my face, I read the following note through my tears:

Dear Johnny,

I have decided to give my heart to you as a transplant. You have given me nothing but love since the beginning, and you are and will always be my best friend and my brother. I hope you know that I will always be with you. A piece of me lives in you, and I will always be watching you from heaven, big brother. I love you.

Sincerely, Timothy Smith Holbrook