As I sat in the library in the spring of my freshman year, I browsed the Web for about 30 minutes before I found my second-grade teacher had lived in Philadelphia — and five minutes later, I was able to find Joshua Kaplowitz on Facebook.
After the incident — in 2001 I accused him of shoving me down and got him fired from D.C.’s Emery Elementary — I often wondered what direction Joshua’s life had gone. Knowing that a 22-year-old professional’s life had been set back due to an event at work could be quite deteriorating to one’s development as a person. I wanted to know how Josh dealt with the obstacle placed in front of him, and wanted him to know the positive effects that the incident had on my life. I wanted to know the real Joshua Kaplowitz, and I wanted him to know who I was.
I decided to put pride and discomfort aside and reach out to him. He and I, both, could still hold a grudge against one another, but what good does that do? I heard nothing back, at first.
I worried that Joshua probably thought I’d come back to do more harm than good. However, I’d simply wanted to apologize for my actions as a student and let him know I was able to make a drastic change in my behavior. I just thought he’d be happy for me. The boy he had once faced in court is now an 18-year-old man with a bright future.
Although I had great influence over the lawsuit because I was essentially the victim, I was 7 at the time and really didn’t understand how the legal system worked, and neither did my mom. She had hired an advocate who made many weighty decisions. Throughout the whole legal process, thoughts of an angry teacher out there to get me ran through my mind constantly — I couldn’t sleep without having nightmares, before running into my mom’s room for comfort. I relived that moment when I was shoved, and being confronted by all the legal professionals demanding answers was frightening. I saw a psychologist for a year or so, until I was mentally and emotionally healed.
I grew out of that phase when I started doing constructive activities that consumed my thoughts. I started doing extremely well in school, and was far from the unengaged student I was at Emery. I enjoyed doing puzzles and reading books, while playing organized sports helped me channel my anger, aggression and get away from other burdens that boggled my mind.
I learned that my anger and aggression came from the environment I lived in. Living in a community that consists of no role models, drugs and broken homes, I saw myself looking up to guys who hung on the corner participating in illegal activity. Fighting, sex and money was a way in which this community defined masculinity. I took those same practices into the classroom and disregarded listening to a teacher. In second grade I wasn’t the most engaged and respectful student, while Josh had trouble controlling the class — two factors that didn’t mix.
In the end, I attended Calvin Coolidge High School in Northeast, where I started on the varsity football team every year. Balancing academics and athletics was easy — I excelled at both. Battling the pressures of being in the inner city, I still managed to graduate with honors and received acceptance into Morehouse.
While attending Morehouse, the most fruitful and rewarding experiences have come outside of the classroom — the friendships that I’ve made and the professors who care about my development. I’ve been blessed to obtain entry to numerous programs and corporate internships that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. As a business administration major concentrating in finance, I am grateful to be in a business school that sets its foundation on learning culture and hard work. As I make a transition from academia to professional, my drive, time-management skills and solution-driven mind-set have all the potential to allow me to begin my career.
I wanted Josh to know all this. After a while, he finally replied to me and we began building a friendship. I think the hardest part was the uncertainty of my loved ones. My mom was really skeptical. But I did not let anyone’s opinion influence my decision. I think friendship is essential to one’s being, and if I was able to reconcile this relationship, we as a society should have no problems letting go of grudges. In Josh, I began to see an authentic person who really had my best interest at heart. We gained each other’s trust through discussions of the incident, in which we identified faults and forgave one another.
We’re now able to discuss topics ranging from politics all the way to racism. I am able to go to Joshua for career advice, and discuss college life from my perspective. Knowing that environment shapes beliefs and values, what I’ve come to realize is that everyone is different and how we embrace those differences can speak to one’s character. Whether there’s a difference in culture or views, we’re able to see the commonalities that exists with our differences. I am glad I have grown to understand the importance of our story.
Raynard Ware, a senior at Morehouse College, grew up in Washington and graduated from Coolidge High School.
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