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How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

White shooter; black boy. Who ya gonna believe?

Interests/Topics: social justice, gangs, friendship, loyalty, special needs, law, violence, death, survival

Curriculum Connections: English, Equity Studies, Law

Gender: M/F

Age: 14+

Blurb: I understand the appeal of gangs. I really do. Now I’m not saying that I condone their activities or would join one myself, but I get why someone would. Gang members are loyal and protective; they look out for each other and back one another up. If they’re dealing drugs, they’ve got loads of money and toys to flash around; if they’re toting weapons, they’ll defend you and intimidate the hell out people you don’t like. Most of all, they give needy and lonely kids a sense of belonging.

But a gang membership isn’t summer camp, something Tariq and his friends in How It Went Down know all too well. They’ve seen firsthand the impact of gang violence in their run-down neighborhood, and make a pack to stick together no matter what. And sticking together means never joining up with the 8-5 Kings.

But then Tariq is shot dead and the Kings claim him as one of their own. Did he join without his best friend Ty knowing? Did he rob a store just before getting killed? Did he threaten his shooter? Was he carrying a gun?

It all depends on who you ask.

Flavour: “The known facts surrounding the shooting death of sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson are few. On the evening of June 2nd, at approximately 5:30 p.m., Johnson sustained two nine millimeter gunshot wounds to the torso. Police officers arrived on the scene at 5:37 p.m. Johnson was pronounced dead at 6:02 p.m. by EMTs at the scene. Police apprehended a person of interest, Jack Franklin, who was present when Johnson was shot but left the scene in a borrowed vehicle shortly afterward. Franklin was pulled over nearly four miles away from the site of the shooting, at 5:56 p.m. A nine millimeter handgun, recently fired, was found in the backseat.” (10)


“Six o’clock, local news. Every station’s got a different version of the story.

Johnson had a gun. Johnson didn’t have a gun.

Johnson robbed a store. Johnson was minding his own business.

Johnson was a member of the 8-5 Kings.

Johnson was in the wrong place at the wrong time, wearing the wrong clothes.

Six-thirty, national news. ‘…growing controversy surrounding the shooting death of seventeen-year-old Tariq Johnson….’” (68)


“[Mom’s] doing her best but she doesn’t really understand. She’s lived on this block her whole life. She doesn’t know being smart isn’t enough. Working hard isn’t enough. I gotta get real lucky, and before I even get a chance to be the right kind of lucky, I gotta get lucky enough to live. I got dreams. I don’t want to pack it up and settle into the streets.” (193)

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