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'It was just a really negative feeling'

Boston high schoolers talk race in Charlestown
Three students recite Tupac Shakur lyrics to kick off a "walk-in" at Charlestown HighNicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

Denzel Morris, like the other three students around him in the auditorium of Charlestown High, recounted a recent run-in with police where he felt targeted because of the color of his skin.

The quartet -- all Boston high school students of color -- had tales of heavy-handed arrests, racial profiling, illegal searches or just plain rudeness. Morris said he was stopped in October for cutting through a lot on his way to Savin Hill T stop -- a shortcut he says he takes everyday -- when he was stopped and charged with trespassing.

"It was just a really negative feeling," said Morris, a black 18-year-old from Dorchester.

Morris was among those to talk about their experiences with local law enforcement before a series of workshops centering around race at the high school Monday afternoon.

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Dubbed a "walk-in," the idea was for parents, teachers and students from across the district to have a forum to talk frankly about race in the wake of the non indictments for the police officers who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City, said Sung-Joon Pai, who helped organize the event and is the director for the school's English language learners (ELL) programs.

Morris said he couldn't shake the feeling that Brown could have been him or a member of his family.

'It was devastating. It was messed up. They left him in the street," he said. "The system is letting people down. It's not holding people to account for the bodies that are lying there. It's messed up."

Rene Laguerre, an 18-year-old from Dorchester, thought more people needed to be educated about their rights and what police can and cannot do. He said tactics such as stop-and-frisk should be eliminated. He said he was not shocked by the Ferguson

"It's like history repeating itself," he said. "It still made me really mad, though."

Christa Perreira, a 17-year-old from Mattapan, summed up her reaction as "a disgusted kind of feeling."

"We have learn how to cope and go by the system's rules," said Perreira. "Even though it's sad and backwards. The system should know how to cope with poor black people, instead of poor black people have to cope with the system."

Nueseline Goncalves, 18, of Dorchester, for one, did not necessarily think protests accomplished anything.

"When you go you need to know what you can and can't do there because the police will take advantage of you," she said.

Morris, for one, thought the city should have more frank discussions about race.

"There's no need to sugarcoat it and act like this is a perfect city because it's not," he said.

 
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