My Generation


Markayla is a 17-year-old ward of the court in Los Angeles' Central Juvenile Hall.

In my generation, we don’t play with dolls

We rob gas stations, jewelry stores and malls.

In my generation, there is no going outside to play

We have to hustle hard to make sure we have a place to stay.

In my generation, books aren’t used to read

We use them to stash our pipes and weed.

In my generation, we don’t think about going to college

We worry if we’ll be able to pay rent and put food in the fridge.

In my generation, we don’t have family to rely on

So we become bloods and crips.

In my generation, school is not a priority

With your life at risk every time you walk the streets.

In my generation, we ain’t worried about learning to ride bikes

We make sure we can clock and load the gun right.

In my generation we don’t have teachers who care,

They just sit behind their desk and check if we’re there.

In my generation, we don’t dream about our 20s and 30s

We are lucky if we make it past 18.

In my generation, little girls don’t go to beauty pageants

They are trying to be fast, wearing booty shorts, makeup,

tissue in their bras they’re packing.

In my generation, parents don’t go to graduation.

They are going to court dates and trial jail visitations.

In my generation we don’t care about the Constitution,

We are trying to stay away from drugs and prostitution

In my generation we don’t talk about how we feel

We get high and drunk to numb what’s real

In my generation women aren’t seen as queens

They are abused, raped and getting pregnant as teens.

In my generation women don’t get swept off their feet by a prince

They are led away by a handsome man and taught to turn tricks.

In my generation kids don’t respect the old,

They run the streets never doing what they’re told.

In my generation things are now a world of pain and sadness.

It’s already too late but it’s up to us to raise our children

The right way so they don’t have the same fate.

This column appeared in The Beat Within, a publication of writing and art from incarcerated youth. David Inocencio founded The Beat Within in San Francisco in 1996. Weekly writing and conversation workshops are held in California, six other states and Washington, D.C. Submissions and new partners are welcomed. Write to him at

More articles on JJIE from The Beat Within:

The Hardest Thing I Ever Had to Tell My Parents

The Start of My Prison Term

Obey the Signs or End Up Like Me