Today is the ninth anniversary of the death of a friend and former student.
Jacob Delgado was 19 when he was shot and killed on Broad Street in Providence, RI. He was an artist and employee at the AS220 Broad Street Studio at the time of his death. We had met about a year and a half earlier at the Rhode Island Training School (RITS), where he was incarcerated for several of his teenage years. The first time I ever went to the RITS I met Jacob. He had amazing energy, a stack of notebooks full of writing, and was one of the best freestyle rappers I have ever heard.
The first classes I taught at the RITS were poetry classes in the maximum security unit and every class would end in a freestyle cipher at the back of the room. We would all rhyme, but Jacob and Matthew (who was killed two months after Jacob) were the leaders and they would often battle each other for long stretches of time to see who could come up with the most creative ways of insulting each other.
But while his rhyme style was aggressive, not everything Jacob wrote was… While he was incarcerated he drafted a 13 page “proposal for change” which prioritized education as the most important thing for his peers and outlined plans for peer mediation, a teen summit, support groups, mentoring, voter registration, a tribal council, and a gang peace unit. When he was released from the training school, he pursued these plans, going back to meet with administrators and joining the staff of the Broad Street Studio. On staff at the Studio, Jacob participated in many things including writing and interviewing politicians for the Muzine, a bi-monthly publication of the Studio. He also went to area high schools and helped recruit young writers to get involved. The energy he brought on those school visits was contagious and engaged students like nothing else I’ve ever seen.
Maybe because he was on such a positive path from anger and destruction to creativity and peace, he didn’t think the situation would lead to violence… Or maybe because he was incarcerated in an environment without guns for so many of his teenage years, when he got into an argument with some dude at the chimi truck late on a Friday night, Jacob expected it to be resolved with words and fists. But even though they were both on Broad Street, the other guy was on a different path.
This is the prescient poem Jacob wrote the day before he was murdered. I found it on the floor of the Studio the following Monday:
my life what it izz, lost full of emotions
that’s ready to flip.
Holly spirits – trying to capture my live
do i lose it? na I’ll manetane still not
undersanden how theas streets captured my vaines
scary sight on every corner lay’s a stane
memorys of splader brianes, young souls
curpted by fame killing another nigga fa a
name dam what a shame
- Jacob Delgado RIP