Tia Morrison

Tia Morrison is a fifth-year Bachelor of Arts — English student at Mount Royal University.

We’re going to make it.

The sirens are deafening. But it’s not like I’d be able to hear much past them anyway. Between the screaming and crying, there isn’t much conversation to grab hold of.

I hadn’t even packed my bags this morning.

I was shaken awake by mama, tears streaming down her face. They’re coming for you...for all of you. She’d ripped the covers off the bed and thrust the backpack into my hand. Before I understood what was happening, I was in the van. The neighbour’s daughter was already in the backseat. She was silent — as shocked as I felt.

No time to waste.

I slam on the brakes, narrowly missing an errant vehicle fleeing from a squad car. I whip my head around — the neighbour’s daughter seems fine. I pull my hat lower over my head and nervously adjust my sunglasses. My phone hasn’t stopped ringing. It’s my best friend. I pick up. I get the address, and I stomp on the gas.

I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

I’ve unintentionally picked up a few others. All around my age, all piled into the van. We all look the same. Sunken eyes and unspoken cries haunt our faces. We look like the dead … and if I don’t push this van to its limit, we all might be.

We didn’t take it seriously.

When the man on the news said that the government would be implementing new measures of “rehabilitation for at-risk, inner-city youth,” no one assumed it would end like this. First, it was the prison youth, and no one batted an eye. Who really cared about a couple of young gang-bangers anyway, right? Then, they came for the undocumented families. This was slightly more eyebrow-raising, but they weren’t here legally anyway. They could just get their papers and go, right? Eventually, a handful turned into a dozen, turned into a hundred, turned into a couple hundred, turned into a war on the poor and middle-class youth. I guess it was finally time to empty out the Projects. Riots broke out into the streets about the missing, the murdered, the lost. But it only made them angrier. They were so, so angry.

We just have to get to the border.

I only have half a tank. We weren’t able to fill up before it all went to hell. I will have to stop somewhere. I’ll never be able to make it all the way and save us all. I punch it harder. I’ll stop somewhere quiet, somewhere in a sleepy little town. Somewhere no one will catch us.

We’re going to make it.

I am able to fill the tank. One of the stragglers I picked up has an older cousin who lives a couple of hours away. He’ll be able to help. He does. I drain the two jerry cans the cousin hands me, and I overhear their shared conversation. I love you. I love you. Can I stay? No, you’re better off with them. The cousins finally split. Get to the border.

What would I have said to her?

On the road once more, I think about what I would have said to mama. Would I have cried? Would I have told her I loved her? Or, would I simply have held on tight, only for her to force me off and shove me in the van? What kills me is that I’ll never know. I reach for my best friend. My best friend reaches back.

None of us will ever know.

We don’t make it to the border. My best friend and I go to swap seats. I am tired from driving. It is just enough time. The hidden highway patrol surrounds us. I didn’t see them. I was tired from all the driving. The van is emptied. My best friend screams and kicks, connecting to an officer. There is a single bullet. That is all it takes. Three more ring out, though. A fourth fires a moment later, but not for my best friend. Bullet four is for cousin, who spits in the face of a different officer. The way cousin’s body lands is not very dignified, and neither is the way the body is loaded into the van with a few of the others. At least the officers have the decency to shut their wide, glassy eyes. Animals. The lot of them.

I am hauled away with my best friend's body. I hunch over them as best I can with my hands cuffed behind my back. I rest my forehead on theirs. The neighbour’s daughter watches me. She slides a foot over to mine, pressing firmly against it in solidarity. I see you, the gesture says. I’m so sorry. For the first time today, I suck in a breath and let out a sob. I failed. I wasn’t able to save them. I had to leave mama, and I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

Worst of all, we never made it.


Tia Morrison

Tia Morrison


About the author

“BREAKING: Youth …” is based on a dream had multiple times, with only minor details changing each time, says Tia Morrison, a fifth-year Bachelor of Arts — English student.

“When I first had the dream I thought it was a little silly and I was able to brush it off, but the more I thought about it, the darker it got, so I figured it might make for an interesting read,” Morrison says.

“‘BREAKING: Youth…’ is a story about how common violence is levelled against minorities through purposefully vague language touted by prominent media figureheads and written into policies and laws. This story is a reminder that the consequences of this language, these policies, the uncritical ear hearing but not listening, will continue to be borne by those with the greater disadvantages in society until these aspects are further scrutinized.”

Using gender-neutral language, Morrison says, “My main focus when writing is to make the environment as accessible as possible, and for a long time that did not extend to people outside of the gender binary. I want my writing to reflect the wide array of people who are simply out and about in society existing as they are.”

With a father from Jamaica and a mother from Canada, Morrison takes great pride in being biracial. She says creative writing helps her to understand the ways in which people interact or even cope with difficult aspects of life, but also to celebrate the little moments often taken for granted.

“I like to think that creative writing, and art in general, is that little bit of extra, the cherry on top, the bit of sparkle on a holiday card. It’s what reminds people that life is meant to be enjoyed, not just lived.”


Throughout the month of February, MRU is presenting the voices of Black writers from the community in recognition of the power of words. If you have a submission, please email