One of the Saddest Stories Ever: I Am Rachel Jeantel

by Evette Dionne


The media and intraracial respectability-nazis have crucified Rachel Jeantel for daring to exist outside of the paradigm of “respectable court etiquette.” The 19-year-old witness was the last person to speak to Trayvon Martin before he was shot and killed by volunteer neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. Jeantel’s endured a brutal trauma, but instead of empathizing with her, critics scrutinize her speech, courtroom demeanor and weight.

The cultural conscience forgets Jeantel lost someone she loved and held with regard. This point was reiterated by the teenager’s lawyer, Rod Vereen, in an interview with the Tom Joyner Morning Show. Thousands of hearts broke when Vereen recounted how significant Martin’s presence was in Jeantel’s life.

Vereen said:

Trayvon was one of the few guys, okay, and this is what, I mean, this ripped, tore my heart apart.  She said he was one of the few guys that never made fun of me, about the way I dressed, about the way I talked, about my hair, about my complexion, you know, about my weight.  And she said, so we communicated, because Rachel was, she was pretty much an introvert and so for her to be a 19-year-old young lady, who speaks three different languages.  Now I hate to hear people talking, oh, she’s ignorant and she speaks three different languages, English being her third language.

He continued:

Trayvon was a handsome little boy, all right?  He was a cute kid.  You know, and so here’s a young lady who’s infatuated the fact that somebody like Trayvon Martin befriended her and then she was just struck at the fact that their friendship was the way it was and they texted each other all the time.  They called each other all the time, you know?  And this is the way she communicated with them, you know.

I didn’t realize tears were cascading down my cheeks until I’d finished reading the interview. My mother immediately cried as I read Vereen’s words to her and my father hung his head with grief. Jeantel suffered a traumatic loss, a trauma I’ve never experienced, but I’m much-too-familiar with the grief of being uncomfortable in my skin.

I had C-cups, stretch marks and menstruation before sixth grade. I attribute my early development to the asthmatic steroids prescribed when I was eight. I needed the medication to avoid extensive hospital-stays in the winter, but when the sexual harassment began, I’d much rather breathe through an inflamed lung than face the lewd comments, stares and gropes.

Some males view females as objects in need of conquering. I was the animal in need of taming and a pack of teenagers thought it was their responsibility to reign me in. I’ll never forget what I was wearing: A red t-shirt, acid-wash jean shorts and cute red sandals. The teacher asked me to assist two male students with dumping the trash after an end-of-the-year celebration. As soon as went outside, one of them pinned my arms behind my back as the other began kissing my neck and grabbing my breasts. I screamed and cried, but nobody heard me.

It was the first incident in a series of similar violations. First it was two fifth-grade classmates. Then their older friends. And their friends. And their friends. I’d sprint from school as soon as the final bell rang, hoping I’d escape before the gang of hormonal teenage boys surrounded me. Sometimes I outran them. Sometimes I didn’t.

It was torture. Though my parents attempted to derail the harassment by reporting their antics to the school, the hormonal gang of teenage boys would still surround me during recess. I wasn’t taunted or teased for being overweight, but I hated living in the skin I was in. My dad told me I was beautiful every morning, afternoon and evening. He boosted my confidence daily, but it deflated as I was treated like an object by male classmates.

I turned the blame inward instead of faulting these teens for their actions. I dressed in hoodies and sweats, hoping my change of attire would keep them from harassing me. It didn’t. My parents transferred to me another school soon after seventh grade began, but the emotional damage never waned.

I learned to resent my breasts, hips and womanly curves. I hid underneath clothing too big and cringed when I passed a group of male students.

But like Rachel, I had a Trayvon. His name was Donovan. He was the first teenage boy I encountered that paid minimal attention to how I looked, but concerned himself with what I thought. How I learned. How I saw the world. He never groped, cornered or harassed me. We were never intimate and there was no attraction between us, but his kindness pulled me from a sinking hole of self-hatred.

He pulled me from the shell I’d retreated into. His friendship kept me sane. I couldn’t imagine losing him then, and can’t begin to fathom Jeantel’s pain.

In that regard, I am Rachel Jeantel.

  • ***

    This story like all are real tear jerkers. However, I went through the exact same experience only I was called a bumpy face hoe in the 4th grade all the way until I left that animal house, jail bird feeder school that only educated you if you went to the local Baptist church. But you will discount my story because I’m light skin, tall, skinny and pretty. Independent but was bullied to no end.

    Can we all just accept that life is hell for most of us. Some of us make it. Some of don’t. No one. No race. No society has a monopoly on pain.

  • geenababe

    I think this post gives some insight into the relationship of these two. Also why she may was acting in a way that seemed not normal and uneducated for some people. Trayvon seemed like a good guy. I’m not really big on friends or friendship but sometimes you need a friend in your life especially when you feel insecure and lonely.

  • march pisces

    i heard the interview with R.J.’s attorney and before i knew it i shed a few tears myself. she actually strikes me as a very confident young lady (what little bit i saw on the news) so i hope that she does not internalize any of the negative that has been said about her during this time. i pray that the time she had with T.M. keeps her until she meets the next friend who will be there with her and for her for who she is and not what she looks like.

    in some form or fashion we are all her which makes it hard to understand why people would go so hard on her. some people have to make others seem small they can seem big…sad…

    great post….

  • MimiLuvs

    “… But you will discount my story because I’m light skin, tall, skinny and pretty. Independent but was bullied to no end…”

    Right now, my mind is too cluttered with emotions. I’ll write my comment later.

  • Angelique212

    ? – I’m not seeing what you’re referencing?

  • Ramblin’ Wreck

    Read the first comment.

  • Angelique212

    Oh lawd! I stopped reading it around “bumpy face hoe”… I can’t…

  • Lynne

    Why do you say you are not big on friends or friendship?

  • Mademoiselle

    I had a Trayvon (but not for anything similar to what the author went through), but even if I didn’t I’d still side with Jeantel. The mentality of some people make me wish they never learned how to write so I could at least escape their stupidity when I read the news.

    To the author, I wish your parents found, and I hope parents today find the courage to treat those kinds of offenses as crimes, and report them to the police instead of just faculty. Too many kids are left to the devices of school administrators whose authority are very limited to begin with, and whose motives are only occasionally similar to the reason parents put their kids in their care. If more adults were willing to treat child harassment like the crime it is, fewer predators of all ages would have the gall to victimize others, fewer parents would brush off reports of their kid being the predator in such situations, and more schools would do a much better job of making it very clear that this conduct is unacceptable. I’m sad that those boys went through life with the slaps on the wrists that allowed them to do this continually, and I cringe at the idea of who they may have become as adults.

  • Mademoiselle

    I don’t know about discounting your story because of how you look today, but this comment seems misplaced considering this isn’t a colorism article. Not to mention, no one reading your comment would have known that you’re “tall, skinny and pretty” until you spelled it out. So in effect, you went out of your way to discount your own experience or to make sure it that it was discounted by others.

  • Cindy

    I love that Trayvon was such a good guy. I am saddened that Rachel experienced bullying. I am saddened the system has clearly failed her as she admitted she is unable to read cursive or was not able to fully articulate herself. When I say articulate, I mean EXPRESS herself. Many of our black teens can’t and the system AND PARENTS are to blame. Her has always been my issue: why can’t we ask that she be a better witness DESPITE her academic standing? Why do we feel we have to ask her to perform in less manner than someone else Is that a thinly veiled form of bigotry against her but believing she can’t do better? NO ONE was asking Rachel to speak in the King’s English. We simply wanted her to stop rolling her eyes, complaining that she had to stay longer for testimony or be snippy with defense attorneys and in front of a judge in the middle of a murder trial of her friend. I AM SO ANGRY that we believe she cannot do that. I am not asking whether she has a perfect SAT score but what intellectual anything do you need to simply be POLITE? The Prosecutor should have prepared her too. They are ruining this case. However, I am so sick of us treating our kids like they are mentally challenged and can’t figure things out. I know because I was a victim of that too. It too a great BLACK TEACHER to defend me and push me to attain a great college degree and a graduate degree because everyone around me assumed, I would be nothing and incapable because my mom was a CRACKHEAD. Low expectations.

  • MimiLuvs

    The statement bugged me because it felt so dismissive and undermining.
    Now, back to the topic…
    My “Trayvon” was my former fiancee.
    He was the first male peer that I had (who wasn’t related to me) that I trusted and believed in.
    Like Rachel and Trayvon, we met while we were still in elementary school and lost touch afterwards until we reached high school.
    By then, I had already learned just how terrible the outside world can be. I was also fearful of men/boys as well. Our friendship didn’t start out great. I had to learn how to trust. He waited patiently. He also proved to me (before we even developed feelings for each other) that he was a great friend. He was the person who made me feel safe, during the times when I was stripped of my dignity and safety.

  • dbsm

    ” We simply wanted her to stop rolling her eyes, complaining that she had to stay longer for testimony or be snippy with defense attorneys and in front of a judge in the middle of a murder trial of her friend.”

    I thought what she did was minor. In fact, I compared her testimony to that of Dr. Rao. Both women were unyielding in their testimony. Dr. Rao is a clinical professional with no ties to the deceased. Rachel is a girl from around the way who was on the stand over two days and multiple hours. Don West asked her the same questions several times, trying to twist her words, or add to them–just as he did to Dr. Rao. Any way that she delivered it, West was going to find a way to take the focus off of what she said because she is the only voice of Trayvon that we have.

    Her “realness” lends credibility to her testimony, IMHO.

  • Pepper

    Lynne I’m SMH on this one as well. Who doesn’t like having friends. In fact most people can count their REAL FRIENDS on one hand

  • jamesfrmphilly

    even black people are against the black woman…..

  • bob

    yall so emotional leave the past in the past get over it. Man up ladies.

  • Riettier Michele Trabue

    Your response seems like a ‘i don’t care’ response. Of course we all have bad days, all have trials and tribulations. Some people take it in stride and some fall completely and utterly apart…and even worse they never get their bearings even after a certain amount of time has passed. However way you look back on your life it should not be met with indifference and disdain. The sharing of one’s misery should not spark a contest to see who can top who. Silence is golden but not sacred or necessary. She the author of this article does not have to be silent anymore than you do. Speak your truth. And be respectful and empathic as you hear others. Its the least we can do when so often what has been done cannot be undone.

  • MommieDearest


    ITA with your comment. I think it’s totally unacceptable that people attacked Rachel for her weight, looks, speech and perceived lack of intelligence. That says a lot more about THEM than her.

    But like you, I believe that her behavior in the courtroom was inappropriate, and that the prosecution should have prepped her. I understand that she was grieving the loss of a true friend, but an astute attorney would have told her to own her grief and use it to be the best witness she can, because SHE is Trayvon’s voice. It’s not about HER or HER feelings. It’s about getting justice for Trayvon. Sighing, rolling her eyes, making faces behind the laywer’s back and being rude can distract the jury from the truths she was telling. Yes, the defense was trying to trip her up and twist her words. That’s what they do. It’s their JOB as defense attorneys. Someone needed to prepare her for that and advise her on how to keep her cool. I wonder how long she’s had Vereen as her attorney? HE couldn’t have coached her on how to behave on the stand?

    I believe her testimony, but I’m not on the jury. I pray that the prosecution doesn’t continue to botch this case, and that the jury can deliver the correct verdict in the end.

  • geenababe

    I just like to keep to myself. I was never a person who thought having friends was a required to live life or do things. I have one person who can count as a friends. A lot of people I know who have a lot of friends find them out to be Fake.

  • Ads

    Best and most touching article I’ve read not only about jeantel, but trayvon. The simple portrait of him as rachel’s donovan, a refuge from cruelty and judgement…. Kudos to the writer

  • Calidee

    People are assuming that she was not prepared by the prosecuting attorney. Practicing how to respond to attacks from the defense attorney is totally differnt than actually being in the court room.

  • SayWhat

    You first

  • NY’s Finest

    I already felt sad for Rachel, now this just breaks my heart

  • Tiffany

    I am not Rachel, in the sense you describe. But I am Rachel.

    Thank you for standing with and speaking on my behalf.

  • Frank Burns

    Considering her to be “real,” in other words, typical of her culture, would obviously be called “racist” in any other context.

    A 19-year-old 11th grader, lying constantly, insisting that blatantly racist slurs (“creepy-a** cracka”) aren’t racist, or even offensive, since that’s “just the way they talk,” having nothing but contempt, disdain, and disrespect for the very process that is going to great lengths to get what she considers justice for her “murdered” friend…this is “realness?” Okay, fine, but that’s not a GOOD thing, nor does it do anything like lending credibility to her “testimony.”

  • dbsm

    Ok, Frank Burns…are you a creepy ass cracka? If so, then I spect a muhfucka like you wont understand dis shxt ritechere, my nigga. Ya feel me?

    How is it racist in any other culture? That is a failure of cultural relativism–you are not part of the culture, so you fail to be able to relate it to this situation and at large. Nor are you even attempting to try. You ain’t tryna hear.

    Why? Because later on Rachel says that Trayvon says that “the NIGGA is still following me.”

    NIGGA= Zimmerman, unless, suddenly, some Black mofo begins following Trayvon as well.

    But you ain’t tryna hear it.

    Thus Trayvon, according to your logic, now becomes blatantly racist against both blacks AND whites.

    “Contempt, disdain, and disrespect” is par for the course for that which was shown to Rachel’s friend Trayvon, as and now to her. Is it hard imagine that in some cultures/circles/groups of people, there is no deference given to others such as law enforcement, officers of the court, etc because of the history of the oppression of people of color and the involvement of such “people in power?” Ever heard of you gotta earn respect to get it? That is typically the underlying principle.

  • Kisha

    Thank you very much for writing this article and giving this perspective on Jeantel! It was very much needed!

  • Frank Burns

    The implication being, of course, that black people should support her simply because she’s black. That’s clearly what always happens, and is no different in this case, but that doesn’t make it any less racist.

  • Frank Burns

    “I believe her testimony,” Including the parts where she’s admitted to having committed perjury? Or are you excluding that, and assuming that everything in between her constant string of lies is true? Sounds logical.

    I too, hope the jury can deliver the correct verdict, not guilty, in the end, so at least we agree on something. This is a case that clearly should never have even gone to trial, which is why a “special prosecutor” had to be brought in, and the grand jury was flagrantly skipped. It’s been a lynch mob from day one, and anybody with any sense has known that all along.

  • Frank Burns

    Asking questions during a very standard cross-examination is not “attacking.” Unless, of course, the witness happens to be black, apparently.

  • Guess

    My question is, how many of “us” have reached out to this young lady, directly. Where are all the NBA players and celebrities who rocked hoodies in support of TM now!? Why aren’t they embracing her!? Hell, Sweet Brown got more attention from “us” than this woman. The sheer hypocracy of it all… SMH

  • MommieDearest

    @Frank Burns

    ““I believe her testimony,” Including the parts where she’s admitted to having committed perjury? Or are you excluding that, and assuming that everything in between her constant string of lies is true? Sounds

    She lied to Trayvon’s mother about why she didn’t attend the funeral because she didn’t want to offend her. She lied about her age because she didn’t want the attention from having her identity public. IMO, those were wrong choices, but she came clean about them up front and those lies have no bearing on the case. They don’t change the validity of what she heard the night Trayvon was killed.

    And while we’re talking about lies, let’s not gloss over the “constant string of lies” that Zimmerman has been caught in as of late. Like the one that was exposed yesterday- when his college professor confirmed that he taught about self-defense and stand your ground to the class, and reiterated(sp?) it numerous times. However, in an interview on Sean Hannity last year, Zimmerman said he had never heard of stand your ground. He couldn’t even keep a straight face when he said it.

    At the very least, Zimmerman is guilty of manslaughter. Bottom line is that if Zimmerman had stayed in his car, like the 911 operator told him to, and NOT PURSUED Trayvon, then there never would have been a case to begin with. Zimmerman went looking for trouble and he found it.

  • Frank Burns

    “Colorism.” Wow, now that’s funny. I haven’t heard that “word” yet (probably because it’s not a word), but I’ll assume it’s meant to replace “racism,” since race is “just skin color,” or, even more lol-worthy, “a social construct.” And I thought that the “Wymyn’s Studies” groups in college were pathetic.

  • Abigail Cho

    This blog post is a disgusting spin about the betrayal of Trayvon Martin by his so-called friend, Rachel Jeantel. I’d save all your tears for friends who actually cared about Trayvon. Or cry for Trayvon’s parents that had to endure sitting in the courtroom having to watch their son’s murder trial turn into a freak show by a young girl that had no respect for them or Trayvon. To call her a friend is an insult! It’s not because she came across as extremely uneducated or lacked “respectable court etiquette”. It’s because she was rude, obnoxious and downright disrespectful. That is a serious character flaw, it has nothing to do with her education or lack thereof. And introverted people do not act like imbeciles so as to bring negative attention to themselves the way she did. She is anything but introverted.
    She just didn’t care about the reason why she was there. She treated the reason she was there with scorn and contempt. There is no way that she did not know she was a pivotal witness for the prosecution. She knew, she just did not care. Trayvon deserved so much better if he was as good of a friend to Rachel as the lawyer claims he was. Actually, he deserved better just because he was a human being.
    “One of the Saddest Stories Ever”? I think not, more like, “A Sad Excuse for a Friend”.
    This blog post is just some sappy fantasy of a “beautiful friendship” that clearly did not exist.

  • Mademoiselle

    Frank, this is what happens when you visit a site for black people out of your own vanity and malice, and have absolutely no frame of reference to use in contributing to the conversation beyond what you see on TV. No, colorism is not a replacement for racism (everything is not about white folks, so you may want to stop making assumptions while you’re already behind). Just go back to your white bubble where you can be blissfully ignorant of the world around you.

  • Bar2

    You guys want to see a testimony of a dignified woman who was there to defend Trayvon? Watch his mom’s testimony. THAT is how you conduct yourself in a court of law not like this trainwreck and careless WOMAN named Rachel. Yes, 19 is a woman! Trayvon’s mom lost a son and she managed to compose herself on the stand.

  • ….

    Better yet watch his brother. That was his flesh and Blood that was killed and even so he was able to compose himself.

  • [email protected]


  • Keith

  • dickbutte

    If you’re rachel jeantel, stop speaking ebonics please.

  • Ali

    Exactly! Jeantel was rude, condescending and so, so ignorant of how to behave properly. If her culture is all about respect of elders, she certainly didn’t display that quality to the nation. I can tell that she must have been quite a piece of work at school. She obviously blew off her free education and is quite content to sit at home and live off Mom and Dad. She gets zero sympathy or respect. Trayon’s Mom is the class act. If only Jeantel would have respected her enough to conduct herself properly.

  • Ali

    Well said! you hit the nail on the head. She just didn’t care enough about anyone to giver her best testimony. She’d rather be wallowing at home than being inconvenienced by something like a trial for her friend that DIED.

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  • Deon Cole

    If da evidence you lacka, you gotta free da cracka !!

  • Angelique212

    SIDEBAR: Clutch… why is HLN using Shahrazad Ali as an expert on the Dr. Drew show to discuss Trayvon Martin? They keep bringing her in as if to continue the legacy and ridicule of “a” Rachel Jeantel. BTW – The Executive producer for the foolishness is Burt Dubrow and the SENIOR PRODUCER, is Barbara Hammond. FYI.


    deon cole shut yo dumb ass up cuz if yo ass died that way u would want justice ol fuckery ass ignorant fuck!!!!!!


    shut your ol ignorant fuckery ass up if yo ass got killed the same way u would want justice or yo mom dad or child you should pray it don’t

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  • Trayvoniqua Martin

    This sea cow of an imbecile deserves to be shot as well. When will your negroe minds ever evolve?

    and some food for thought:

  • Angelique212

    Nothing in your head is worth spreading, dear. If all you can do is troll after your “guy” won his case, you have bigger issues.

    Go whine somewhere else since you seem to have the time. Obviously, in life, you are a failure… hence your anger. Good luck with that. Lol.

  • Angelique212

    What is sad is that you are probably smarter than the REAL Deon Cole…

  • Beau Bradshaw

    couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • Angelique212

    Seeing as @Abigail is clearly ignorant, in the truest sense of the word… the actual definition of it, actually, so you’re not saying much.

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  • RaiseTheBar


    My DAD use to have a saying that pretty much summed it up for me and my siblings, “One friend, one trouble, two friends, two troubles…”

    And my Grandmother, “WE friends, what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is yours”.

    It’s like when “family” ain’t nothing more than individuals with whom one has “blood ties”.

    SO, yeah, I get that whole NOT having “friends” thing. One just needs someone to be “friendly” towards him/her at different times and places in his/her “journey” of LIFE.

  • RaiseTheBar

    IGNORANT and deplorable way to get YouTube viewings.

    I, for one, REFUSE to oblige.

  • addassamari

    This is in response to “Frank Burns.”

    Frank, you said you have never heard the word “colorism” and that is the same as “racism.” I must disappoint you. First, colorism is a ‘word’ and it does not have the same inherent meaning as racism.

    “Colorism is discrimination in which human beings are accorded differing social treatment based on skin color.”

    “Racism is a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race; racial prejudice or discrimination.”

    Hence, “race” is not “just skin color” and if you knew and understood the historical origin of the idea of “race” you would know that “race” and “racism” are social constructs; and there is nothing laughable about it.

    Frank, I strongly suggest that you make an attempt to educate yourself about the culture of prejudice and discrimination (colorism and racism) before you attempt to school anyone.

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