How It Went Down Summary & Study Guide

Kekla Magoon
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How It Went Down Summary & Study Guide Description

How It Went Down Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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How it Went Down, by Kekla Magoon, tells the story of a community that is thrown into tumult after a young black man, Tariq Johnson, is gunned down by a white man on the sidewalk one evening. As a result of this tragedy many of those living in the community must face the ultimate reality of their situation, and light is brought to shine on a larger, more racially charged, issue that rocks many impoverished areas in America, today.

Jennica was the first on the scene. She and Noodle had been sitting across the street on the stoop outside of Noodle's house. They had just finished smoking a joint and were starting to make out when they heard a 'pop'. Looking across the street they see a white man standing over T's body, and in horror, they watch him shoot T one more time. The man jumps in the blue car and drives quickly away.

Jennica runs over to try and do CPR on Tariq, but it is too late. He has been shot in the chest and there is blood everywhere. Noodle tells her that they need to leave before the police arrive since they are high. Jennica refuses to do so and only leaves when the paramedics arrive. Jennica hadn't really known T that well, but they had gone to the same school. She is devastated.

The store owner, Rocky, talks to the police and tells them that T had come in for some items for his mother. He had been in such a hurry that he'd run out of the store without his change. Rocky went after him, calling for him to stop.

Brian Trellis tells police that he saw T running from the store, heard Rocky yelling 'Stop thief' and had stepped in Tariq's way to slow him down. He tells police that the boy had told him to get out of his way. There were gang members, the Kings, that were nearby and they were egging T on. T had dropped all of his items and started to puff up like he was going to fight Brian. Then, Brian says, he heard someone say that there was a gun. Brian had put up his hands and backed off saying he didn't want any trouble.

There was a squeal of tires and a white man in a blue car had pulled up. A man had jumped out of the car with a gun and had come up to where T and Brian stood on the sidewalk. T had told the man to mind his own business. At that point the white man shot T in the chest, then when T was down, shot him again. Then he drove away.

Noodle and Jennica are interviewed by the police. Jennica tells them that T didn't have a gun, that he was holding a Snicker's bar in his hand. Noodle distinctly remembers seeing a gun, but also notes that it isn't anywhere on the ground to be found. He doesn't want to make Jennica look like a liar to the police, especially since the police don't like gang members, or their women.

Brick, the leader of the Kings gang, is upset that T is dead. He'd had plans for T which included him coming to be his second in command in the organization. Back when they were both younger they had agreed that they would take over the Kings. The two boys had bonded over the fact that both of their sisters were 'special' and were learning disabled.

Back at T's apartment, his mother doesn't know that T is dead. She's wondering where he has gotten to. Tina, T's sister is impatient for her Snicker's bar. She tells the reader that T always takes good care of her and is the best brother ever. The reader also meets Redeema, T's grandmother, who also lives with them. Terrence, T's father, abandoned the family years earlier.

The police notify Vernesha, T's mother, that he has been shot. She is appalled that they are suggesting that her son was a gang member and that he had been involved in the sale of drugs. Redeema becomes angry and tells the police to get out of the apartment when they also state that T had stolen some items from Rocky's store.

On the other end of the street Tyrell is watching the news. T's face and name have been released. Ty is terrified and horrified. T was his best friend. The two of them were the only holdouts to not join the Kings.

In the beauty shop where she works, Kimberly refuses to look out of the window when the sirens start wailing. This is a common occurrence in that part of town. She tells her customer that inside the salon there is no outside. And that's the way Kimberly intends to keep it. One day, she knows, she will find a way to get out of Underhill.

In Washington, DC the Reverend Alabaster Sloan receives a call from his assistant. She tells him that she received word of a shooting in Underhill. That a black boy had been shot by a white man. The boy had not been armed. The Reverend is running for political office and sees his chance to further his platform on racial lines. He gets on board a plane. When he lands he immediately goes to Underhill, and stops into Kimberly's salon. He asks her if she can do his makeup before the press conference. Kimberly is starstruck and readily agrees. The Reverend Sloan, who is married, thinks that if it weren't an election year that he would definitely bed this young girl.

Sammy is also interviewed by the police. He swears that he saw a gun. He is angry because he, himself, has a gun and he didn't use it to protect T. He feels like a coward. When he gets to his apartment complex and gets on the elevator, an older girl named, Melody, is there. He tells her about T.

Melody is stunned that T is dead. They had drifted apart over the years, but T had been her first true boyfriend. She gives the reader insight into who T really was. He hadn't been like the other boys. T was smart, kind, and didn't let people talk smack. He was also incredibly caring to his sister, who was special needs. Melody is truly sorry for his death.

Tyrell thinks about when he, T, Sammy, and Junior were all younger and would have sleepovers at his house. One time, they all took three big sleeping bags and unzipped them, then re-zipped them into one large bag. They all slid into that and Ty remembers feeling as if they would always be friends, and that they would be safe as long as they were together. They'd all sworn, then and there, that they wouldn't be gang members.

Ty tells the reader that Sammy, then Junior, had been the first to break that oath. In the end, it was only T and Ty that managed to keep their promise. Junior had been arrested shortly afterward and sent to the state penitentiary for murder.

The man that shot T, Jack Franklin, goes to his friend's house, Tom Arlen. He originally had been visiting Tom the day of the shooting, when he came to borrow a car as his was being serviced. Now, he's back at Tom's asking if he can lie low there. The media have descended on everyone and Jack is being hounded. Tom reluctantly agrees. Jack tells Tom emphatically that the boy had a gun.

Meanwhile everyone in Underhill is upset because Jack has been released from police custody. The police ruled it a justifiable homicide as Jack was standing his ground and defending himself. No one in Underhill is buying that statement. A vigil is organized that evening.

Kimberly goes to the Reverend Sloan's hotel and brings him his briefcase. After doing his makeup, she impulsively kisses him. The Reverend asks her if she will be his personal assistant while he's in town. She readily agrees.

At the vigil, a boy named Will shows up. He used to live in Underhill but when his mother remarried, they were able to leave the area. Will misses his friends and lies about where he's going after school so he can still come to Underhill and hang out with them. He goes the to vigil and when the singing starts, he thinks that his stepdad, Steve, just doesn't get it.

Tyrell is frightened. He used to walk with T to school and the two of them would be safe walking through Stinger (a rival gang) territory. Now, without T, and without belonging to the Kings, he knows he's got a target on his back. He reluctantly agrees to take a ride with Brick, the leader of the Kings.

Jennica and her boyfriend Noodle begin to have problems. Ever since the murder Jennica's eyes have been opened to how her life could also end up. She wants to break up with Noodle and she wants to leave Underhill as soon as she can. Noodle becomes physically abusive towards her when she tells him she wants to break up.

The next day in Kimberly's salon, Jennica comes in to have her hair done for T's funeral. She is so sore that it hurts when Kimberly works on her. Kimberly doesn't say anything but she knows what has most likely happened. Jennica starts crying and the two begin a friendship. They both have dreams of leaving Underhill.

At the funeral Ty goes into the restroom to gather himself. While there he sees T's father, Terrence in there crying. Ty wants to give him a piece of his mind, about how he has some gall to come back to the funeral when he wasn't a part of T's life. But, he just offers his condolences and leaves.

After the funeral Ty is pressured into going to a King party at Brick's house. They pick him up and on the way there they almost are involved in a gunfight with the rival gang. Jennica is in the car with Ty at the time. It scares both of them badly and after they arrive at the party they both agree to wait until everyone is high and passed out and then they will leave.

Meanwhile, Will has decided that he's going to paint a mural in honor of T. Will is a graffiti artist and sneaks out at night to tag. He puts up a large mural of T on the spot where he was murdered. Will learns about a hoodie protest march the next day. He plans to be there.

The police pound on Vernesha's door. She lets them in and the give her a search warrant. They are looking for evidence of drugs, gang membership, or anything that would indicate that Jack's story was the right one. T's family are so upset that they call the Reverend Sloan. The Reverend gets there too late to stop the police, but he uses the incident to make an impassioned speech on television that night. Vernesha also offers a statement.

There is a protest march that evening. Everyone wears a hoodie with the hood pulled up. The media had insinuated that T was shot because he was wearing a hoodie. While there Jennica and Kimberly link arms. Later, when Ty shows up, he links arms with them too. Noodle starts to break them up, and wants to pick a fight with Ty, whom he's sure has stolen Jennica from him. Ty, in a desperate move to keep them away from him, tells Brick that he knows where Jack Franklin is. Ty had seen him earlier that day when he went to Tom's house to get the recycling. Unfortunately, Ty is told that since he found Jack, he gets to end him. They give him a red handled knife. Ty is terrified.

Back at T's apartment, his sister Tina has gone into his room. She has found a red handled knife similar to the one that Ty has been given. She knows that it is a bad thing and she knows that the police might find it and keep saying bad things about her brother. Even though she is seven years old, she takes the knife and hides it in her room.

Ty sits in a diner with Brick and his father. Ty hopes that his father will tell Brick that asking Ty to hurt Jack is a bad idea. He hopes that his father will stand up to Brick. He doesn't. Ty takes the knife that he's been handed and goes out onto the sidewalk. Noodle and Brick join him. Just then, Ty sees Tina running down the sidewalk by herself. This is not usual. Noodle tells him to forget Tina and get to the job at hand. Suddenly Ty finds his own inner strength and shoves the knife back at Noodle and Brick. He goes after Tina.

Tina has stuffed the red handled knife into her backpack and is determined to hide it somewhere. Ty tells her that he will help her. Ty takes Tina to the cemetery to bury the knife. Tina had earlier refused to go into the cemetery to bury T. Now, with Ty holding her hand, they both go and bury the knife. She tells Ty that he should be as strong as her brother and be himself. This is all Ty needs to hear, and he knows that he will never join the Kings.

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