Semester of Graduation

Spring 2019

Degree

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department

English

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

The following project began as an examination of and reckoning with my family’s history of secrecy, addiction, and violence in Memphis, Tennessee. It’s centered on where that history led me, the first person in my family to graduate from high school since 1969 and a first-generation college student, and where I saw that history lead my younger brother, Kerr-Dulea Freeman Neil.

The following project is centered on why I felt it was my responsibility to save Kerr-Dulea from a path he’d carved out for himself with what he’d been given by our elders, my childhood—a little girl’s witnessing of her family caught in an oppressive cycle—and the story of what led to Kerr-Dulea’s murder at seventeen years old just a few minutes away from our family’s home on the playground of Frayser Elementary where he attended school as a little boy.

Before I began to undergo the thesis, my project asked, “We inherited incarceration, abandonment, isolation, and dysfunction. Where can we go with these things?” During the process, I found the answer written in Kerr-Dulea’s life and death and written in my own life as well. Through prose that intensifies and explodes as it meanders through time, space, and complex emotions, my fragmented memoir is a conjuring, a calling upon of spirit. My thesis focuses on not only what leads to the death of young, black, American boys in communities where freedom of choice is often precarious, but also on what happens after death and how Kerr-Dulea’s death carried me deeper within and beyond reality.

Committee Chair

Joshua Wheeler

Available for download on Wednesday, April 01, 2026

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