Tuesday, November 27, 2007

For Melvin

Cousin, I always think of you at times like this. Unfortunately, I find myself thinking of you far too often.


My cousin, Melvin, lived in Baltimore. He was popular, friendly, funny, handsome, and fifteen. A couple of years younger than me. I'd freshly arrived from Atlanta, so fresh that my parents were still in Atlanta, finalizing our move. My sister and I arrived early to start the school year on time.

We couldn't have been in school for more than two weeks. Melvin went to a different school, in a rougher neighborhood. Rumors began circulating around his neighborhood and school that he'd pissed some guy off. The guy was threatening to kill him. In my sheltered upbringing, it was hard to imagine a world where someone threatening to kill you actually meant they might do just that, but Melvin knew better. As his mother closed the oven door on their dinner, he hopped out the back door, saying he'd be right back. He was going to visit the guy, apologize, make things right.

That boy shot my cousin. He shot him on sight. He did not give him a chance to speak, or to apologize, or to otherwise act. Melvin died a few hours later in the hospital. I remember calling my parents, crying, telling them what happened. The last time someone my age that I knew had died, she'd drowned in an accident. This wasn't an accident. I couldn't wrap my head around it.

That day awakened me to some hard to swallow facts. Facts I hate to think about and sometimes, I am ashamed to say, try to ignore. Facts like young black men being one of the largest threats to the existence of other young, black men. In 2005, nearly half of the nation's murder victims were black. A majority of black murder victims were between the ages of 17 and 29. As a people, we were the victims of about 49% of all murders.

We make up 13% of the population.

To see these numbers, you can visit http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2007-08-09-justice-dept-study_N.htm?csp=34. I am not looking up another source, because I am afraid the numbers may only be worse.

To say I belong to a people in crisis is an understatement. As the mother of a young black man, I feel driven to lead him in a different direction, and bone chilling fear for the days he encounters someone whose parents were not successful in doing the same. Everyone can see the issue, yet no one knows how to repair it. Our nation is spending billions to keep terrorism out of our backyards, and my men are ignoring that freedom and inviting terror to the table for dinner.

Earlier today, Sean Taylor, a talented Washington Redskin's team member, died from a gunshot wound to his leg. Senseless. I thought of Melvin.


Melvin, it's been twenty years. It has not gotten better.

Cousin, I'm sorry.


DCBrownie said...

What a moving and important post. I'm very sorry about your loss.

Missy said...

:'-( Awful, just awful. <3

Anonymous said...

This is the kind of post that's going to stick with me. I'm just sorry it had to be written.