Monday, April 22, 2024

Grappling with Violence Once Again…

August 14, 2009 by  
Filed under News, Weekly Columns

( I have attended far too many funerals of young African American men whose lives have been extinguished – denied the right to experience the full breadth of life – at the hands of someone who looked like them, from the same tribe, who share the same blood, African American blood.

I attended yet another funeral recently. It was the funeral of 21-year-old Stinson Ameer Brown, son of my colleague and friend Stinson Brown. While the elder Brown has dedicated over 20 years of his life to his law enforcement career, his heart is dedicated to saving the lives of African American youth. That’s why he created the Brother II Brother organization about three years ago, a male mentorship program, targeting youth that live in some of the most dangerous real estate in the City. Standing before hundreds in attendance at his son’s funeral, Brown pledged that “the work of the organization will not stop.”

His son was the light in his eyes and his reflection. He trained him in the way he should go and the fruits of that labor produced a son who was enrolled in college, played on the football team at school, was actively involved in a youth choir, was loving, kind and had an entrepreneurial spirit. But all that and so much more were taken away by a shot discharged from a hand gun wielded by a stranger – a juvenile no less – on a warm summer night in Los Angeles just a few weeks ago.

City of Refuge’s Bishop Noel Jones said during his comments at the service that personal responsibility is a concept that has eluded or skipped a generation on the watch of today’s parents and caregivers by omission or by neglect. I get that. I think so many have either abdicated their responsibility in preaching the nexus between actions and consequences or have not underscored this fundamental truth enough. As parents and caregivers of this generation there is so much we failed to pass down to our children for various reasons within and beyond our control – civility, respect and love of God and humanity are just a few of them.

But it was the comment of Brown’s daughter Vilena during the service that is the essence of what has pricked my soul. She said, addressing her peers as well as those in attendance, “We have to start loving each other.”

That comment is so simple yet so centric to the gang related violence that plagues our streets. And whenever I talk to young men across the City in an effort to unravel the why of it all, it boils down to the converse of love, which is hatred.

They explain it as instantaneous, on sight. It’s an energy, a vibe that is meted out by the transmitter and then met squarely with equal intensity by the receiver. It’s a feeling of be the dominator or be dominated; show strength or be weakened; seize or lose control. And these feelings mount in a crescendo in a manner of seconds during an encounter – this has been the experience they have shared with me. It makes traversing the City dicey, they tell me. You never know when you might encounter someone who views you as either an immediate or imminent threat just because they don’t know you or where you are from – meaning affiliation. And you never know when you will be dealt with or have to deal with someone just because they don’t trust you, or like your vibe. I continue to find all this so out of the realm of my reality. However, it’s their reality. So I continue to listen and learn.

But what they haven’t told me is the origins of this kind of deep rooted disdain which has made the world a hostile place if you are young, male and African American. I don’t think they know or perhaps they do and we just have to dig deeper.

But what I do know is that as a people, what is happening to our youth is against our DNA. Our legacy is one of love, mutual respect and a sense of connectedness because we have all been pressed into this existence together. Love indeed or the lack of it has a lot to do with lack of respect and value of human life demonstrated each time a young life is taken.

In the midst of her grief, young Velina’s words impaled me. She is on to something. The question is what do we do with the insight she has provided us?

Written By Veronica Hendrix

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