“Mommy, but kids can’t die right?”
That is the question my daughter asked me as we were walking up to the vigil for Jamyla Bolden, the 9-year-old girl from Ferguson who was fatally shot while sitting on her mothers’ bed doing homework by a man who shot into the bedroom window. Just two streets over from where Mike Brown’s body laid slain for over 4.5 hours in the hot sun just a year before. After hearing the tragic news, I wanted to come and give the family support for the loss of their loved one and in doing so, I knew my daughter would have some questions while we were there.
Jamyla Bolden (9)
“Mommy, kids can’t die right?”
“Not exactly. Kids can die, unfortunately?”
“How did Jamyla die, though?”
“Someone shot her.”
“Did they do it on purpose?”
“Yes, I believe so.”
“I don’t want that to happen to me, Mommy.”
“I don’t want it to either, baby.”
That’s as truthful as I could be with my child. Although I wanted to tell her without hesitation that that wouldn’t happen to her, I couldn’t guarantee that for her.
As a Black mother raising a Black child in today’s society, that is one of my greatest fears. The fact that I had to have that conversation with my (then five) year old child and have to break her innocence by letting her know that there is a possibility that as a child – even at five- she could die by the hands of another.
The fears of raising Black kids are way beyond making sure they come in before the street lights come on, letting them know to not let anyone in the house if they are home alone, not taking candy from strangers, and not going into adult chatrooms online (outdated). No, we’ve moved way beyond that. Every situation enters us into survival mode. We just want our kids to stay alive.
I asked a few Black parents what was their greatest fear for raising Black children and how do they combat that fear and this was a few of their responses:
“My fear is them not being able to enjoy their carefree youth” – Kasper
“My greatest fear is not being able to protect them from how cruel the world can be and cramming them with info and truth that takes away their innocence” -Sheree
“The degrading rap lyrics about women seeming normal to her” – Chauntez
“Not being able to always be there for them, protect them and keep them from all that is not right” – Heather
“I worry that my fear will not allow me to let her enjoy what life has to offer and that my desire to protect her will instill an unhealthy fear of the outside world” – Elisabeth
All of which are common discussions amongst Black dinner tables all across the country. The unfortunate truth is that not only is raising Black children in American frightening but being Black in America (with child or not) provokes an immense amount of worry and fear. Our fathers, uncles, brothers, husbands, and friends are being murdered with impunity, our women are being scrutinized for being care-free, our children are being pushed through the pipeline straight to prison, and the media has a field day by demeaning our value each and every single chance they get. To be honest, if I didn’t have faith in WHO I am and WHOSE I am, the current happenings of this world would have erased every ounce of hope I’ve ever had – easily. For most (and for me) I know it’s not that simple as saying a short prayer and going about your day but for me, that is where I at least try to start.
A consistent prayer of mine as a parent is that I DO NOT raise my child out of fear. Evil lurks around every corner and I believe it is my job as to stay abreast of all that is out there that is a threat to my child but to use my fear of this world as a guide to parent my child, is beyond unfair to her and to me.
How these fears are combated:
“Show my daughter how a man is supposed to treat a woman” – Chauntez
“Always tell them the truth but try to let them remain children” – Sheree
“Prayer” – Elisabeth
As for me, I just do what I can and chunk up the mistakes as they come. I’m pretty open with my daughter about the evil in this world but I modify my words to where a six-year-old can understand and not have nightmares after having the conversation. I also try to wait until she comes to me with a question and I have a discussion rather than throwing things in her face. I have come to terms with the fact that there are things that my child is going to see/hear that is out of my control so I would rather her express her inquiries with me than someone else who may be ill-intended.
Being a parent, in general, is frightening. Another life is in your hands and anything that happens, you are completely responsible. But for us Brown folk, it’s another ball game. I trust that I am doing a good job and that I’ve been equipped with the tools to raise her just as I’m sure every parent hopes to have.
Pray for the parents who have lost their children to the evil that plagues this world and pray for the parents who are working daily to prevent these things from happening.
RIP Jamyla. RIP Mike Brown. RIP Mansur Ball Bey……and unfortunately, this list continues.
It was a Sunday and I was wrapping up my final Spring Break as an undergrad in 2012. I had opted for a weekend in Chicago with some cousins and was not ready to head back to school. I remember feeling my phone vibrate at what had to be around 4 in the morning. I decided to keep the phone under my pillow until I was fully awake to be able to comprehend whatever text was sent to me. I woke up around 9 and read a text from my baby brother that said, “I love you.” I immediately knew something was wrong. I mean he is my brother so of course we love each other. We have just never been the type of siblings to randomly tell each other that. I was right. Something was wrong. After reading, “I got shot,” I called him immediately. This wasn’t a texting type of conversation….
He answered and told me the story.
He was at a party,
He witnessed a fight,
He felt a bullet graze him (or thought grazed him),
He felt the hole where the bullet went in and blood run down his fingers,
He walked back into the party,
Then he passed out.
I’m so thankful for his friend Jordan, who found Jamaal slumped over inside the party and carried him back outside because the cowardly shooters found their way back inside the party and decided to continue shooting.
I spoke with Jordan as well and he stated how he disbursed after the gunshots were heard and good thing he turned around to see where Jamaal was because anybody probably would have left him there. I repeatedly told Jordan THANK YOU for looking out for Jamaal. Like REPEATEDLY.
The bullet is still lodged in his chest but because of his frame and how much he works out, the bullet is cushioned enough to not move. (At least that’s what the doctor said). The bullet landed directly under his heart that any slight move up, down, left, or right, his life could’ve been over.
But his recovery proved how real my God is.
My brother was shot on a Sunday,
Bullet moved from by his heart to the diaphragm that Tuesday (the doctor decided to keep it in him because cutting his chest open was way too risky),
Released that Wednesday,
Flew back to St. Louis that Thursday,
Spent Easter with family and friends that weekend,
Back to Arkansas that following Wednesday. All in a week and a half span.
How is Jamaal doing today?
He’s currently in the process of transferring schools to complete his last year of college with hopes of going pro (or rapping); I really don’t care as long as he finishes. I’m just glad he is here.
To this day, all we know about the shooter is that he was another young black man and Jamaal was not a specific target. Another person was shot that night as well. A girl was shot in her hand. We never even tried to find out who did it….
But I can’t help but to think if my brother succumbed to his wounds of being shot by another black man, how much noise would I have made? Would I have become an activist for anti-black on black crime? Would I have tried to seek out the shooter? What would I be doing now?
If my brother was shot and killed by a white police officer, where would I be now? How angry would I be? Would I have caused hell for this city and demanded some type of justice on behalf of my brother?
Why is it different?
According to Forbes Top 10 list of the most dangerous cities, we are ranked at #2. That’s not something to be proud of. That’s not okay. That doesn’t even include police involved killings. That is just us knocking off each other.
But if I could get REAL real for a second. I’m all for #BlackLivesMatter because that is the issue at hand. Being in St. Louis all my life, I am a first-hand witness in seeing how segregated and how racist this city truly is: Racial profiling, gentrification, education system, over 90 municipalities in STL County (dumbest thing ever). The list of institutionalized and systemic racism goes on and on…and on. I get it. It’s a problem. One of the things I am most passionate about and why I decided to go back to school. I am a Christian so it is my job to see value in every human life. Black, white, green, florescent beige, it doesn’t matter. But because I do identify as a Black Woman, certain issues will affect me a little bit more than others.
But you know what else is a problem??????
Our entitled mindset in thinking it’s okay to take a life of our own kind. Of any kind for that matter.
180 homicides this year as of December 9 which is 71 up from this time last year. And these are just the ones that are tracked and do NOT include police involved killings…
That’s a problem.
Both are. As much as my blood boils to hear about someone in law enforcement deciding to end a life of another one of my beautiful Black Kings, I should be just as pissed when a Black King decides to kill another Black King. Or when a white man decides to shoot up a movie theater. Or when members of ISIS decide to murder Christians. Or when someone with no value for life at all decides to irrationally kill a Muslim due to their own self-hatred.
We all should be.
If God showed me my demise and getting shot just happens to be the way I go out, I would much rather be shot and killed by a police officer than one of my own people. At least I know with complete certainty that my people would shut this city down and wreak havoc demanding answers and seeking justice for my death.
Unfortunately and with all honesty, I do not have that same level of confidence that the same would happen if one of my own decided to end my life.
I pray that’s not the way I go out. But I digress
Pray for our city. Pray for our young black men and women. Pray for our youth. Pray for our law enforcement. Pray for the church. Just pray.
It is really getting out of hand and I don’t care how much you try to avoid the news, social media, etc.…it’s not going anywhere.
What are WE going to do about it?
2 black kings I love the most, my brothers.
She’s the youngest person in the room, widest smile and her little feet patters on top of the gymnasium floor every two seconds. She isn’t hard to miss because every other child is 2x her size. She is running back forth from her father and a look of fluster comes across his face everytime she runs from his arms but she is safe. Her mother is on the other side of the gym listening to each guest speaker and each performance. The gym is packed with excited teens, volunteers, guest speakers, local artists, and family members. This is the first annual overnight youth summit for the teens of St. Louis City.
This was right up my alley. I already have a passion for working with youth so volunteering was a must for me on this Friday evening. Along with my best friend Candess, we were given a job to oversee the entrance table, check in participants, collect money for entry, and snap wristbands. Occasionally we would make jokes with the teens that appeared to look like they did not want to be there but their response would be, “This is just how I look.” At one point in the evening, we left the venue for the nearest dollar store for telephone cords so the girls could play double-dutch (I still don’t know how to double-dutch 🙁 ).
The night was winding down as all of the teens were already sitting in the bleachers watching the next performer. Candess and I were remained sitting at the entry table and that little girl’s mother came over. Everybody knows how random I am, so, I decided to engage in conversation with her.
“I know a lot of people always ask your husband and the birth mom how they are doing after everything that happened last August, but how are YOU doing?” –me
“A lot of people ask me how I am doing. More than you would think because they know the relationship Mike and I had. Last year was really crazy. I am at peace with Mike Mike’s death. I am not at peace with seeing the man I love hurt the way that he hurts and I can’t do anything about it.”- Calvina (Cal)
The “Mike Mike” she is referring to is Michael Brown Jr and her husband, Michael Brown Sr. The little girl whose feet is pattering against the gym floor is Mike Brown’s baby sister: only 2 years old. I wonder if she would even have a memory of her older brother who, respectively speaking, made the nation stop and pay attention.
Cal is so genuine and candid. She didn’t know me from Adam, but spoke with me as if we were two long lost friends who were finally catching up. She expressed all that she went through last year but assured me that her faith is strong.
In June of 2014 they lost everything they owned in a house fire, her and Mike Sr. were married in July of 2014, and she lost her stepson in the craziest of ways on August 9th.
“I don’t know what all this means but Lord, could you give me the heads up next time you are making plans?”
I can’t fathom enduring what this family has endured but her current smile is very real.“There were so many times I wanted to pack my bag and go but, no. I couldn’t.”
She would look over to her husband’s direction and smile. By this time he was over by the mic thanking the participants for coming out to the Chosen for Change first annual Youth Summit. This organization was made in honor of Mike Brown Jr. and their focus is to save lives one day at a time through empowering youth, strengthening families, and giving back.
She went on to tell how her and her husband met (when they were teens) and how they reconnected. She has other children who were also at the summit sporting t -shirts honoring their brother and taking turns dancing with their baby sister.
I have done my fair share of watching several media outlets create stories on Mike Brown and Ferguson but for once, it was nice to see the family first hand. It was nice to see that although this family has endured extraordinary pain, they are still an ordinary family that can still do ordinary things.
Since August 9th, the Browns have spent everyday honoring Mike Jr.’s legacy by going across the country speaking about police brutality, race issues, and giving back to communities all while grieving with a camera in their face. Imagine losing a child in the way that they have lost a child but instead of prayers and condolences, the country reverts back to its segregated ways and blames your child for his/her own death; Calling your child everything but a child of God and labeling the killer as a hero.
No one really knows what happened on August 9th nor will we ever truly know but one thing I do know, this family is like any other family and deserves the respect, empathy, and prayers that you would want: white, black, purple, mahogany…whatever.
The Brown’s just celebrated their first wedding anniversary and spent it finalizing plans for Mike Brown Jr.’s anniversary weekend.
Cal and Mike Sr., I do not know you all very well but I admire your strength, courage, resilience, and love for one another. Continue to do great work in shedding light on the ills of this world and stand firm on God’s grace.
RIP Mike Brown.
Me, Cal, Mike Brown Sr., Candess (little mama in the back)
First and foremost, thank you. I thank the BOTH of you. Even now, I am trying not to get emotional while writing this but what can I say- I miss y’all so very much. I never would’ve thought I’d be listening to someone eulogize both of your funerals in a little less than 12 months apart. I feel like I lost my pillars. I remain encouraged. You both were awesome examples to me: Devoted wives and mothers, so selfless and sweet, and patient. Quiet and meek. Now I’ve heard stories about how y’all didn’t play back in the day but the grandma’s I remember never raised a hand or a voice. I am not sure if I showed or expressed it enough, but I truly appreciate the both of you all and what all was done for me. More than you could ever imagine.
Pauline: Always catching you in the middle of an infectious laugh. I remember you as the grandma that I didn’t see a whole lot when I was younger but lived around the corner. I don’t know if children naturally gravitate towards the mother’s side of the family but that was my situation in this case. Maybe out of preference because you didn’t own a game system or computer for us to play on, a boat load of sugary drinks and snacks, or game boards; all childish things that hold no value. I learned to appreciate you more as I got older and I was old enough to come visit you on my own without accompanying my parents. I loved randomly ringing your doorbell when you weren’t even expecting me just to see that warm smile on your face. Or how I would call you just to check on you and tell you about my day because I hadn’t heard your voice in some weeks. You always made it a point to say you didn’t want to bother anyone or impose on anyone’s plans but I made it a point (in return) to show that I was not bothered by taking you to any appointments you may have had. I enjoyed being in your presence. You were my baby. I’ll never forget me coming to pick up China Dishes that were once your mother’s but you wanted me to have them because you felt I would take care of them properly. In that very same trip, you told me, “I was the rock of this family.” I was intimidated then, I get it now
Willie Mae: It all happened so fast. One minute I’m kissing you on the cheek telling you I’ll be back later in the evening, to getting a text that you were in the hospital and 24 hours later, you were gone. I am grateful that my last memory of you was pleasant. You were happy. Full of good food and surrounded by your kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids. You fought so hard after your stroke and was progressing so well. You couldn’t utter a word but I knew you were alert to your surroundings so much so you would still fuss at grandpa when he would get in his moods. The last months of your life, I watched my mother become your caregiver. It was so natural to her, so effortless. She began showing me how to care for you: put you in and out the bed, change your clothes, brush your teeth, etc. I couldn’t do it like her though. I was very much an amateur and I would look at you and say, “I’m learning. I’m getting it slowly but surely” and you would smile and nod your head. It’s weird going over to your house and you aren’t there. I still anticipate seeing you come to the door and hug me. You only came to the top of my rib cage. Grandpa misses you so much.
Both of you were my village. You helped me raise Addyson and never condemned me for having a child so young and out of wedlock. I found so much comfort in your support. Addy talks about the both of you all the time an she feels your absence. Selfishly, I wish you both were still here. I wont get rid of your number from my phone. I can’t compete with God nor will I try. I know He got y’all. Your faithfulness to His word has been rewarded. Thank you for everything. I love you.