Let’s Talk About Trayvon Martin Today

As the title suggests, I want to talk about Trayvon Martin today. I want to talk about his murder. I want to talk about the release of the 911 tapes. I want to talk about how I haven’t mustered the courage(?) to listen to them yet. I want to talk about how I begin to break down whenever I see his picture. I want to talk about the picture attached to this post, and how that baby-faced kid — a baby-faced kid who could have very easily been my little brother, my nephew, my cousin, my neighbor’s kid, my son, or, well, me — had no idea that he was going to be stalked, pursued, assaulted, and murdered before his 18th birthday just because he happened to be black at the wrong place in the wrong time. I want to talk about the fact that his murderer hasn’t been (and may never be) arrested. I want to talk about how, despite the fact that I know hate is wrong, I haven’t been able to think of a word strong enough to convey my hate for George Zimmerman. I want to talk about the effect this murder has had on his family, and how this unbelievably sad story has galvanized the nation.

When we’re done talking about Trayvon Martin, I want to talk about 19-year-old Anthony Scott and 6-year-old Aliyah Shell — the two youngest of the 10 people murdered in Chicago last weekend. Aliyah was killed in a drive-by shooting in broad daylight (3:30pm) as she sat on the porch with her mom. Anthony was called to a vehicle, and shot in the head as he approached it.

I’d also like to talk about 2-year-old Taizon Arin and 11-year-old Donovan McKee, two kids recently murdered by their mother’s boyfriends. Taizon died of blunt force trauma to the head. Donovan was ordered to get the sticks he was beat to death with, forced to clean up the bloody mess he made while his murderer took breaks from beating him to death, and eventually died after being beat over a nine hour span. 

If we have some time, I’d definitely like to say a few words about Kenneth Alford Jr, one of the dozen or so people I’ve personally known who’ve been murdered. It’s been almost six years since he was shot to death, and Kenneth — who was known as “Stubbo” by, well, everyone — was a friend of mine and a basketball rival I’d known since I was maybe 11 or 12.

It’s funny. I was a much better player than him — bigger, stronger, better shooter, better handle, just better — but he always got the better of me when we played against each other. As anyone who’s ever played ball will tell you, some guys just always have your number. Stubbo had mine, and it frustrated the hell out of me.

If he was still around he’d definitely be playing in one of the over-30 YMCA leagues I currently play in. He’s long gone, though — murdered because of mistaken identity — so I’m left to wonder if he’d still have my number.

Actually, I misspoke a couple paragraphs ago. When counting the dozen or so people I’ve known who have been murdered, I didn’t count former students — kids who sat in my classroom when I was an English teacher. If you add them to the list, that “dozen” number doubles.

I feel awful saying this, but I don’t remember each of their names. But, I do remember that I said a prayer for Chandler Thompson, Richiena Porter, Isaiah Talbott, and Stephen Tibbs every night for maybe three years straight.

It’s been a while since I’ve done that though, so maybe we can talk about them for (at least) a couple minutes today, for no other reasons then it’ll make me feel better about neglecting to pray for them and forgetting the names of the rest of their gunned down classmates.

Lastly, while I may be tempted to spark this discussion, we don’t have to talk about my 16-year-old and 19-year-old nieces. They were both shot at a Sweet 16 house party a few months ago, but they were both lucky enough to only suffer non-fatal wounds.

I don’t know where I’m going with any of this. I don’t know why I stopped praying for Chandler, Richiena, Isaiah, and Stephen. I don’t know what to do with all of this emotion, all of this feeling the murder of Trayvon Martin has left me with. I don’t know what do to. I do know, though, that any glance at the “Local News” section of any one of the 100(?) or so major American newspapers will sadly remind us that Trayvon Martin’s murder isn’t the only one we need to talk about today.

 —Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

soon you’ll understand: three reasons why we need to give president obama a break

barack_obama2

although president obama’s approval rating has steadied in the past couple of months, between between the beer summit, his seemingly passive role in the health care debate, and his unsuccessful trip to copenhagen, his overwhelmingly strong support in the black community seems to be wavering a bit. while this sentiment won’t be found in any surveys or polls, visit any barbershop, beauty salon, or blog and you’ll see a subtle change from “yes we can” to “i mean, i still think we might, but…”, a feeling which can potentially be the beginning of a slippery slide to “f*ck that n*gga”.

i understand where this is coming from. when you’re part of a group of people who’ve been the returned orphan to america’s anita tedaldi over and over again, its almost impossible to return the skepticism and doubt that comes with that package.

still, i think that we need to put ourselves aside for a minute and give president obama a break, and here’s three reasons why.

1. we’ve never seen him before

for most of us (i’m 30 years old, and i’m assuming that the majority of the people who frequent this site are somewhere between 21 and 35) the black politicians we’ve seen in our lifetimes can easily be split into three catagories

a) “neighborhood”-centric civil rights and injustice hounds with staunch ties to black social networks and zealous support from the black church

b) “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” bon vivants insisting on an eschewing of urban culture and a return to traditional family values

c) kwame kilpatrick

like contemporaries such as newark mayor cory booker, president obama doesn’t fit any of these categories, and the uniqueness of his person and his position has been a tough pill for many of us to swallow.

we’ve been conditioned to expect representatives who’d salivate at the opportunity to rain fire and brimstone on a white cop (from boston!) who publicly disrespected an esteemed black academic, neglecting to remember that such divisive tactics would blatantly contradict the presidents gameplan. we wonder how he could fly to denmark to lobby about some games seven summers away for a city where 36 city students were murdered in one year, not realizing that being awarded that honor would have been a substantial boon for the entire country, not just the city of chicago.

we’re used to seeing the micro acts of a community activist or state representative instead of the excessively macro dance of a black leader of a predominately white country, forgetting that while the president may be one of us…he doesn’t belong to us.

basically, he’s chocolate milk from a community titty, and we need to learn to share the titty.

2. we’ve never been here before, either

i have a friend who just “discovered” the NBA in may of 2008. although he’s a native nigerian whose sports tastes are definitely more pele than chris paul, he became so enthralled with the lakers and kobe bryant last spring that he started writing “deuce cuatro” on the back of his adidas and begin referring to himself as the mamba in the third person. (trust me, you haven’t lived until a 5’7 nigerian tells you that the mamba got on some tight, tight ass” after you ask him what he did friday night.)

anyway, i remember how frustrated he’d get last year if the lakers seemed disinterested or lost two games in row. at least once every couple of weeks he’d send me some 1000 word nigerian curse filled email cursing phil jackson, luke walton, and luke waltons fro, and i’d calm him, reminding him that the lakers would be fine.

you see, he had never paid attention to the regular season before, and it took him a while to realize that you can’t hem and haw over every minor misstep in an 82 game season unless you wanted to drive yourself crazy.

i’m bringing this up because the situation with my nigerian buddy is parallel to that of much of black america today. before 2008, i suspect that most of you were similar to me: an “appropriate” interest in the country and world affairs mixed with an aggressive apathy towards the day-to-day minutiae of american politics.

basically, we knew just enough to answer any of the potential “so, how do you feel about iraq?” first date vetting questions that are never, ever asked by anyone, anywhere, ever.

now, because we feel more of an emotional tie with washington, more of us are switching between fox, cnn, cspan, and msnbc eight hours a day, peering the president’s every move, minding every mundane bill, and paying attention to every pundit. while an increased interest with and awareness of politics definitely isn’t a bad thing, it would be in everyone’s best to chill with the monday morning quarterbacking. try to remember that barring disaster, obama is going to be in office for eight freakin years, and a mistake or two in the first eight months isn’t going to end the world or repeal our upcoming reparations checks.

3. he’s earned it

admittedly, i’ve had my doubts. in fact, the last entry on my old blog was a 1,000 word tome in 2007 expressing why i thought obama shouldn’t run for president. convinced that he had no chance to beat hilary clinton, i wrote about how quickly and suddenly other high profile presidential losers in my lifetime, from mike dukasis to john kerry, fell off the political map (except for al gore, who merely just turned into a lesbian) and i didn’t want to see him suffer that same fate.

as he’s prone to do, he proved me and millions of other people wrong, and i think he’s done more than enough to earn the benefit of the doubtfor now

hmmm. this was alot, lol.

i’m curious, people of vsb.com.

how do think the pres is doing so far, has he surpassed or fell short of your expectations, and do you think we’re too hypersensitive (or not sensitive enough) to his plight?

—the champ