‘This hits so close to home’ were my first words uttered after receiving the news of the death of my friend, who was just twenty-two years old. I wondered what his last words were before I read the story of what happened. I’d projected him as a “victim” in my mind, even though the news story would not transpire that way. He was my friend, so all I could remember was all of the happenings that go along with someone being your ‘friend.’ He’d found a gift of basketball at an early age, and everyone in the neighborhood thought he’d take it far because of his spurring frame. I, too, will choose to remember a funny, tall kid who played basketball, but if we are to emphasize the causes of life for our young people, sometime in-between these hoop dreams is an examination into the reality that makes one want to live beyond their means to the point of violent death.
I replayed activities in school of my peers slamming lockers and skipping class, which seemed like harmless fun back then. In the aftermath of the so-called “untimely deaths” of these same peers, however, I am now reminded of the rage behind slammed bedroom doors, holes in walls, and ripped screen-doors that make running away easier in our homes. In this aftermath, I wonder why running away is not only easier for some young people, but how running away becomes an option; I wonder what makes violence in Pakistan similar to Milwaukee’s violence, yet the global response to death of our children as a result varies from country to country. I wonder if I would have called another twenty-two year old man, who was shot running away in the middle of a street-crisis, a “coward,” instead of taking time to understand his victimization, if he hadn’t been my friend.
I will always recognize my childhood friend, but I will always remember our loss of him to violence in the street the other day. I will share condolences with friends and family on funeral day. But today, as I struggle to organize thoughts on how we begin to help our communities, I encourage the healing of our homes as a prerequisite. In the same day of my friend’s death, a 17 year old won the Nobel Peace Prize for demanding rights to equal education and fair labor. I wonder how the world can be rejoicing over a decision one young woman made and a family can grieve in another world over a decision one young man made. Perhaps, when we look to our activities in the school system and community, we must first look to our activity within the home.