The Little Murders Matter Too.

Hadiya is gone, but she must not be forgotten.

Hadiya is gone, but she must not be forgotten.

The one thing I want to make clear is while I’m in pain over the murder of Justin Davis by Michael Dunn, I’m not in any more pain than I am over the death of a Hadiya Pendelton and the distressingly long list of Black people who meet their ends not at the hands of a trigger-happy Dunn or George Zimmerman, but through random acts of  cruel and destructive street violence.

Hadiya Pendleton was the innocent victim of gang warfare. President Obama mentioned her in his State of the Union address.

CBS 2′s Jim Williams talked to Hadiya’s parents, who despite their grief have been very busy in the past year. January 29th is an anniversary Cleo and Nate Pendleton dread.

Cleo Pendleton, Hadiya’s mother, called it “the darkest day of our lives.”

“I don’t look forward to the 29th at all,” said Hadiya’s father, Nate Pendleton.

“I’m afraid of the 29th because I remember what it felt like last year,” Cleo said.

One year ago Wednesday, their daughter Hadiya was shot to death near her high school. The 15-year-old honor student was the victim of alleged gang members who fired into a crowd.

“We grieve always. Talking to you, we’re grieving. Talking about our baby is sad because it’s in the past tense,” said Cleo Pendleton.

The Pendletons will mark the anniversary at an after-school assembly with Hadiya’s classmates at King College Prep High School, which has been decked out in purple – Hadiya’s favorite color.

Trayvon Martin’s parents.

I’m angry and I’m hurt, but not more angry and hurt than I am when the 11:00 news is on and there’s yet another shooting and yet another dead body on the South side of the city where I live.   I’ve written thousands upon thousands upon thousands about Black boys and Black girls and Black men and Black women and Black children who met premature and senseless ends at the hands of someone who looks like them.

To limit my outrage to White killers and Black victims or fatal encounters with cops marginalizes and trivializes the little murders that aren’t front page news, don’t spark marches or soul-searching speeches and commentaries or shake our collective consciences.   Every murder matters to somebody and it shouldn’t take an angry racist like Michael Dunn to make Justin Davis matter to me.

In 2012, USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham wrote, “Taking on this problem is no civil rights photo op. It’s a campaign that could last as long as the U.S. military action in Afghanistan — America’s longest war. But the payoff for solving it would be huge. It could stabilize black communities…most important, a campaign to end these murders will save the lives of the thousands of blacks who are killed by other blacks each year, an effort that currently lacks the intensity of the call for justice for Trayvon Martin.”

Had Justin died from a bullet fired by a brother instead of a bigot would his death mean any less to me?   If Black life isn’t valued and treasured and protected among each other we can hardly be shocked when it is not valued by anyone else.

I grieve for every deplorable death in my community..  The tragedy of a murdered Black child is not magnified exclusively by the White skin of their killer.

We can do better.  We must do better.  Nothing less than our the future of the race is at stake and when our children are lost to  We can spare some family the agony the families of Hadiya, Justin and Trayvon live with every day.

To paraphrase Joseph Stalin, every kid’s death is a tragedy.  The fact we don’t know all their names should not make them only a statistic.

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Our Enemy is Ourselves.

A game where whomever wins, we lose.

Here’s something I know about the shootings of the Auburn football players without knowing anything about the suspect Desmonte Leonard. Whatever reason he had to shoot and kill three young men in the prime of their lives and wound three others, the reason will be stupid.

It won’t be because of a dispute over land nor property. It won’t be because of some great cause or a wrong that could be righted in blood. It won’t be for any of the grandiose excuses nations dream up to justify the spilling of life. It won’t be for riches or a threat to Leonard’s way of life.

It will be because somebody said or did something and someone took offense and grabbed a gun to make everything right again. Only guns are poor tools to make anything better. They are good at making everything much worse.

Two of the dead were former Auburn players, Edward Christian, who had to quit the team because of a back injury, and Ladarious Phillips, who had previously quit playing football. The third person killed was 20-year-old Demario Pitts.

Over the years I’ve written thousands of words weeping and wailing about Black-on-Black violence and it occurs to me that the problem isn’t that the words won’t work. The problem is they are for the wrong audiences. It’s not the gentle reader of this blog that I need to reach. It’s knuckleheads like Desmonte Leonard.

Only thing is guys like Leonard don’t read blogs like this. He probably doesn’t read much of anything else. What’s the solution?  Building more jails and locking up more Black men hasn’t stopped them from killing each other.   You could execute every brother on Death Row and that wouldn’t make a dent.  Writing songs against Black-on-Black crimes and public service announcements don’t deter anyone from picking up a piece and settling a score.  Electing Obama didn’t stop it and neither will replacing him with a rich White man who doesn’t think about race at all.

(Left to Right) Edward Christian: murdered, Eric Mack, wounded, Ladarious Phillips: murdered

Leonard has two previous convictions with theft and carrying a weapon without a permit or license in 2008 and second-degree assault in 2009. As of this writing he is still on the run having fled the scene with two other suspects in a vehicle later found abandoned. Police have surrounded a home in Montgomery where they believe he is hiding and thrown tear gas in.

While I was reading about the useless life and times of Leonard, I chanced across another senseless Alabama-based tragedy. Jack Mac Girder, 73 was babysitting 9-year-old twins Jordan and Taylor DeJirnett when they went missing along with Girder’s 1986 Mercedes-Benz. The bodies of the three were found on a dirt road in Lourdes Country. Deandra Marquis Lee was arrested and charged with the triple homicide and held on a $3 million bond.

According to the mother of the slain children, Girder attended the same church and acted their babysitter while she worked. Lee was out on bond from another country had been charged with being in possession of a firearm with an altered serial number, obstruction of justice, resisting arrest, and violation of license to carry a pistol.

Too young to die? No such thing.

Girder’s Mercedes-Benz was found with all four doors missing. Lee is presumed innocent until proven guilty–the cold, miserable little son of a bitch.

Not wanting to miss out on all the blood splattering, in Chicago it was just another deadly weekend with 40 wounded and eight killed including 16-year-old Joseph Briggs who was merely sitting on his porch when he was gunned down.

Police believe the shooting was gang-related and Briggs simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like sitting on the porch of his own home is the wrong place

Briggs’ grandmother who was raising him and his sisters said she would try to move out of the neighborhood. Police said progress was being made in tamping down the city’s street violence pointing to the fact this time last year there had been 17 people murdered in a week.

Malcolm X said a knife buried in your back six inches pulled out three inches is considered “progress” by some. The problem is you still have a knife in your back.

Black-on-Black crime is a knife in the back, at our throats and pointed squarely at our hearts, but  nobody seems to care. The president never speaks about the violence in his home city. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton don’t lead protests or threaten boycotts about the problem. All the online petitions in the world can’t stop a single bullet fired in anger.

We don’t have to go to Syria to find people who look each other killing each other.  We don’t have to go around the world looking for new wars to fight.  The old wars on the street are still taking a heavy toll in spilled blood and shattered lives.

It’s frustrating and it’s scary and the worst thing is if only it were the KKK slaughtering Blacks on this wide of a scale. Then we would see some action. As it stands, the criminal element among African-Americans is doing a more complete job than the most nigger-hatin’ redneck ever could dream of.

Desmonte Leonard: on the run, but probably for not much longer.

Stop Snitching. Keep Dying.

Black-on-Black crime will put the Klan out of business.

When “keeping it real” goes wrong:

Police: Even while dying, teen won’t talk

Cop asks: Do you know who shot you? He replies: ‘I know. But I ain’t telling you. . .’

April 20, 2010

BY FRANK MAIN Staff Reporter/

Robert Tate wasn’t ever going to snitch — not even when it came to his own murder, according to the Chicago Police.

Tate, 17, was shot in the chest as someone approached him on a West Side sidewalk on the evening of April 12, police say. Seeing that Tate was wounded badly and probably wouldn’t make it, an officer asked: Do you know who shot you?

“I know,” Tate told him. “But I ain’t telling you s—.”

That’s according to Harrison Area Police Cmdr. Anthony Riccio, who said the murder investigation is focusing on a possible shooter — even though Tate took his secret to the grave.

“Unfortunately it’s almost a culture among the drug dealers and gang members, that code of silence, that ‘don’t snitch’ mentality that they not only have when they’re witnesses, but also when they’re the victims,” Riccio said.

But Tate’s mother Cynthia Washington doesn’t buy it.

She doesn’t know how her son — a “very respectful child” — could have told police anything as he lay dying on the scene in the 900 block of North Avers.

“Why wouldn’t he tell them who shot him?” Washington wondered.

Riccio responded that Tate was lucid as he spoke to the officer, then died as paramedics tried to save him.

Riccio said it’s commonplace for shooting victims whose wounds aren’t life-threatening to refuse to cooperate. Just last week, a 22-year-old gang member was on a bicycle in the 500 block of East 88th when he was shot in the thigh. He didn’t even want to report the shooting after he was taken to Stroger Hospital.

“But I have never seen anyone take it to the grave,” Riccio said.

Police think Tate was killed because of his involvement in the drug trade in Humboldt Park.

As far as another young man suffering an early and unnecessary death on the streets, that’s hardly an unusual occurrence, I’m sad to say. What elevates the store beyond the everyday tragedy/monotony of Black-on-Black crime is this kid’s pathetic adherence to the “stop snitchin'” code even as his life dribbles away.

This sort of appalling ignorance can’t be fought by ignoring or covering it up. All these little punk gangsta wannabees who think they’re so hard should know there’s nothing hard about watching your life end at 17 because bullets don’t care how tough you think you are.

If the Klan or neo-Nazis were shooting down Black kids at the rate they kill each other daily, all the usual suspects would be marching down the streets of Washington chanting the same old tired-ass slogans and demanding the federal government mobilize to stop the slaughter.

But when it’s just one more dead nigger killed by another nigger likely to end up the same damn way, nobody gives a shit. It’s like a self-cleaning oven. Call the cops, tape off the area, load ’em up in the meat wagon and another clueless mommy can wail and cry about how this couldn’t have happened to her good boy.

Change the name. The scenario remains the same.

Wash, rinse, repeat. Wash, rinse, repeat. Wash, rinse, repeat…

So does that mean I’m calling out Jesse and Al and Tavis and all the rest of the so-called “Black leaders” as a bunch of race hustlers who go after the same old soft targets instead of taking on an equally evil adversary that operates in our own backyard?

You damn right I am. They work on a formula that White racism is somehow more insidious and threatening to African-Americans than our own pathological inability and refusal to attack the root causes of our own self-destructive behavior. It’s easier to scream “racism” at a corporation for the lack of dark faces in the boardroom than it is to demand police and government action against a drug dealer or a gang terrorizing a housing project.

The War on Drugs might as well be called The War On Black People. All it does is funnel dope into the worst neighborhoods, destroy families, turn Black men into convicts and locks them away in rural areas to be guarded by White men who have no other employment available. It’s a great big racket and nobody gives a damn about it until it spills over and touches them or someone they know and care about.

I hate “thug culture” like God hates sin. This self-hatred will do what slavery, the Klan, the Tuskegee Experiment and COINTELPRO couldn’t do: make Black people extinct.

One day you will have to go to a museum to find out who we even were.

The President’s priorities are wrong.

When kids are dying in the streets of Chicago, why is Barack Obama in Denmark trying to win the 2016 Summer Olympics for the city?  The president could do a lot more good if he stood at the very spot where Derrion Albert, a 16-year-old honor student was beaten to death and said, “ENOUGH.” Going to Denmark isn’t leadership; it’s salesmanship.  If Obama really wants to help the city, he should speak out against the senseless  and murderous acts of urban violence that are sending young Americans to cemeteries instead of universities.

34 students were killed in Chicago last year there were 290 shootings.  That number could be eclipsed in 2009.   Albert, was beaten with a wooden board, punched and kicked as he laid helpless on the ground.

Nothing the president says or does will stop Black-on-Black crime.  He could mobilize the armed forces and all the agencies of the federal government and it would have little lasting effect.   This is a problem far above  his pay grade’s ability to solve.  What Obama can do and should do is make it clear that ending youth violence is a national priority of his administration.   Breaking up gangs and drug trafficking should be at least as important to Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department as investigating CIA officials.

Something can be done to staunch the flow of blood in the street.   The responsibility to interrupt the endless cycle of dreams dying prematurely rests with every one and any one.   There’s not much anyone can do if one kid gets it in his head that he’s been “disrespected,”  and picks up a gun  or other weapon in pursuit of some small and meaningless degree of payback.

But anyone who sees youths at risk can take a stand to not be a passive observer.   There are mentoring and tutoring programs that need mentors and tutors. Kids need responsible role modes, community support and a commitment by elected officials to pursue not merely reactive police solutions, but proactive policies and best practices designed to aid at-risk children.   And yes, some of this will cost money, but getting serious about crime, poverty, hopelessness and violence is not a cheap or easy fix.


It begins in home with families, but there is a role for elected leadership and on the issue of Black-on-Black crime, the president is missing in action.  Admonishments to “turn off the TV and read to your kids” is cool in a feel good, positive reinforcement kind of way, but what good does that do when the teenagers arrested in Derrion Albert’s murder are too far gone for that?

Not all the powers of the bully pulpit can reach the acidic hatred that burns in the heart of young men who would beat and kick a defenseless teenage while he lies bleeding and broken on the ground.   But it must start somewhere and the first Black President of the United States telling young Black people their lives matter and have value would be a powerful first step.

Some might say, “It’s not the job of the President to speak out about ever act of crime and violence,” and I would normally agree.  It’s not his job to jet off across the pond to bring the Olympics to his home city either.   Obama bringing the Olympics to Chicago will benefit the city in the long run.  Taking a forceful stand against Black kids killing each other will benefit the city now.

It’s too late to save Derrion Albert.  His life came to a premature end face down in a street as he was walking home from school.   Stories like this are common ones in Chicago, Detroit, New York, Atlanta and everywhere else where anger rules over reason and hands clenched in rage are seen more than hands extended in brotherhood.

We can blame violent, misogynist rap music and thug “culture.”  We can blame broken families and skewed value systems.   We can blame the rank stupidity of  the “stop snitching” philosophy where it’s better to protect the perpetrators of crime than those charged to fight crime.  We can blame racism and poverty and lack of jobs, education and hopes for a better tomorrow.   We can blame all of those factors and more and we’ll have the satisfaction of being right.

What we won’t have is the satisfaction of knowing we’ve done a damn thing to change the status quo where 16-year 0ld honor students never make it to become 17-year-old honor students.

President Obama will speak to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as part of the organized effort to bring the Summer Olympics to Chicago.  If I were on the IOC, I’d ask the president, “Why are you here trying to bring a global event to your city when you have boys being beaten and kicked to death in the streets of that city?”

When Derrion Albert is laid to rest and his grieving family asks, “Where were our leaders when a child was killed?”  how will they answer?

When our children are dying, where is our president?   Where should he be?

What does it profit a city to gain the Olympics while it loses its future champions to senseless acts of violence?   Where are your priorities, Mr. President?

Crime is scarier than swine flu

It’s said if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.   That’s true as far as it goes.  It is very important to stay healthy and avoid catching scary diseases like swine flu.   It just might be hazardous to your health.

Yet while the swine flu is serious business, I like to believe if  you take reasonable precautions, you can handle it if you get it or more likely you can avoid it altogether

It’s the routine and ordinary events of life in the city that scares me.

Last week, for the second time in six months someone held my nephew at gunpoint.   They broke into the house while he was there, held him at gunpoint while they stole several Xbox 360 video systems and the games and threatened his life.

To add insult to injury, my nephew recognized one of the thieves as a kid from the neighborhood whom he played with when they were both boys.   Now the son of a bitch is part of a crew of home invaders.

After taking the Xboxes and robbing my nephew of his money,  debit card and keys, they forced him to unlock the back door so they could get out.    One of the thieves held a gun on him while he was struggling to open the door.   He heard the thug cock the gun and he recalled thinking, “I’m going to get killed because I can’t open this stupid door.”

But he did get the door open and he survived a terrifiying situation.   He was and is throughly shaken by such a horrific situation.  We all come up with possbile worst-case scenarios and “what would we do” to get out of them alive, but one cannot know how they will react until the worst case actually happens.

I’m proud that my nephew showed both courage and common sense.  There were at least three to four guys  who broke in and that’s nowhere close to even odds.   He did the right thing by complying and not resisting.   A Xbox and a video game can be easily replaced.    You only get one life and you do everything you can to keep it.

Live to learn and fight another day.   That’s all that matters.  Everything else is just stuff that you can get more of.

An all too common sight across the nation

An all too common sight across the nation

I’ve written more columns than I care to recall  about Black-on-Black crime and how we have to stop killing each other for trivial and stupid things like video game systems.   It was only a matter of time  before this kind of crime stopped being an abstract thing and someone I know and care for became a victim.   I’m sorry  that it has happened to my nephew–twice—where he has had his life threatened at gunpoint.   That’s just too much to put on any 19 year-old.

Every morning my daughter walks to the bus stop I worry just a bit because there at least three or four sexual predators living our neighborhood.   Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my son 100 miles away attending college in a city where he doesn’t know a soul.    I find myself hoping my sister who lives by herself remembers to turn on her alarm system before she goes to sleep at night.

These days I won’t even honk my horn at some idiot on the road because they might be both strapped and crazy; a bad combination since I am neither.

It bothers me that I have more reason to be afraid of another Black man than I should be of a White racist.    It bothers me a lot.

Suffering a bout with the swine flu sounds so exotic and rare compared to the mundane and routine day-to-day problem of urban crime.   My nephew’s family called and reported the assault and robbery to the police.  They came by and took his statement, dusted for fingerprintes and issued a warrant for his ex-friend.    I hope they catch them soon before someone ends up getting shot and killed over complete bullshit.

Nobody called the local press.  Why bother?  Nobody got shot.  Nobody got caught.  It was just a bunch of Black kids jacking another Black kid.   It  not newsworthy and it sure isn’t unusual.

Swine flu is unusual.  The two-legged swine that victimize and terrorize their own people are depressingly routine.

I never stop hoping I won’t have to write any more stories like this, but I always do.   It’s a growth industry.


Crime Story

My 18-yr-old nephew was walking north on Fairwood Avenue heading to Broad Street to catch a bus to his job at a Loews in a shopping center.

It was approximately 2:00 pm and the day was sunny and bright.

He passed an alley when a young Black male (I and my nephew are both Black) confronted him and told him to lie face down on the ground and give him his money or he’d blow his bleeping head off.  He pointed a gun at him.

My nephew quickly complied and his wallet, cell phone, keys, watch and a i.d. bracelet were stolen from him and the punk ran off.  Shaken, but unhurt, my nephew proceeded to work and called the police and his mother.  Later that day his father called me and gave me the shocking news.

I went to his house and hugged him and told him I would drive him to work if necessary.  i told him not to walk that route again (which was the same way he walked for years to get to East High school).

It shakes me to my soul to think we came this close to losing a good kid who has never been in trouble, has a job and is attending school at Columbus State trying to better himself and shape a life for himself.  ALL of it could have been snatched away had that punk decided he didn’t want to leave any witnesses or just was a complete sadist.

My nephew is a tall. skinny kid and not at all street-smart.  He’s a easy target for two-legged predators.   I thought immediately about my own son who is also 18, even taller, if not skinny, but equally green as grass when it comes to knowing his way around the streets.

Maybe it was the combination of being in the military and several trips to Times Square and 42nd Street before Rudy Giuliani hosed it down and cleaned it up, but you can’t walk around looking lost in your thoughts and whistling in a happy tune.  The idiots with more bullets than brains see that a sign of weakness and pounce.  You have to navigate the streets with what I call my “city face.”  My city face is  a head-up, eyes-front, neck on a swivel surveying the street and my surroundings.  One hand is partially in a pocket while the other one swings freely as I stride purposely.   My expression is a mean “don’t ask me for shit” face.   I try to carry myself with confidence.

I never had a problem bopping around New York or any other big city I’ve walked around because I tried to look like I belonged.   Not as a potential victim waiting to be hit.

Nothing can stop you from being a victim of crime if someone determines they are going to take from you something they want.   A “city face” only goes so far.  So does a can of Mace or a big dog or a concealed gun.

My nephew is alive partially of what his assailant didn’t do, but mostly what he did do.  He didn’t try to be macho.  He didn’t give the guy any lip and make a nervous idiot a trigger-happy nervous idiot.  He gave up the goods without a struggle.

There is nothing he lost that can’t be replaced.  His life cannot be replaced.

The only thing I can say my nephew did wrong was taking a longer route for a shorter bus ride where he wouldn’t have to transfer.   The safer way would have been to walk a block south of his home and to catch a bus on a busy main street that would have forced him to go downtown and transferred to another bus that would have taken him to work.  But I would rather leave 30 or 45 minutes earlier than expose myself to a similar experience again.

We’re all potential victims of crime.  Don’t live in dread or fear.  Don’t view every young male walking toward you on the sidewalk as a potential threat.  Be smart and be aware of where you are and how vulnerable you may be.

i know the cops won’t find the bastard.   If one Black kid rips off another Black kid, who cares?   If one Black kid kills another Black kid, that’s no big deal either.  Except for the survivors who have to put their lives back together without a piece of their heart.

While African Americans comprise 12% of the U.S. population, 45% of all murder victims in 2002 were African American, 91% of whom were killed by African Americans. Nationally, homicide is the leading cause of death for black men and second leading cause of death for black women ages 15-24.

It’s one thing to read those numbers.   It’s another thing entirely to know someone  you love came this close to being a statistic.

I don’t have the solution for Black-on-Black crime.  Neither does Barack Obama,   John McCain or even Jesus Christ himself.  Somehow too many young brothers and sisters got it in their heads that since it didn’t matter if they lived or died, why should it matter about anybody else living or dying, even when that other person looked the same as you?

Maybe someday when people can love and value themselves, they can find love for and the value of others too.

But that day is not today.

The worst thing to do is surrender to fear.  A certain amount of fear is fine because it can keep you safe.  Too much of it and you’ll never leave the house.

It’s just like the sage advice of the precinct sergeant from Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be careful out there.”