Last month, three of my cousins were murdered by one of their ex-boyfriends/children’s father. It still doesn’t seem like real life. This is some murder porn* stuff.
The day started normally enough for me. I woke up late and my mom said she wanted to talk to me. I remember being really annoyed that we were going to have to have a serious talk right when I woke up. I don’t think I hide it well.
“You heard about the triple murder suicide last night in [town]?” “Uhm, no.”
I feel bad, because my first thought was of my brother M, who lives in that town. So now I’m really scared.
“Well, I think K and B were killed by B’s ex-boyfriend last night and then he shot himself.” “What? No.”
And then I left because K and B are the last names I thought she’d mentioned. But a quick check to facebook showed that their friends had already heard the news and that confirmed it for me. Later on in the day, I would find out the third person who was murdered wasn’t just a friend of theirs, but actually another cousin of ours.
At first I couldn’t believe it. That doesn’t make sense. Why would he kill her? And why he kill the rest? And then why would he kill himself? And what about the baby? (The baby thankfully is ok and is too young to ever remember any of this (hopefully).) So I started digging for details. Turns out the reasons were the increasingly common reasons a noncustodial father kills the mother of his children – child support and because she was moving on.
Now that I could believe it, I was angry. Why is this the solution? Why is it when a relationship doesn’t work out, violence is the next step? What was his plan if the cops didn’t stop him? I actually don’t want to know.
I was only angry for a little while before I became sad. My cousins K and B were young. Both under 30 and both with children. They hadn’t lived life yet. My third cousin, T, was older, and to be sure, I feel sad for her too, but at least she got to live most of her life. I was much closer to K and B than T.
And then the guilt came. I hadn’t seen them since the last funeral we all were at, which was K’s mom’s in April. I had done a terrible job of staying in touch with that side of the family. Even since I had moved back to CT, I only was ever around during times of tragedy. That and I had gone into super hermit mode for most of the first year I was here. Do I have the right to feel devastated over deaths of people I wasn’t close to? I still vacillate between “they’re your feelings it’s ok” and “you don’t have a right to feel this way.”
The only thing I felt I could do now was to help. B’s sister had come into town and was doing most of the funeral preparations. I had to help her; I felt like it was my duty. Some small way to make up for not being around while they were alive. Man, did she put me to work. It was difficult to watch everyone’s coping mechanisms, which ran the gamut from working instead of feeling and feeling so much they wound up in the hospital. It felt good to help, it felt awful to witness the families sorrow increase as they learned more details. The murderer’s very long and disturbing history of domestic violence, my cousins’ last moments, how if the stars had aligned a little differently another cousin could have been involved and if they had aligned another way, it would have been the family matriarch instead.
But then there were good moments. People volunteering food and space for the funeral. A toy drive set up for the kids. Donations of clothes and other things babies need. People coming to share a laugh and good (but really bad for you) food. And although I’m not into Church, I even appreciated the many prayers shared. But the best was the baby, who was just as happy as he always. Hard to feel down when he smiles at you.
We planned a double funeral. We had to find clothes for them to wear. Something that seemed easy enough but quickly turned into a three day project while we worried about what they would wear, would they have liked this if they were alive and still getting something to cover up all the things the family wouldn’t want to see. Because everyone was so emotionally beat down, I wrote the two obituaries.
And then the funeral happened and it was terrible and beautiful. Two white caskets next to each other, surrounded by flowers in their favorite colors, in front of a packed Church in the middle of a snowstorm. People were sobbing. Some had the decency to do it in the bathroom and not on the family who was already barely holding it together. Thankfully, I kept it together through the funeral and the burial. Me, my mom and my brother had to do readings, but again, I felt happy that I could do something. In the end, K was buried next to her mother and B was married next to her. Best friends to the end.
We worried if there going to be conflict within the family since T was just visiting and because she had died trying to help her cousins here? But of course there wasn’t, because this is family. My mom married into the family when I was little and I used to still be around even after her divorce. K and her brother used to always be at my house and I have many found memories of us terrorizing my step-father with our antics (and bad and much too loud singing). The one thing about that family that I always admired is that they always stood together, even when one was acting a complete fool. ”The Mills!” I would say and laugh. And so, when I learned that my cousins died because they were protecting one another, I was not surprised. It seemed so fitting that this tight knit family would literally die for one another. I could not be mad at that. I don’t think they would be mad either. I don’t think they would have even thought they had a choice. And though I am still really sad and mad and guilt-ridden, I take small comfort in family and the things we do for each other.
*murder porn is not actual porn. It’s those murder shows like Snapped, Fatal Encounters, anything on Investigation Discovery. Basically real life Law & Order.
I am still raw from last night’s verdict. I tried to watch the case over the past few weeks but it was too difficult. People were sidetracked by Rachel Jeantel’s color, weight and grammar. Sidetracked by a little weed in Trayvon’s system and old pictures of him on social media. And then last night, I thought I could handle news coverage after the case but a few minutes into watching the defense gloat and I was sick to my stomach. And then Zimmerman’s brother came on asking more questions to tarnish Trayvon’s reputation and push the idea that Zimmerman, who is alive, is the victim. I tend to get angry over verdicts like this, but last night I cried.
After last night, how can we look Black boys in the eyes and tell them they are valuable? We can’t act like this is an isolated incident when it seems every year an unarmed Black man or boy is killed and justice is not served. One can’t help but notice how Vick got two years for dog fighting and Placo got one year for shooting himself, but Zimmerman serves no time for admitting to shooting a child. What we learned last night is that you get a pass for hunting a Black child if you feel scared enough. We also know that every act of self-defense isn’t considered Stand Your Ground when a Black woman,who didn’t kill anyone, was given 20 years.
And what scares me more, this idea that your fists, your attitude and a slab on concrete are now dangerous weapons at Black men’s disposal and are so dangerous that they can be countered with a gun if you feel threatened enough. When I heard this come out of Zimmerman’s brother’s mouth, my first thought was of Douglas Reddish and how his case has already been totally rewritten. Instead of a Black man punching a drunk White man for yelling profanities and racial slurs at him and his girlfriend over lunch, I can already hear how the angry, drunk, belligerent man is the a victim because Reddish used the weapons of his fist and the sidewalk to knock him out. Because Reddish couldn’t just sit there and take the verbal abuse.
And perhaps the worst part, how so many people were sad about the verdict but not surprised. Some people weren’t surprised from a legal standpoint. I don’t really understand their argument, but I’ve heard if enough from lawyers and pundits on television that I have to believe at least some of it is true. But mostly, many people already know that the lives of Black men and boys are never valued as much as others. This is how you can have a case about murder and somehow manage to place the dead victim on trial. The irony of Zimmerman’s frustrated muttering, “These assholes always get away,” was not lost on me.
Today I am still sad about the verdict. Today I still wonder how do we explain to boys that even though there are countless examples of them being killed with no one being found guilty or sent to jail that their lives still matter and that they are still valuable. Today I wonder how can men balance protecting themselves and their families while juggling everyone’s fear. How can we look men in the face and say you can no longer protect yourself if you feel threatened because it’s not safe for you? You’re in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. It’s not fair and it’s not going to change anytime soon. I think Cord Jefferson nailed it: It’s a complicated thing to be young, Black and male in America.
Last Sunday, Oprah, Iyanla and friends tried to tackle fatherless sons again. I want to preface this post with: I’m happy this are discussing this issue and sparking dialouge but I absolutely hate the way they are doing it.
The thing that bothered me most was the faux attempt to fix father and son relationships within the span of two hours. It doesn’t work that way. You don’t forgive someone for letting you down in two hours. You don’t change the way you’ve acted for years in two hours. You can’t “do the work” in two hours. And I get that this is a television show, but this is also real life for the guests..
The segment that bothered me the most was between Aveion Cason Sr. and his son. Aveion had not seen his son in 8 years. He had just missed his son’s graduation. His son was very hurt. What the show should have done was have them start the conversation that would help them improve their relationship and then provide some counseling to continue after the show. Instead, Iyanla fed the sons lines to say to his father (a la DMX and his son) and then the father promised to be there and not let the son down before. Without know these people, I can imagine the son and father have had this conversation before and I can also imagine that nothing has changed. And then the father took this opportunity to tell his son that it hurt him that his son didn’t respond when he told him “I love you.” I can see how that would hurt, but sir, this is a child, your child, who you hurt all the time. Act like an adult, deal with your pain and don’t put it on your child to change, especially when you’ve been dropping the ball for eight years.
I struggle with absent fathers. I struggle with their excuses about why they are gone. And I struggle with their pain when their children treat them the way they have been treated before. Later in the show, a father came on and asked what he could do because his son had stopped responding to him. The father admitted that he had a new family and his stepchildren loved and adored him and that helped him to see what a mistake he had made with his own child. I was glad Steve Perry was there to tell him that he might have to eat it. I think what gets lost in these fatherless children conversations is that children have a breaking point. There comes a time when they can’t handle the rejection any longer and they shut down. While I understand that this hurts fathers, it never ceases to amaze me how they don’t understand how their actions have hurt their children. This confusion grows when it’s men who grew up with absent (either physically or emotionally) fathers. They know how it feels, and yet, they turn around and do the same thing to their children.
Steve Perry and Geoffrey Canada discussed how some kids punish their fathers to make them feel the hurt they’ve experienced for years. I was glad that they bought that up because I haven’t really heard it discussed or read about it but it’s something that I did to my father and I know some friends who have done the same. This defense mechanism allows children to feel power and control in their relationship with their father. For me, it also made me feel better to see my father actually try to be a part of my life, even if was later than I wanted and in reaction to my rejection of him.
Something that I didn’t realize until after I watched the show was that there was only one White guest speaker on the show. I understand that the world wants to believe that Black people are the only ones dealing with fatherlessness, but that’s simply not the case. There are plenty White, Hispanic and (I’m guessing even) Asian children that are fatherless. I also think people forget that many children experience living in a single parent household when parents get divorced.
I kept seeing links to the video all week and finally decided to check it out this morning. Long story short, some asshole rubbed his condom-covered peen on a woman in a not crowded subway and she was not having it.
I thank her for it.
I’ve lived in New York for about five years now. Thankfully no one has felt the urge to expose them self to me, but like most other women, I am constantly harassed walking down the street. I try to keep it civil. For example, if a man says I’m beautiful, I’ll say “Thank you.” Not because I am thankful that he paid a compliment, but because if I don’t say anything I will inevitably get hit with “Why you so saditty?” “You’re not that cute anyway!” or the ever classic “Bitch.” *rolls eyes*
Anyway, I’ve become pretty numb to this weak holleration, but what happened to me on Saturday night still bothers me. I was walking to a party (just stop, I don’t want to hear about how I should not be parading around Brooklyn at night) and I’m waiting on the corner of Washington and St. Marks and this man comes up to me and tells me I’m beautiful. Blah blah, I say thanks and turn back to the street. I’m wearing my headphones but I can tell he’s still talking. I take one ear piece out to hear better. In retrospect, I should have just kept the headphone in and continued to ignore him. He repeats what he said and I make the fatal error of asking him what did he just say because I can’t believe he just said what I thought he did. But sure enough he really didsay “I would love to eat your p*ssy out.”
Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat the hell?! Seriously? When did this become the hot pick up line?
So I’m stuck at the longest light ever and this dude continues to talk about my no-no area, about how pretty it is, about how he’d have me limping in the morning and continuing to tell me that he’d eat it up, because apparently, that is the ultimate compliment he can pay.
I really wish I could have snapped back into reality and say all the things I wanted to say. I wish I would have told him that my very pretty pink petal is definately out of his league and he needs to take all this wack game somewhere else. Alas, all I could muster up is “Wow, that is crazy inappropriate” and continue my prayer to stop light gods that that light would finally turn red so I could run away.
The light finally turns red, I literally run across the street. All the while, this guy is now yelling about how beautiful my vagina is. *sigh*
While holla back has been trying to fight street harassment for years, the reality is that legislation is not going to stop it. Other easy answers, such as telling parents to raise their sons better, or telling women to not engage these men so they aren’t confused into thinking this constant harassment is a compliment that makes women feel good, are also not the ultimate solution. In fact, I’m not really sure what is the answer.
What I do know is that next man that decides he’s going to disrespect and humiliate me like that will get a hell of a lot more than “wow, that is crazy inappropriate.”
I never know how to treat family “issues” on the blogosphere, but since this current situation is shaping a new theory I’m working on (and because frankly, this story is so over the top), I’ve decided to share it here.
I’ll start with the headline “Eleven Arrested, One Tasered, During Manchester Drug Bust” – and now you can tell where we’re going. In that day’s newspaper, there were actually three different stories about drug busts in CT, but this one involved my younger brother. In fact, he’s almost the star of the article
MANCHESTER — Police arrested 11 people and seized more than a pound of marijuana, plus $7,796 in cash, during a drug bust Monday that included a violent struggle.
Many of the arrests were the result of drug dealing in the Spruce Street area of town, where undercover officers from a regional task force had bought marijuana, crack cocaine and heroin over several months, police said. One of the arrested people is accused of having children sell drugs near a school. In all, police served 28 warrants.
Millard “Marquise” Jackson, 19, of Oak Street was shot with a Taser by officers when he resisted arrest on a warrant charging him with selling marijuana to an undercover officer in the Spruce Street neighborhood. He continued struggling after being Tasered, police said.
When officers got Jackson under control, they found 86 bags of marijuana on him, police said. Officers added charges of possession of marijuana, possession with intent to sell and resisting arrest.
Yeah so that’s my bro. And while I could go on and talk about how hard his life has been (which is has) and his issues with mental illness, the fact of the matter is that my brother is his father’s son. And I expect to see more stories like this for at least another 10 – 20 years. And at this point, I’m trying to figure out how I want to deal with this, or if I want to deal with this. Because I’ve been here before, and I’m not looking forward to doing this again.
So where does this theory come in? The last time my brother was incarcerated he blew up my phone. He called multiple times a day, told me how much he loved me and told me he was going to turn his life around. Now rewind about 15, and this is exactly how my father behaved. Much like my father, my brother pretty much calls when he needs something (the last time was to read a contract for a record deal that never worked out) or he disappears for months. And like how I felt with my father, I’m used to him being gone and silent because that means that he’s fine. Fine here is relative, because for a long time with my father, and for the next 10 – 20 years for my brother, fine means running around in the streets doing things that are most likely illegal.
Long story short, some (a lot of?) sons who grow up without their fathers mimic their behavior as adults. I’m not sure that this has actually been written and this may be where I need to start. But I know a lot of nonresident fathers grew up without their fathers. (Not knowing your father may make it hard to “prove” that they act in similar manners). Anyway the theory that I want to work on involves the daughter’s relationship to her brother, who now acts like her father. How does she act? How should she act? By this point in life, I’ve had about 23 years of dealing with my dad acting crazy and simply do not have the patience to humor this behavior in my brother. But I am unsure if this is the norm. I need to flush this idea through… or just write my dissertation, graduate and then flush this idea through, but I wanted to put it on paper.
I dedicate this post to Josh, Quise, Baby K and my dad.
The more I read the news, the more I realize it’s important to recognize that Black men are important. I think we need to say this out loud more often. And I need you to believe it when we say it.
You guys are dying every day and it’s crazy – beating each other to death with rail road ties just because, shooting each over over turf, killing each other because one is gay, over medicating yourselves with drugs, or committing suicide. You are being killed every day – by each other and by the police (40 taser deaths this year jeez).
Black men you need to reach out to Black boys. They need guidance, and as much as us women try to lead them down the right path, we know you can connect with them in ways we cannot. I respect this bond and wish more of you would cultivate these relationships with your brothers, son, nephew, cousins, mentees and neighbors. You need to show them that there is nothing cool about burying your friends, killing your enemies, fighting over petty shit like shoes or colors… or even girls.
Black fathers you need to talk to your sons. Even if you hate your baby momma, you need to leave her and stay with your children. You need to show them what a functional relationship looks like. You need to show them how amazing a father’s love it. You need to encourage them to do the right thing, even when you haven’t yourself. You need to support them – even when they aren’t athletic, even when they are over weight, even when they aren’t macho, even when they are gay.
Black men we need you. You are our fathers – our relationship with you is supposed to inform our relationship with men in the future. How you treat our mothers shows us how we should be treated in the future. You are suppose to protect us from people that want to harm us. You are our brothers. You are our confidants. You are our friends. You are our lovers. You are our husbands.
I hope to marry one of you someday. I hope to have children with one of you someday. I hope to grow old with one of you someday.
I know it’s not easy to be you, but we need you are around. Black men, you are important. You need to realize this and I hope you do before it’s too late.
jeez i wrote this last week and never posted. lame.
So everyone’s asking if I read the NYT’s article, In Prisoner’s Wake, a Tide of Troubled Kids. Yeah I read it and I did not like. As a child of a parent who spent most of my childhood in jail or cracked out, I turned out fine and I am tired of reading all these articles about how kids growing up in single parent households are screwed for life. This is defeatist. Yes, fathers are important to a child’s well-being but if a father is not there, that does not mean that child has no chance of a positive upbringing.
I had many problems with the article. The article appears to say create difference categories in father absence by protraying a parent is jail as more damaging to a child’s well-being than a child whose father just isn’t around? In both cases, a child does not have a father.
The chances of seeing a parent go to prison have never been greater, especially for poor black Americans, and new research is documenting the long-term harm to the children they leave behind. Recent studies indicate that having an incarcerated parent doubles the chance that a child will be at least temporarily homeless and measurably increases the likelihood of physically aggressive behavior, social isolation, depression and problems in school — all portending dimmer prospects in adulthood.
Children who grow up with fathers, whether they are in jail or not, are all at risk of low educational attainment, risky sexual behavior and violence. I don’t understand the need to create levels of father absence as if one reason a father is gone is better than another. They are all damaging.
We are introduced to the “Incarceration Generation,” children who grew up with at least one parent in prison and the article. The two children of the Incarceration Generation interviewed for this article are, in my opinion, extreme examples. Herbert Scott, who is 20 with a child and was awaiting sentencing for drug possession and robbery. By the end of the article, he was in jail. Then there is Terrisa Bryant who also had a child and was a high school dropout. I get it, the prospects are dim but it is not hopeless. Why not at least provide an example of a child of an incarecerated parent who was jail bound, a young (single) parent, or a drop out.
The article feels like CNN’s Black in America – providing no new information to the Black community, downplaying the positive – specifically Adam Gaine’s story – to focus on the negative Herbet Scott and providing no solutions. I would have rather read about how Gaine’s beat his addiction and how he got into (and stayed in) a program to train him to become a fitness teacher. I am not interested in Scott’s oh to common story of coming out of jail, talking about how he wants to be there for his kids and then winds up back in jail within a year. I don’t need to read that. I don’t want to read that. I would rather read about programming or policies that reach out to these children offer assistance. I would have rather read about programming that successfully reintroduces Black men into society and assists with training and housing. I would rather read about policies to loosen licensing restrictions to ex prisoners so that even low skill men can acquire jobs and make a decent living.
The article ultimately ignores a glaring issue – why are these men going to jail in the first place? It makes little mention of extremely harsh drug laws, and no mention of the limited employment of ex-felons, the impact of low educational attainment on potential earnings, lack of support upon reentry to society, I could go on for days. To place the blame solely on parents who are incarcerated is dangerous.
I guess lucky for me, I can only find two. The most recent documentary I’ve seen is called “On the Downlow.” this one is actually a documentary. I can understand why a man in the download would want to come out in a documentary but I’m thankful that I can watch it. The strange thing about the down low is that I think I been misinformed about what it was. The lady it was first rate on Oprah I thought that all down low men identified as street, but in this documentary they were all just in the closet. I thought that all DL men considered themselves straight, but in the documentary most of them identified at least as bisexual. Another interesting fact was that they were all pretty feminine. So when they finally decided to come out to some friends it was not a surprise to any of them. So now I am a little more confused than I was before.
The way my friends talk about it it seems like you need to be afraid of all black men. But in the documentary all the men that were on the downloads were pretty feminine, and although that is stereotypical to assume that feminine man are all gay was true for the men in this film. Don’t get me wrong I’m not advocating that all feminine men are gay or bisexual, but it was a relief to know that all the DL men aren’t parading around as super street hard-core manly men, and that it might be easier to spot a DL than originally was thougt.
I need to formulate my thoughts on this one some more.