Friday, October 9, 2009

We CANNOT Forget Derrion Albert

I was all set to write about how making my way through Mark Anthony Neal's New Black Man, was exposing me to a new lens on masculinity. Very much like when you get a new eyeglass prescription and the optometrist plays with the lenses in front of your eye until he finds the one that allows you to see the fine print clearly. I wanted to write and sort my thoughts on Dr. Neal's depaprture from the archetype of the Strong Black Man. Following a chat with my man Lu, I got up the nerve to watch the graphic footage of Derrion Albert being beaten to death in a Chicago street by fellow high schoolers. Immediately I knew I had to write about this incident which gave us an All-Access pass to the types of murders that occur in major urban centers daily. The tears welled up immediately as I watched the wooden board come crashing down, realizing that a life had just been ended senselessly. The event made me think about how helpless I would feel if my own son were involved in such a situation, and the immediate despondency I'd fall into were I to lose him in such a way. As my man Lu noted in our chat, this event and it's filming was like the facing the open casket of Emmet Till. Having to face that raw visual should be more than enough to spur action to ensure that it never happens again. I worry that based on what we have seen so far, the fallout from this tragedy will not cause the kind of reform that needs to take place in order to avoid a repeat performance.

Now two weeks after the event, myFox Chicago had a story about a student-lead Town Hall meeting where young people were allowed to voice their concerns for their safety as well as talk about the event. Police, politicians and concerned community members were also in attendance. But where were the buses full of protesters coming into town to demand justice like in Jena? Where were Rev. Al and Michael Baisden? Where's the statement from the President? He can defend Gates right away, but to comment on this he has to call a huddle so that he can release a statement "soon"? Does the fact that this is a Black-on-Black crime make it less of an atrocity than the Jena 6 beating up a White kid? All I know is that listening to the clips of youth speaking out at the Town Hall Meeting, clearly they feel that very few people are there to support them. The inaction of the larger Black community to support this hurting group of students and their families speaks volumes.

So I won't be forgetting Derrion Albert anytime soon, in fact ever. That video is imprinted permanently. It means that whatever I need to do to protect my little one from such a situation, I'll do it. It means that if there are less hours of sleep for me because I'm spending more time trying to develop interventions aimed at helping male youth of color navigate the K-12 pipeline, so be it. Derrion Albert deserved better, and I pray that we never have to see another video like that again.

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