Last month, our only son Daniel graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Acting (with distinction) from DePaul University in Chicago. Eight years ago, he graduated from Valparaiso (Indiana) University with a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Humanities. Twelve years ago, he graduated from Valparaiso High School with a concentration in music and drama. I am a very grateful and proud father, and his mother, the Rev. Dr. Thelma H. Megill-Cobbler, STS, is very grateful and proud, also. Now, he seeks to find employment in the field he loves, in the city he loves (Chicago), as he blazes a path to eventually support his parents in the lifestyle to which we would like to become accustomed (smile)!
The parents, caregivers and loved ones of Trayvon Martin have no such hope. That hope was lost last year when he was shot in the chest by George Zimmerman. This past week, Mr. Zimmerman was found not guilty of the charges resulting from that action this past week, and I am very, very sad that the verdict rendered affirmed and embraced the tacit acceptance of gun violence in this nation, hidden under the guise of "self-defense." In the block and neighborhood watches I participated in over the years, I was not "packing heat," nor was anyone else to my knowledge, and I am talking about locales such as Columbus, OH, Camden, NJ, Philadelphia, PA, East Orange, NJ, Bronx, NY, and, of course, Brooklyn, NY. We were not "neighborhood interventionists," we were not law enforcement--we were "the eyes and ears of the neighborhood or block." If we saw something, we reported it to the police. If we saw activity that we deemed as "suspicious," we told other neighbors and law enforcement, so many eyes could be watching and many ears could be listening. This verdict, however, has given credence to the simple act of walking through a subdivision unarmed as "suspicious activity."
I get the profound sense these days that it is difficult to thrive, or simply survive, as a Black male in the United States of America. On the day we arrived in Valparaiso in 1997, Daniel started making beeping sounds from the back seat of the car. Then he said to no one in particular, "Do you hear that noise?" "What noise?" I asked. He then said, "That's the 'Black Alert'--two Black people coming into Valparaiso!" He was thirteen at the time, and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Two months later, I was stopped by the police in Valparaiso twice in one week, and the week after that, I was "shadowed" by a guard in Walgreens--as if the mirrors they install just below the ceiling aren't enough.
When Thelma and I would be invited to dinner at her faculty colleagues' homes, conversation would always get around to our children. One time I was asked what my hope was for Daniel. I said, "I hope he will still be alive at twenty-one, and when he gets 'beat up in life,' the harm will not linger." Our hosts were amazed by that response, but such is the reality of being a Black male in America.
These days, I hope that Daniel simply lives through the day, for he lives in a city where there were seventy-four people shot with guns from July 3 to 7, resulting in twelve deaths. No son should be lost—no daughter should be lost—“just because.”
The British say that we Americans love the “three G's: God, guns, and government." They are absolutely right about one of those three, and as long as our love for that one of them prevails, our love for life will continue to diminish and decay. I, for one, do not wish at all to go down that path--I wish to love the first "G", and challenge the third. See you at the intersection.