Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families


Every Murder Matters, Every Life Has a Story Worthy of Telling

In my most recent post, I talked about the tragic death of Hadiya Pendleton. In that piece I acknowledged that this tragedy really affected me... in a very different way compared to many of the murders we read or hear about on an almost daily basis. As I thought about it more, I recalled a piece I read back in January. Colbert King wrote a piece in the Washington Post (1/4/13 - Every Murder Matters), discussing the disparity in coverage of daily murders in the District.

Colbert King analyzed the disparate media coverage of the murders of Angelo Alphonso Payne and Jason Anthony Emma, both men in their 20's who were killed during the holidays. Emma's murder received far more coverage than Payne's. I recall some of that coverage. Every now and then, especially when the victims are white or live in not-so-poor neighborhoods, we learn more about the tragic circumstances surrounding their murder, their grieving families and friends, and the tremendous loss to those who were close to them. More frequently, however, especially when the victims are poor and either Black or Latino, we only read a few lines that include the time of the murder, that there were (usually) no witnesses, and that the police are still looking for clues.

I'm with King on this one:

People’s lives aren’t worthless. Just because they die in a part of town where murders are more frequent, or their slayings aren’t particularly gruesome, doesn’t or shouldn’t mean they count for less. Nor should motive — whatever it may be — render their loss of life meaningless.

I recalled King's piece because that's essentially what happened with Hadiya's murder. We learned far more about this young girl's background in the hours and days following her death than is typically the case. I don't know all the reasons why, although one obvious reason was that she had just returned from performing at the President's inauguration and was killed within a mile of his Chicago home.

Like King, I would think knowing the stories behind the faces and newspaper blurbs is important. People become numb to the stories, especially when they're presented like basic statistics... name, age, location and possibly the circumstances. But everyone belongs to a family, and everyone has a story worth knowing and remembering.

And truth be told, there's a huge backstory to murder in the African American community that remains to be shared in its entirety.

It's not a pretty story for sure, and it's far older than any of these reporters, and the publications they write for.

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  1. He was 19 and the victim of a murder from a gunshot to the back of his head. He was killed on the weekend of Mother’s Day. He was my nephew and he was a light of love and happiness in our family. The authorities gave his case no attention and his murder remains unsolved. Yes, every murder matters and every story needs to be told. It is our family who keeps the memory of Jonathan alive.

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