Where is the safest place in your home when bullets can potentially pierce the walls like cheese?
This past Monday morning, around 3:30am, shots rang out across the street again. My son, half awakened from his sleep, asks for a hug from Umi (his mother). Amid comforting him, stroking his peanut head to fall back to sleep, she keeps her eye on the window, watching the commotion across the street. She grabs her phone to call the police and moves the 3-year-old closer to the furthest wall. Where is the safest place in your home when bullets can potentially pierce the walls like cheese? The situation dies down within 15 minutes and my son is sound asleep, leaving his Umi to resolve her anxiety and fearful thoughts with a late-night iPhone game.
Later that morning, he wakes up and immediately informs his Umi that he had a bad dream. Umi encourages him to talk about it. He begins to describe how we (his family) were walking down the street and some bad robbers came up and begin shooting at us. Umi asked him “what did you do”, and he replied that he covered his eyes with his hands and wished it would go away. Later that evening, he had the typical struggle with winding down for bed-time, but slightly easier than previous days. He opened about the fear that wouldn’t allow him to sleep, “I’m scared you and Baba (me) is going to be killed”. Umi had a hard time responding, considering everything that is going on in the community. However, she reassured him that her and I will be fine and that Allah will protect us all the time. By the time I got home from work that evening, I assisted with putting both boys to bed while, battling a heavy cold, I supported my immune system with some ginger tea and elderberry supplements.
My wife often needs to be reminded of this, but I will sacrifice my health for her comfort. It’s just how I’m built.
Going against my intuition to stay home, I took my compromised body to work the next morning. Two hours into my daily routine at the office, the sneezing and headache picked up and I decided I should get home. Of course, trying to navigate family matters while depending on one vehicle is no easy feat. I ended up staying at work for an additional two hours, calling it quits when my wife became available. After dropping her off at the office, I ran an errand and began to head home. I was determined to get back to the house and climb into bed. My wife and I disputed over how we were going to get her the vehicle. At that time, about 2:30pm, she had to go into another meeting and couldn’t drop me off at home to obtain the vehicle. Like normal, I didn’t mind making the short walk home., Although the below zero weather and congested nose said otherwise, it was only two blocks. My wife often needs to be reminded of this: I will sacrifice my health for her comfort. It’s just how I’m built.
I left the car in the NAZ parking lot. As I crossed the street I noticed something abnormal on the block. An older model van was crashed against a tree, positioned in the middle of the street, abandoned, with engine fluid leaking from the bottom. As I walked past, my hunch was that the vehicle had been stolen while someone was heating it up. They must have crashed it (probably evading the police), then left it for the owners to recover the damage. As I passed the incident, a Sister parked by the van, walked toward the idle machine, and began speaking on her cellphone. I noticed a young Brother across the street walking toward the incident. I subtly overheard him ask if that was her vehicle. My brief glance of her face convinced me that it was. I kept walking trying to get home.
I remember thinking at that very second, “who got time for this shit right now”.
I got a block down the street, roughly three houses down from my home. That subtle voice once again spoke and told me to look back to check on that Sister. The same young Brother that I saw down the street was jogging up behind me. He spoke, “Hey man you gotta come out that cash”. Ears fuzzy from sneezing and congestion, I was unsure of what he was saying. So, I turned back a little more and said “what”. He repeated, “Ayyy you gotta come out that cash” and proceeded to show me his handgun that he had tucked away in his pocket. I remember thinking at that very second, “who got time for this shit right now”.
Several things happened which I will spare the details for my readers. In the process of canvasing my wallet, pockets, and glasses (not sure why he wanted my glasses), I remember feeling two emotions: fear and anger. I remember thinking, “this Brother gotta be at least 19, 20, 21.” His image was of a young person who didn’t want to be out here. I may have said that to him. It’s cold as hell out here, who in the hell want to be outside in zero degree weather, in broad day light, pointing a gun at folks for cash. He didn’t want my cell, watch, or any of the contents in my backpack, he just needed cash. My son’s words from the night before flashed through my head and got lodged right in the front. The sane part of me pushed for survival, I needed to get home to my sons. The other part started to evaluate if this is how I wanted to go out. Even though I could visually see he was a young brother, at that very moment I begin to hate him as well. Within minutes, he waived his head and told me to go on. Physically, I walked away unharmed. Emotionally or mentally…. I don’t know. A minute later, I’m in my house. I sat down for a second, then grabbed my phone, called my wife and texted my Brotha’s in the Build, “I love ya Brothas”.
….one child with a gun is one too many. One child with trauma is one too many.
“Kasserian Ingera?” Are the children well? While I possess the opportunity to answer this
question from a clear lens of positive youth development experiences, the incident the other day is telling. Our children aren’t good. Despite the many powerful youth that I see weekly, which I’m proud of their accomplishments, their will to grow, courage to challenge systems, and make their voices heard, one child with a gun is one too many. One child with trauma is one too many.
More than likely, “community” will become this abstract or conceptual idea that I strive to create without a geo-location.
I refuse to develop contempt towards my people. The love is beyond my ego. However, I would be lying if I said that I’m not conflicted from living amidst this mess. Regardless of where we move, there will be complications there. I know that to be true. Northside Minneapolis, because of historical factors, has a higher concentration of my people in a decadent state. It’s the same way Southside was in the 90’s and small pockets of St. Paul before the turn of the century. However, I can’t raise my children here. More than likely, “community” will become this abstract or conceptual idea that I strive to create without a geo-location. If it means that I must commute a distance to enjoy the beauty of community events, so be it. If it means that I must continuously contend to find a healthy African/Black space for my children to observe and witness a healthy “us”, so be it. It couldn’t be much different than what I’m doing now. The reality is that it isn’t working right now. For my children’s sake, it’s worth it. I release my commitment to the rock…..for now!