hashtag.

“Authorities Identify Man Fatally Shot in Newark’s East Ward”

I’ve seen this headline before. In fact, I see this headline every week. I saw it when they murdered 3 of my childhood friends. I saw it when Dylann Roof’s hatred erupted within the confines of a Charleston church. I saw it when a mother who lives 3 short blocks from me mourned the death of her 3rd son. I saw it when they killed your boyfriend. I saw it when they took that little girl’s daddy. I saw it when they stole that baby boy’s big brother…I’ve seen this headline so many times that I don’t even bother to read the story. I, instead, scan Facebook and Instagram to double check whether or not the “man” who has most likely not even seen his 21st birthday is related to me or someone I know. And when I saw this particular headline, it was about my 20yr-old baby cousin, who was more of an annoying little brother than a “man.”

“RIP MULA” is what the Instagram post said. A post created by someone who didn’t know how deeply his death would affect all who loved and watched over him throughout his very short 20 years on this earth. It didn’t take long for this post to go “viral” in Newark and for many to follow suit. The family mourning behind this hashtag was mine and for us, his untimely death would not end in 100+ instagram likes and “sorry for your loss” texts that tend to slow up at the turn of the news cycle.

In an effort to get my mind off the things I made the mistake of turning on the news and catching a bit of President Obama tearing up about gun violence and the ways in which it impacts us all. I saw one of the Sandy Hook parents get emotional and speak of the evil that took his child and how this happening shook our nation. I know that POTUS didn’t mean any harm to my family directly, but I couldn’t help but think about the countless Black and Brown kids who don’t make national news. The boys who weren’t star students, killed in a mass shooting, or murdered by a police officer. The children who viciously take each other’s lives and will not be impacted by an increase in background checks or stricter gun laws. My cousin doesn’t have a grand story so his hashtag will burn out and he will soon be considered just another casualty of ghetto living. People will go about life and forget he was even one of the countless murders in that will occur in 2016 until we post heartfelt messages on his birthday or on the anniversary of his death.

As I sit here now fighting back tears, I ask you to hold onto your loved ones. I ask you to consider what we as a community can do to fill our boys with a confidence that voids the hopelessness and helplessness necessary to take someone else’s life senselessly. Talk to the Black and Brown kids in your life about how quickly things can change and how easily they, too, can become a hashtag.

-Rif

 

For Rakim S. Onque. I pray that Allah meets you with open arms, and that your soul finds the peace you were missing during your time in the flesh.