How to Stop the Killing of All Our Children

Standing alongside Kendrick Johnson’s parents, a father prays for his own sons.

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And that is why it is often important to make sure we hear the voices of the unfamous. The words of Kendrick’s parents, proclaiming, “We refused to let them get away with it,” spoke to the resilience of everyday people who didn’t sign up to be activists but who are symbols for social justice.

I listened to the words of students from Spelman and Morehouse colleges as they represented the next generation of leadership. I also heard from local officials who are on the ground daily serving the very people the rally was addressing.

We need the support of nationally recognized voices because they attract necessary attention, but too often those voices (both intentionally and unintentionally) drown out the voices that most need to be heard and validated. I celebrate those with large voices who bring attention to the issues that the country and world are forgetting (many of them the men I mentioned). But I also celebrate the small but committed group of local activists, citizens, parents and civil servants who said, “I am going to show up and stay no matter who gives a speech.”

And it was the unspoken words expressed through the elderly woman’s sign that were the real reason I was there on my own dime and didn’t look to do any press while there. I have two sons I want to see live to be fathers and grandfathers. I was there because there was nothing that made Kendrick different from my boys. I could be the parent on the corner asking for justice for my Myles or Malcolm.

I pray that we don’t have to have another rally or vigil for the loss of our babies from any kind of violence. I am as tired of black-on-black crime as I am the class- and race-driven violence our babies face on a daily basis. But I realize that we have to start seeing every child as our own children before tragedy strikes in order to let those who want to bring violence to our babies know that our children do not stand alone.

As we push for justice for Kendrick and peace for his family, let’s all of us spend some time trying to see the children around us as ours. I know how hard that can be in a time and place where community is now just a neighborhood and where fear has created mistrust. But wouldn’t it make more sense for me to stand in solidarity with the parents where I live, seeing their babies as my babies now, so that we don't have to wait for a tragedy to say, “I am Leon Ford, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant or Kendrick Johnson.” There is an African proverb that says, “I am because we are.” Let’s live it.

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