Jordan Davis would have celebrated his 19th birthday on Sunday.
Instead the 17-year-old was killed by Michael Dunn at a Florida gas station in 2012 when Jordan and his friends refused to turn down their loud music.
On Saturday night, Dunn was found guilty of three counts of second-degree attempted murder but was not convicted on the charge of first-degree murder in the killing of Jordan. Dunn now faces more than 60 years in prison.
In a press conference after the verdict, Davis’s father described him as a “good kid.”
On the last day of his young life, Jordan was doing what most teenagers do: hanging with his boys and trying to pick up girls. Jordan was like most teenagers navigating that sometimes difficult phase that bridges childhood and manhood.
But it’s becoming harder for black boys to become black men, especially when simple acts of a teenage phase get labeled “thug” behavior.
Jordan Davis deserved to grow up like the rest of us and become an adult who rolls his eyes when teenagers goof off too much, drive too fast and play their music too loud.
At 19 years old I was a junior in college, studying for graduate exams and begging my parents to let me either move off campus with my friends or study abroad in London. They said no to the move, which is what I really wanted to do. I only brought up London because it made getting my own apartment nearby look more attractive—or so I thought. My folks, bafflingly, said yes to London.
I’d recently decided that I wanted to be a writer because a professor in my African-American-studies class said I’d be good at it. It was too late to change my major from English to journalism—two entirely different types of writing, really—so as a second-semester junior, I was taking my first journalism class.
Older people kept telling me that “these are the best days of your life. Enjoy them.” But as much as I was looking forward to goofing off with my friends throughout senior year, I couldn’t wait to graduate and get my life started. “Start” meant moving to New York. Simple, right? But thinking about all the what-ifs terrified me.
I went to the club every college night and got all sweaty trying to keep up with the Baltimore girls dancing to house music. I argued with my parents a lot, mostly about the car and because I had no clue at 19 that they were pretty much right about everything. I went places I had no business being, drove my car too fast and played my music too loud, especially Jay Z and Biggie.
In my downtime, I daydreamed a lot—about the next boy, the next party, the next exam or paper, the next spring break … because I took for granted that there would always be a … “next.” The world was spread out as a canvas before me; I just had to figure out what I wanted to add to it.
Jordan Davis deserved to have afternoons of daydreams, nights of parties, an opportunity to leave his mark and a lifetime of “nexts,” too. He deserved the chance to see his dreams come to fruition.
But he didn’t get that chance. It feels horrible to see “RIP” before a 17-year-old’s name.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life and the upcoming Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love. Follow her on Twitter.