For the past 4 years, I've had the pleasure of teaching in some of the toughest neighborhoods around and when I say pleasure, I mean it. While most people shudder when I tell them my location, I thrive in it. The students I've had the opportunity to work with have touched my life in ways I never thought possible. They are some of the strongest, brightest, most creative and thoughtful people I've ever encountered. They've overcome things many of us cannot even begin to imagine and for young people, many of them do it with the grace of an adult. They withstand temptations and are in a constant struggle against drugs and gangs and of course, the normal issues of being a teenager.
Every time I see a headline "teenager shot" or "15 year old stabbed" I immediately wonder, Do I know them? Is it one of "my" kids? So on Sunday I was unfortunately NOT shocked to see yet another headline "14 year old shot dead in Dorchester", but I was shocked to find out that I knew him.
Nicholas Fomby-Davis was a 8th grader at Dearborn Middle School in Roxbury, where I taught the past 2 years. According to the news, he was riding his scooter down the street on Sunday night when a 20 year old and 16 year old pulled him off, pinned him down on the sidewalk, and shot him several times in the chest. 14 years old. riding a scooter. now he's dead. and I have to ask myself WHY!? There is NOTHING that boy could've done to warrant being gunned down.
His murder makes the 26th so far this year, and unfortunately, summer time is "busy season" for Boston's crime rates, so I fear we've only just begun. In the past, I've been guilty of glazing over news stories like this, rolling my eyes at "gang life" and being glad it doesn't happen in my neck of the woods. I subconsciously judge and criticize the people involved and go about my merry way. But as I've spent time with these kids and I SEE them for who they are, not the stereotype people paint them with, I know it's not always the case.
So what is supposed to happen? As summer comes and school no longer offers a place of safety and refuge 8 hours a day, I fear more of this will be happening to young, innocent teenagers...and yet, it such a powerless feeling. What can we do to stop it? I certainly cannot roll into the neighborhood and ask the corner gangbanger to put away his glock and move on to greener pastures. But I have to remember, there is power in numbers. Alone I am just one person, but if everyone felt this strongly. And slogans like "snitches get stitches" went away and people came together for something positive, maybe change could and would happen.
Despite the political, racial, and socioeconomic undertones this whole argument brings forth, I realize now none of it matters. I can't speak for everyone (although I wish I could) when I say this whole issue has brought the need for this to stop from the pages of a newspaper into my heart and mind. Nicholas isn't just a statistic, or a headline on the 5 o'clock news. He was a bright middle school student who his teachers lovingly referred to as "Fomby", who horsed around with his friends in the hallways, and who sometimes talked too much during class...after all, he was only 14 and isn't that what 14 year old boys are SUPPOSED to do?
There are a couple of great organizations out there trying to stop this madness in Boston. One, in particular, I came across was Peace Boston. Started by Cindy Diggs
Peace Boston is a movement that was created by members of the Hip Hop Community, Youth Workers and Youth to address the violence in the city of Boston
Will any of this help? The cynical, pessimistic part of myself is doubtful...but I'd like have a little more faith in humanity than that. The slogan for my Half Marathon this weekend, which was dedicated to fallen police officers, was "Our strength resides in their memories". How perfectly fitting for this occasion as well. My heart goes out to his family and everyone at Dearborn Middle School today.