So long as black Cincinnatians keep killing other black Cincinnatians, I will write columns like this one.
This is a dirge.
This is a lamentation for we, the living, who feel vacancies, stricken as we are by confusion and loss over real gone lives we never knew.
The lives of these dead black Cincinnatians may not matter much to you or to news editors and assignment editors beyond the fleeting, one- or two-day news cycles and shelf lives most of these murders receive, but they mean something to me.
It’s all matter. They do matter.
Every single time Carol and Clyde or Rob and Cammy blankly read the teleprompter, telling us of yet another black-on-black murder, then move to the weather or traffic, I sit quietly devastated.
I am not ashamed to tell you that sometimes I cry.
Sometimes these reports derail my day or my night and I shuffle around my apartment trying to imagine the pain and grief that surviving families must be facing. Other times, my sleep is disturbed and haunted by nocturnal videotapes of these shootings wherein I am a bystander or the neighbor who calls the police or throws an arm around the victim’s sister or mother.
Back to reality: Usually somewhere in the anchors’ 30- to 90-second report is footage of cousins, neighborhood friends or, worse yet, another black mother blinking down tears in the night in the street into the camera’s eye trying in a sound byte to tell viewing strangers the single most important thing about their dead child.
She was so sweet.
She had a lot of friends.
She was a good mother.
She was talented.
She loved doing hair.
She was getting her life together.
She was going back to school.
She always made us laugh.
She was always smiling.
How is this done?
Who does this?
Who is capable of such fetes of composure under such devastating circumstances? Probably the same kind of black folks with the audacity to name a girl-child Strawberry.
Who does that?
I don’t know these people, so in my sanctified imagination they are postmodern black hippies; free spirits and progressives who wanted their baby girl to answer, literally, to a different kind of a name, a colorless name as far from Shaqwanda, Shaneequa, Lantraney as Strawberry could be.
Strawberry, at first blush, is a name better suited for the precocious child of white New York artistic types; the child of an obnoxious actress whose own parents are actors and who is married, on paper, anyway, to a British musician, perhaps.
Or maybe Strawberry would be the daughter of West Coast hipsters who only eat organic vegan (is there such a thing?) and live on a commune and drive, if they must, a Prius.
Strawberry is far afield from Winton Terrace.
I bet 21-year-old Strawberry Edwards wishes she’d been anywhere other than at her own back door defending herself, her unborn child and her five-month-old son from 26-year-old Leonard J.
Lanier early in the morning on Feb. 21.
Lanier was trying to get in.
And he did.
Battered, frightened and unarmed women cannot keep a vengeful, violent Herculean man away. Ever.
So Lanier got in and allegedly shot Strawberry six times with her baby boy nearby.
At least that is what Lanier told his mother after the deadly deed, after which he scooped up his infant son and left the boy with his mother, who called 911 to report it to the police.
Have you seen Lanier? Either literally or metaphorically?
Have you seen a black man like him, a black man so eaten up by anger and rage he feels entitled to end the lives of (usually other black) people close to him who do not do his bidding, bear his children; who do not buy or sell his drugs or who have stolen his money or his drugs or his drug money; people who do not do as he says or women who try getting from under his thumb or his whippings?
Have you seen these black men who misconstrue the meaning of respect?
Have any of these kinds of black men crossed your path, the ones who live only on the block, standing around day in and out pontificating about the goings on in the small recesses of their own minds? You know them: puffed up, falsely confident on the outside; vulnerable, alone and scared on the inside without the emotional language to say so.
Or, maybe, he is traditionally educated and he has grown arrogant and narcissistic and is easily wronged, easily offended and so he destroys the woman and the child standing between him and his ego.
Such a big ego.
I have stopped asking myself and others who care about such things when this will all stop and what can be done.
Really, what can we do?
At this point we are operating under damage control because black folks murdering one another will never cease, so all I can do is write about it and try to get you to at least think about it, if even for a fleeting, sorrow-filled moment in the coffeeshop or on the bus or at your desk while you’re eating the lunch you packed that morning.
Think on these things.
About women like Strawberry and her family, her son and her unborn baby.
And please know that you do not have to personally know a victim to also feel victimized by violence, loss and confusion because that trifecta of murder, when callously ignored for a lifetime, makes us all a little more aloof, a little more removed and a little more inhumane.
And it is inhumane to hide behind race, class and gender when we’re protecting our own houses and our own feelings.
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