“It’s like niggas is free but our minds still in the chains, brothers killing each other/ The blood spill it’s a shame/ Will it ever slow up?” – J. Cole “Enchanted”
Last week, I made this joint by J. Cole off his “Friday Night Lights” mixtape the theme song for the summer. It was Friday, May 27th, three days before Memorial Day, the unofficial first day of the season. In broad daylight, 21- year-old Edric Gordon was shot in broad daylight and pronounced dead just a few hours later.
Just the next day, the retaliation came. I don’t know what the result was, but I already knew that this was the start of a long, crazy, hot and violent summer. I was pretty tight after I heard about what happened Friday, because it seems like it’s a never-ending cycle of young black men killing each other. I actually had to calm myself down after I heard that news.
But before I continue, let me give a disclaimer. Ed’s murder was the most recent (to my knowledge) of the string of homicides that have been happening in the past few years around the 732, so I‘m using Ed as my focus. This incident was the “last straw” that led me to write about the overall issue of “homey-cide.”
I’m not going to pretend I was really close to him. Anyway, some people already got in trouble for that, but I did play Biddy with him on team UNLV with the Bird brothers and team Nets with Joe Rios, and I remember him running the halls of Neptune Middle School when I was there.
But back to what I was saying: I’m ashamed to admit it, but during my moment of anger, I thought to myself how happy I was to be away from Neptune and Asbury, and that I didn’t want to come home anytime soon. I dwelled on that over the Memorial Day weekend in relation to the fact that it’s a continuous cycle. I thought about the book I was reading which was about challenging black inferiority, and I thought about the purpose of my alma mater Howard University: to serve my people and the global community. Lastly and probably most importantly, I’m a fellow brother.
After putting all of those factors together, I thought to myself, “Damn, how could I even think about turning my back on my people?” I have a moral obligation to be a part of the solution and not the problem. Y’all have to understand that not speaking up, doing anything or becoming desensitized will only cause “homey-cide” to prolong. It’s not enough to just have the victim’s “face on the front of our shirts saying we miss ya.”
Hear me, I don’t have the master plan to put an end to “homey-cide,” but I have a few suggestions for change based on the possible reasons for black on black murders. It’s not something brand new to black Americans, but it’s a chronic disease that’s been afflicting us ever since we first arrived to this country against our will. (Don’t worry, I won’t get too deep with the history. I know how y’all feel about it, and I’m already making y’all read.) Slaves were taught that black life was worthless. We were treated as property and not humans. We were robbed of our self-respect and value.
This attitude of self-hate was passed down from generation to generation and is presently manifested through gang violence, drug-selling, personal oppression and poverty. As Tom Burrell writes, “…self-hatred created a kill or be killed ‘code of respect’ among young people…we were left with shattered egos and pent-up rage.”
That brief history lesson goes to show you that us killing each other is a mind game, or from Burrell’s advertising perspective, it’s a “propaganda campaign.” We can start to cure this disease by changing how we think about and view ourselves. Probably one of the most effective means to reverse the negativity is using the media.
I know we can’t control what’s broadcasted on the mainstream, but we can control our response to what we see, hear or read. We can choose to support the glorification of violence or we can turn away from it. Peep this, we also have to hold each other to the same standard! From the studio (all y‘all rappers), to YouTube (all y’all rappers) to Facebook and Twitter (all y‘all rappers and everybody else), we need to hold better conversations and put out more positive images of ourselves.
To figure out if we’re doing the right thing, we should ask ourselves, “Does this move us forward, backwards or keep us in the same place?” Remember, keep on lifting up the victims of “homey-cide.” Emphasize how valuable their lives were and are, because everyone’s life is valuable no matter what. Emphasize that life is valuable, also because we all have the potential for greatness (believe it or not).
Like the people in Chicago chanted: “We want futures, not funerals!”
Continuing the disease of “homey-cide” will only result in the priceless cost of human lives, no benefits. Like J. Cole said, “the devil is out buying souls,” but we have to let him know that they’re not for sale.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Nick Westbrooks doesn’t have Masters degree or a Ph.D. As a matter -of- fact, he’s still in undergrad at Howard University majoring in broadcast journalism. He’s never written a book, and he’s not an expert on the subject. He’s just a young, concerned black man who cares about his people.