It was, at once, an expression of grief, a plea for help, a cry of desperation, from a young woman who had no other words to express the pain and anguish she was feeling. Her friend was gone, and nobody in that room could argue with her; not his teammates, not his coach, not his friends, and certainly not me.
How does a mother prepare to bury her son, who had gone to work at a laundromat at night to help support his family? Where does a wrestling team stuff the grief that comes when they realize why their beloved teammate didn’t show up for practice on Saturday morning? What does a school do, when staff have come to know the district Crisis Team members by name?
“This Is Not Right…”
December Htoo is the fourth young man lost to gun violence this school year who attended the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, the second one from Harmon High School. His friends, his teachers and coaches, his teammates, his classmates are all heartbroken. December had been with us since he was six years old. His family is Burmese, and came to us from a refugee camp. He was doing everything we could hope a young person would do. He was a leader in the school, involved in choir and wrestling, concerned about his grades and studies. December is described by all as a compassionate and caring person, who loved to laugh, and was concerned for his family, friends, and acquaintances at school.
And still, despite his doing everything we could ask a young man to do, we who are left have to find the courage to bury yet another young man, gone too soon. And let me be clear: This is not just about December alone; it is about LeAndrew Vaughn, and Brandon Browne, and Adarius Barber, names that I have held close to my heart all semester. All of these young men, cut down, just as they were coming into the prime of their lives.
“This Is Not Right…”
In fact, there is something terribly wrong. No community should have to feel this pain. No community should have to bury so many promising young men and women. And no group of young people, at Harmon and across the city, should have to suffer in the silence that seems to envelop this community, whenever another young life is lost. This is not right, and it is not the kids, it is us. And until we change, until we speak up, and speak out, until we stand up in defense of our kids, they and the adults who love them will carry the massive weight of this carnage on their shoulders, alone. And it will crush them.
My phone should be ringing off the hook, with voices offering ideas and support. I am waiting…This is not right, and It Is Up to Us!