Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Not the Post I Wanted to Write

I was going to write a very different post.

I was going to write about a fun outing from last weekend.

On Sunday, May 17, a friend and I took some kids to the Greek Festival in Oakland. These are the kids we spend time with; brothers from the school I used to work at. I'm calling them "Jorge" and "Luis." Jorge (the older who was doing so well in school recently - got his grades up from a 0.0 to a 2.25, which is no small feat in two months) came last year and ate everything in sight. The food is really really good at the Greek Festival.

Sadly, Jorge couldn't come because his dad got arrested and he had to go see him. Have I mentioned that this kid has been trying to take care of his whole family as long as I've known him? But Luis could come and asked us to bring his friend Joshua. We brought Joshua, who ate everything in sight (Luis was being a picky eater) and chatted the whole time.

I remembered Joshua (an 8th grader) from when he went to our school. He was a bit of a troublemaker and had gotten arrested this year and had a probation officer. But unlike most kids who i've known who have been in trouble, he was up front with everything. He said he was stupid to do it and that he was learning not to hang around with people who did stupid stuff. He told us about what crack had done to some of his friends and how gross it was and how he'd rather not be around it. I've worked with kids in the inner-city for over 10 years and this kid wasn't making stuff up. He wanted to turn around. He also really liked Greek food. He gave me a hug for taking him out to eat.

A week later, I was reading blogs online and found this. That's Joshua. His name was Josue, but he liked to be called Joshua or Josh. He was killed Monday night by another kid. "Jorge" and his girlfriend were walking with him right by Jorge's grandmother's house when two brothers shot at them. The rest of the story has been told to me by traumatized kids so, of course, it may be biased, but these are overall, truthful kids.

I dont' know why the brothers shot at the other three. The kids say that the younger brother (13) shot at them and missed and the older brother (17) shot Joshua. They suspect (and I know this happens a lot) that the younger one is taking the blame because he will get off easier than a 17 year old on murder. Either way, Joshua was shot. The girlfriend took off running, and Jorge tried to help his friend while running away because he was being shot at. Joshua collapsed across the street from Jorge and Luis's grandmother's house. Luis ran out of the house to see what was happening and the two of them watched one of their best friends die.

You'd think that was enough trauma for one night. I've never seen someone die, let alone violently, and I'm 33. I can't imagine what it's like for a 10 and 13 year old. But no, the lovely police department of this fair city had to do its best.

I'm not sure of the order of events, but they did two things that night. They took the kids around to the home of the suspects' to identify the suspects. Now the suspects and their family and friends know who "ratted them out." They didn't even try to conceal the kids' identities. Then they took them to the police station for hours. The shooting happened before 10 pm. The kids got home at 4 am. They were not allowed to talk to their parents (the police called the parents) or have their parents there with them.

That was Monday night. Today is Wednesday. My friend and I went to see the kids yesterday to see how they were doing - as you can imagine, not well. This morning, a police officer came with a search warrant, searched for a gun, and took Jorge away with him without letting his mother come, which I believe is a violation of his rights.

A lawyer friend who also knows the kids came and saved the day, at least temporarily, but not before Jorge was pretty scared.

I've read some of the comments on and other reportings of the story and some of them make me sick. There is a lot of "well, he lived in the ghetto, and that's what happens." I realize that a lot of kids are killed because they're into gangs or drugs. This one was walking home. I commented ("Former Oakland Teacher" if you didn't guess) but can't look at it any more; it's making me ill. How do people simply write these kids off? Is it because it's easier to do so?

It sounds morbid, but I've always wondered which kid from school would be the first to get killed. You know that's a possibility in that area. But I thought he'd be older than 13.


meloukhia said...

This is terrible. The whole thing is terrible. I'm so sorry.

The fact that adults in positions of power like the people mouthing off in those comments sections are writing off children horrifies me. And I can't believe how poorly the police handled this; knowing the history and culture of the area, why on Earth would they have exposed the survivors of the shooting to danger like that?

There is so much race and class and culture bound up in this that it leaves me thoroughly gobsmacked. How can someone say "just another ghetto kid," like they're talking about picking up a pint of milk at the store? Everyone is a human being with potential, even the shooter, and the solution to systemic oppression isn't more oppression!

B said...

I know. It's breaking my heart. Even the shooter is breaking my heart because he wasn't born "bad."

I wish people would shut the hell up unless they are working to help the people who need it. They have no right to judge this kid.