OPINION | We still need help here! African American children continue to die, and with them our spirits


On Christmas day, December 25, 2011, three-year-old Terrell Mayes, Jr. enjoyed Christmas and the love and warmth of his family. By the late evening of December 26, Terrell Mayes, Jr. was dead, the victim of the continuous, senseless violence that is tearing at the soul of our city.

By Wednesday, December 28, politicians were trying to put a favorable twist on this tragic story. But there is no twist, no mirage, no Madison Avenue-driven theme, no so-called “closure.” Death is irreversible. And at three years of age, this child’s death will haunt family, friends and community for the rest of our lives.

Sadly, it is just as plain as the five fingers of your hand that violence, tragedy and death are alive and well in Minneapolis. The picture in the Sunday, January 1 edition of the Star Tribune said it all: a mother with tears running down her cheeks, remembering her youngest child who will never know another Christmas, never again hear the laughter of his loved ones and friends, never attend his first class in school, never know high school graduation, never see the birth of his own child, and never again feel the love and hugs of his mother.

These are no longer happy events to be taken for granted about this three-year-old innocent Black child who had nothing to do with his own senseless death, despite the audacity of those who suggest that, based on his race and the circumstances of his life, he and others like him bring such fatalities upon themselves. To read such comments on White blogger websites and in the Star Tribune suggests a mean-spirited doctrine that continues to exist within this city and within this nation, despite pious protests to the contrary.

People have been too quick to assume this was a Black-on-Black crime — as of this writing we don’t know that. There are no suspects, no witnesses, as has happened with too many other African American males and females who perished during 2011.

Just the heartache of another lost Black life remains. My July 14, 2010 column heading was, “Please! We need help here.” We are in perilous trouble as a people and a city, standing at a race-relations crossroads.

As I talk to and meet a lot of people, I’m hearing far too many African Americans say that downtown, the Man, White folks, and even our own Black leaders don’t give a damn. That’s dangerous, my friends.  When one peels back the casualty figures to reveal the number of African Americans, particularly the young, who continue to be the targets and victims of the violence, death, mayhem, heartache and sadness, one realizes that there is legitimacy to the statements made and feelings expressed.

But nothing said now or later will bring back the life of three-year-old Terrell Mayes, Jr. How many more tragic ends like this can we afford? None before. None now. None tomorrow.

Terrell Mayes should not have been a victim in the first place. If we, as a city and as a nation, were committed beyond paying lip service to those things we say we are committed to — the preservation of life and the protection of our citizens, not to mention education, jobs, and most importantly the safety of our children — this would not have happened.

Think of it, my friends: This child and his siblings heard gunfire that had become a daily occurrence in their neighborhood and around their home. That daily occurrence was hardly their fault. They were attempting to flee within their home to a place of safety, to a shelter that would protect them.

But young Terrell didn’t make it. The bullet was faster. With his death, a little bit of all of us died. At some point in time, you begin to lose just a part of your soul and your spirit. We can’t continue to let our children die, to look the other way, to put our heads in the policy sands and pretend it won’t happen again.

The tombstones reflect our looking away from the death of our babies. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the theologian Hitler had killed for standing up for the children of Germany, wrote, “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”

Stay tuned.

Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm; hosts “Black Focus” on Blog Talk radio Sundays at 3 pm; and co-hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “ON POINT!” Saturdays at 4 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his solution papers for community planning and development and “web log” at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com.