DISCLAIMER: This piece was written with POSITIVE INTENT. It was not written to disrespect Brandon H, nor gain “clout” from his image & likeness, or from anyone mentioned in this piece. I didn’t know Brandon personally, however, I did admire his basketball talent from afar. A postseason performance against South Bronx Prep during his junior year standout to me. I felt obligated to write this piece to both honor his life, & highlight the senseless gun violence captivating New York City.
If you have any suggestions or issues with what this piece contains, you may leave a comment, or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What a disappointing few months it’s been.
So far, the start of this decade has been defined by a bevy of negative developments. We’ve had the tragic death of notable celebrities, COVID-19, police brutality, racial injustice, etc.
And the latest hurdle we’ve had to endure: gun violence.
However, I didn’t expect to write another piece honoring someone’s life, this year.
But yet again, here we are.
As mentioned above in the disclaimer, this piece is a result of the spike in gun violence throughout New York City, where I, and many of my friends, reside.
It’s also inspired by the death of Bronx basketball star, Brandon H.
To clarify, I’ve never had a relationship with Brandon. We spoke once a few years ago, and that was all.
However, on social media, I’ve witnessed his impact, as well as the role model he was to others, being a successful student-athlete.
On my Facebook timeline, hundreds of people, some with no relationship to Brandon, expressed their condolences to the young man’s family.
He was a humble young man, taken from us too soon.
Sickened by the violence in these New York streets, and knowing the mark Brandon left behind, I felt obligated to honor him with this piece.
I also felt the need to chip in and do what I could to support the loved ones he left behind.
So, on June 29th, I attended a candlelight vigil for Brandon, at the Andrew Jackson housing development, near his home.
I wasn’t there for long, but the vigil presented me with a bittersweet experience.
You could just feel the emotional tension.
There were several distraught faces amongst the crowd, and a spirit of sadness on the basketball court, where the vigil took place.
Despite that, there were candles, balloons, and people from all walks of life, in attendance to pay their respects to Brandon. Basketball players, hip-hop artists, neighbors, close friends, supporters, you name it.
It was truly a remarkable sight.
After I departed the vigil, heavy rainfall proceeded to fall upon the South Bronx. It was a sign from God, that Brandon had made it into heaven.
In the wee hours of the morning, I logged onto my social media once again, where I found many of Brandon’s friends, still on the same basketball court, continuing to celebrate his life.
Often times, death is what brings a community closer. And after losing one of their own, that appeared to be the case at Brandon’s candlelight vigil.
I can’t complete this piece without mentioning the ongoing issue overwhelming our New York City streets: gun violence.
It’s an issue that at times, is hard to comprehend.
I question, what goes through the mind of some in this generation? Do these criminals receive gratification from taking an innocent person’s life?
It makes absolutely no sense.
And unfortunately, it’s the biggest cowards, with the lowest self-esteem, who carry themselves like macho, tough guys, handing these weapons.
Because their foolishness has proved to be detrimental to this city.
Not to mention, these innocent bystanders, losing their lives to gun violence, could’ve been anyone of us. That’s the part I fear the most.
A bullet has no name on it.
So, let’s put the guns down.
These handheld weapons are not only destroying families, but they’re making life much more dangerous for others.
Just look at the statistics.
According to the New York Post, shootings in New York City have increased by a whopping two hundred percent over the last year.
And it feels as if every other day, another young life is lost.
Enough is enough. Something must be done about this.
Now, I’m not an expert on gun violence or crime prevention, but I’ve discovered some actions that can be done to avoid events like this, from taking place in the future.
Recently I spoke to Jalen, a high school friend of mine, who mentioned how the politicians of New York are somewhat to blame for the increased gun violence.
Despite COVID-19 keeping us at home & in quarantine for almost ninety days, the city could’ve made a better effort in reaching out to its youth.
They should be cultivating ways to get them off the streets, and doing something productive.
Closing off the cities parks, and canceling this year’s summer youth employment program were two situations brought up in our brief discussion.
According to Jalen, closing our parks removes a setting where youth of all ages are otherwise guaranteed safety, and can enjoy themselves with sports.
As a result, teens resort to spending their free time loitering on city blocks, a hotbed for violence to unfold.
And in relation to canceling the summer youth employment program, it hinders our youth from the opportunity to earn money, as well as learn valuable life lessons from educated adults.
And again, as a result, our teens are left with no choice but to engage in time-wasting activities.
Now, there are a few programs offering jobs to the inner city teens, most noticeably the Neighborhood Opportunity Network.
Why aren’t more organizations attempting to provide jobs, services, and resources to ensure our cities youth utilize their time effectively?
Especially given the difficulties finding work following the Coronavirus pandemic? It’s a question that needs some answers.
That’s not the only thing that can change.
Urban communities must do a better job protecting their residents.
No mother should question if their child will make it home each day. And no child should be in fear while walking through the streets of their neighborhood.
And in my opinion, this predicament begins with the authorities.
They must work harder to establish a positive presence within urban communities, and play their role as protectors, rather than act as bullies, using their power to their advantage, and our disadvantage.
This gesture will go a long way towards repairing the rocky relationship between the police, and our inner-city youth.
Lastly, we must establish stronger relationships amongst ourselves.
While on social media platforms like Facebook and Snapchat, at times I notice my peers quick to mock others, pick petty fights & arguments, or offer support for matters that aren’t beneficial.
Rather than hate, why can’t we love one another?
If you see someone you know, say something ignorant, or that you disagree with, teach them the correct way. Don’t insult their intelligence.
There’s so much hatred on this Earth.
While it won’t change everything, nor will it bring our loved ones back, spreading kindness to our loved ones can go a long way towards bringing peace in not only our lives, but hopefully our neighborhoods.
To conclude, God will never notify us when we’ll leave this earth. And we won’t know how we’ll leave either.
So, while we’re here, let’s spend every day like it’s our last.
That’s a task easier said than done.
However, with the lives being lost this year, to gun violence & COVID-19, it’s imperative that we cherish our time on this planet.
In addition, give others their flowers while there still living.
If there’s someone you want to support, or that you admire, let them know. That’s what I hope to accomplish with this piece.
Brandon left behind some tough friends who are beautifully honoring his name. They definitely deserve recognition for their efforts.
And lastly, always make sure to spread love.
Don’t ridicule the ignorant, educate them. Tell friends, family members, and significant others you love & appreciate them. And make amends with those your at odds with.
Because you’ll never know when they’ll be taken away from you.
My prayers and condolences go out to the family & friends of Brandon H, Tyana J, Tracey W, Tyron a.k.a Benji, and anyone who’s been affected, or that’s lost a loved one to gun violence.
If you made it to the end, thank you so much for reading. Leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece. And please, share this with your friends!
*Special shoutout to Jalen. And shoutout to Ahmad, Bryce, Chris, Hammad, and those who considered Tyana & Brandon a close friend. You all are in my prayers, remain strong as you mourn at this time.