Ok, yea, I worked for three years at Orchard Villa Elementary in Liberty City, a neighborhood of North-West Miami. So I read the article, not expecting to find that it was my former student’s brother who had been shot in broad daylight and was in critical condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Yea, I knew Shabazz, but not as well as his younger brother Malik. But, I did know their mom very well. She would visit my classroom unannounced to see how Malik was doing. From time to time, when her electricity was going to be cut off, or they were out of food, I would loan her some money. Never expecting to get the money back, I was always surprised and thankful when she would call my phone and tell me to drop by her house to pick up the money I loaned her. Sometimes I would sit in her living room, Malik hiding, embarrassed at having his teacher in the house, Shabazz somewhere in the neighborhood playing basketball or hanging out with friends. And now Shabazz, the son of a mother, the brother of a brother, is in critical condition after being shot by 3 masked gunmen in broad daylight.
When you see my life you can’t help to think how great it is. I was born to privilege, attended the best schools from Harvard to Vanderbilt, and have never known a day without food. You might know my experiences in Fiji, you might read about my experiences in Haiti, you may have even worked with me in Liberty City. But in the end, there has surely been a lot of strife that has surrounded my life, and I can say that it is only thanks to God that I haven’t been a victim of it. While teaching in Liberty City I have been on the receiving end of a phone call from a mother informing me that my former student’s father had been shot point blank in the face, murdered, and asked me to make sure her now fatherless son was ok. I have received a call in Nashville from my father, explaining how my best friend’s 15-year-old son had fallen off the back of a truck and died. I survived the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Haiti and stayed for 10 days, before there was any foreign help in the country, giving first aid to the wounded, and covering the dead. I’ve discovered and reported physical abuse of an 8-year-old child, been stranded at sea in the South Pacific, and found an orphan, parentless and scared, abandoned for four days after the earthquake.
I have experienced these situations because I choose to go to places that are outside of my comfort zone. I have the privilege to do whatever I wish to do in my life, but as someone of privilege I have and continue to actively make the choice to work in the most destitute neighborhoods, communities, and countries. In my life, I will continue to see poverty, hunger, illness, malnutrition, gun-violence, gang violence, drugs and drug-violence, and death. But where these are, I will be, battling them. Because the reality is, those of us that have the resources, the education and the means, have a responsibility to serve others. In the end, it is our country that we are fighting for. It is our world that we are fighting for. I will never be satisfied that my house is safe, my neighborhood is safe, or even my community is safe. I am obligated to reach outside of that to ensure that every house is safe and fed, every neighborhood is safe and protected, and that our country and the world is a place of success, not strife.
I pray that Shabazz survives the gun shots. I pray that his family is protected from the violence of the streets of our country. I pray that we will work together, all of us, to create a better world. I encourage you to reach out to your neighbors, and to those that aren’t your neighbors, to those that are the same as you and to those that are different than you, to battle the injustices in our country and the world. In the end, if you don’t, I will.