July 26, 2010
I attended the community meeting on Friday night at the Black Contractors Association to discuss the homicide of Courtney Graham one week ago in the Oak Park neighborhood community. Later that evening a prayer vigil was held at the scene of the crime. Yesterday, family and friends gathered at Rohr Park to celebrate Courtney's life (Read today's SignOnSanDiego.com article).
Courtney joins a growing list of young men and women from our YMCA service area that have lost their lives through senseless acts of gun violence. Larsen Tufi, 14 (3/1/2002). Jose Alegre, 16 (3/1/2002). Michael Beckwith, 15 (11/26/2004). Aaron Cooper, 15 (8/12/2006). Stephen Cleveland, 20 (6/9/2007). Monique Palmer, 17 (12/6/2008). Michael Taylor, 15 (12/6/2008). Donnell Davis Jr., 15 (3/16/2008). Brandon Johnson, 16 (3/16/2008). Courtney Graham, 25 (7/20/2010).
There have been more but for all mentioned above there was a point in their lives they were connected to our YMCA. Larsen's repast attended by most of the Samoan community was held in our gymnasium. Aaron was a student at the Sports & Science Academy located at our Y. Stephen Cleveland and my youngest son Mario played on the same basketball team I coached. I will never forget the day he came to practice announcing "my mother is having triplets!" Monique was a shoo-in to be one of our ten college scholarship recipients at our Jackie Robinson Tribute & Scholarship Gala in 2009. She and Michael had photos at their memorial services proudly posing in Y basketball uniforms or sitting on Santa's lap at our annual Christmas with Character event. Lachanae McAfee led a march and community rally from St. Stephen's Church to our Y in memory of her friends Donnell and Brandon that would earn her the National Conflict Resolution Center Peace Maker Award at an event that gave the same to George McGovern and Bob Dole. And on Friday night, Coach Terry Young reminded me that Courtney has been playing on teams that he and Tony Conwright and Larry Sellers coached at our Y most of his young life.
On Friday night, I listened to a lot of of community outrage without saying a word. The most significant message came from Michelle Muhammad the mother of Michael "Mikey" Beckwith. She stood strong in front of Courtney's surviving family and friends and said, "every time something like this happens it tears open our wounds." Her guidance and counsel was from being a survivor of violent loss as she talked about the need for all to improve themselves before thinking anyone can make an impact on a young person involved in taking the life of another human being.
Sadly, for so many of these horrific murders the killers are still at large.
Whenever I hear the news of a violent crime in our region I can't help but think it probably was not the first time the shooter pulled the trigger, nor will it be the last. It is critical that we turn community outrage into "constant" community outrage until law enforcement gets the support needed to apprehend and convict those responsible for any loss of life.
Be sure that everyone you love visits http://www.sdcrimestoppers.com and http://psnsandiego.org in honor of Courtney, Brandon, Donnell, Michael, Monique, Stephen, Aaron, Michael, Jose, Larsen, and in response to the following crime reports from the service area of the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA over the past ten days:
- Man dies after stabbing in Skyline Park (7/26/2010)
- Woman shot in head not expected to survive (7/24/2010)
- Man shot by carjackers in National City (7/22/2010)
- Police looking for man who attacked teenage girl (7/20/2010)
- Man fatally shot in Oak Park is identified (7/20/2010)
- Three shootings reported within one hour (7/17/2010)
Follow Michael Brunker at http://twitter.com/michaelbrunker