Columbia, SC — I WISH DaVon Nathaniel Capers was sitting in class at Dutch Fork High right now, inching ever closer to graduation day and a bright future ahead. Or hanging out at the ice cream shop enjoying his favorite flavor. Or relaxing at home watching a movie with his family.
I wish Kierin Marcellus Dennis, a 2013 Lexington High graduate, was clocking in at work. Or headed to college. Or sitting with his family discussing where they might grab a bite to eat.
But the future DaVon might have dreamed of — any plan he had to make Mom and Dad proud beyond high school — isn’t going to materialize. DaVon is dead after being stabbed Monday night in a parking lot following a prep basketball game between rivals Dutch Fork High and Lexington High. Kierin has been charged in his death.
Our future is killing our future, and we must reverse that trend.
This senseless death is the latest episode in the ongoing saga of the “terrible toos” that are ravaging many of our youths, particularly young black boys. I’ve been writing about them a lot the past few years: Too many are dropping out of school; too many are on the street with no jobs; too many are becoming teen fathers; too many are hooked on drugs and/or alcohol; too many are in gangs; too many are committing crimes.
And, sadly, too many are dying. At the hands of too many others.
While authorities have a suspect and are investigating — and the guilty must be punished — it would be a tragedy in the midst of a tragedy to look at DaVon’s death in a vacuum. We are in a battle for the souls, indeed the very lives, of our children. We must find a way to reach our children and turn them around or resign ourselves to seeing more and more of them reach the grave before they can make it to graduation day.
Anytime we lose anyone — young or older — under any circumstances, it causes a rip in the collective fabric of our community. But when we lose a child or a teen in such a tragic, inexplicable way, it comes as a gut punch from which it is difficult to recover.
And no one hurts like the family. The Caperses need the loving embrace of family and friends right now. And they need all our prayers. There’s not a whole lot we can say to make them feel better, at least not now.
For the believers among us, we know that God is still in control and that he is the greatest of comforters. And we pray his peace upon this grieving family. Yet we know that the process is long and difficult and that they will need encouragement and support for months, even years, to come.
But even as we mourn as a community, comfort the family and help in any other ways, we must do even more. We can’t let a few weeks pass and get distracted by other things, and then return to business as usual — which is waiting until the next time such tragedy pierces our hearts so we can mourn anew.
I don’t now the exact answer, but we’ve got to do something to create the environment, relationships and initiatives needed to redeem our children. We must teach them to value life and to work out their differences peacefully.
What’s it going to take? What’s it going to take to get our young people, young black boys in particular, to stop killing and maiming and robbing? What’s it going to take to prevent another such senseless death?
It’s right to ask questions about whether security was adequate during the Monday night basketball game between rivals that preceded DaVon’s stabbing. But authorities have noted that they took additional precaution at the game and that things went reasonably well; it was after the game and away from the school, when it’s impossible for police to follow everyone, that this happened.
We all know law enforcement — or even parents, for that matter — can’t be every where. But the grief of losing one of our children rightly drives us to ask every question and explore every possibility not only to answer the question “why?” but also to search for ways to prevent such an act from happening again.
If you’re like me, you’re angry, frustrated and, yes, engulfed by a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, because there is no quick fix when it comes to fulfilling one of our basic responsibilities: protecting our children from harm and, above all, keeping them out of the grave.
Yes, our youths must take responsibility for the bad choices they make and deeds they do. And when they break laws, they must pay the price.
But as a society, we have allowed violence to become a very present part of our culture. Disagreements aren’t resolved in a spirit of civility and compromise but too often end up being physical — and deadly.
DaVon Nathaniel Capers shouldn’t have died under the circumstances he did. He had every reason and right to live the life God had blessed him with. Yet he was struck down at the hands of yet another youth whose quality of life now hangs in the balance.
Somehow, community leaders — from law enforcement to faith leaders to parents to school leaders — must find a way to engage this problem. No one should consider themselves or their children immune. Violence knows no bounds.
Over and over again, we’re being shown that tragedy, while not always ending in death, can strike anywhere — whether in Five Points, a public housing complex in north Columbia or a parking lot near a Lexington fast-food restaurant.
If tragedy hasn’t hit your family or neighborhood or section of town yet, be grateful. And watchful. Violence left unchecked is a threat to us all.
What will we do to neutralize that threat and keep our children above ground?
Reach Mr. Bolton at (803) 771-8631 or email@example.com.