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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Casteel

Place Another Piece

Our family loves puzzles. Puzzles help us assert some order in the face of all this chaos. Sometimes you're not sure where to start, but eventually everything fits and the world is complete for a moment. We're about a dozen puzzles into this pandemic and our habit is only gaining steam. Our table is now permanently puzzles and Legos.

Puzzles and Legos are satisfying because eventually chaos gives way to order and everything makes sense. This is the way we parcel out the chaos into bite sized solvable pieces to comfort us in the face of the myriad real world tragic puzzles going on now: Why can't Americans wear masks to protect each other? Why is our federal government pretending we can safely reopen as we witness the highest rate of new Covid infections? Why was Jace Young shot and killed at six years of age this past July 4th in the Bayview?

Jace Young was one of 5 African American children who were killed by gun violence this past July 4th along with Natalie Wallace in Chicago IL, Davon Mcneil in Washington DC, Secoriea Turner in Atlanta GA, Royta De Marco Ciles Jr. in Hoover AL. Police violence is not the only violence that African American communities have to deal with. It's a vicious cycle in which the answer to gun violence is aggressive policing which results in police violence. To break this cycle, we have to address the root economic and social causes of it, but before we can do that, we must help and heal the families torn apart by the gun violence over July 4th.

That is why for this #GivingTuesday I've donated $500 to the gofundme for Jace's family. (link in bio). I'll match any donations made by July 14th. Just message me or post and tag @dadkupoetry . If you want to help in another way, post about this. Don't let people forget or look away. For each person who posts about it and tags me I'll donate another $10 to Jace's family's gofundme.

I can tell by the tepid response to my last offer to match donations that folks are tired. Tired of the pandemic. Tired of police violence. Tired of all the tragedy they see on a daily basis. (I only got word of one donation with no amount shared so I donated an extra $100 to Equal Justice Initiative). I wish I could share with you how to take what's happening and get fired up about it, turn it into action. You have agency and can make a difference. Witnessing all of this tragedy without acting upon it takes a toll. It's one of the way this unjust violent system perpetuates itself. It wants you to feel numb, feel helpless, when in fact you have the power and the responsibility to help end it.

Ironically, I find inspiration in the words of Ed Tom Bell, the Sheriff from No Country for Old Men. "The crime you see now, it's hard to even take its measure. It's not that I'm afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willin' to die to even do this job. But, I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet somethin' I don't understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He'd have to say: 'O.K., I'll be part of this world.' " There's no denying that we're all part of this world. Hiding from injustice is just another way of giving tacit approval to what's happening. It's hard to understand. Hard to fathom. But we have to try or else nothing will change and more people will suffer.

I'd rather follow London Breed's lead. Here's what she had to say:

“There are no words that will ease the pain of the senseless killing of a six-year-old boy. Our prayers are with the family of Jace Young at this moment, along with his friends and his entire community.

But make no mistake: thoughts and prayers are not enough.

We must do more. The surging Black Lives Matter Movement is about ending police violence, but it’s also about more than that. It’s about investing in our Black children’s lives and ending the gun violence that continues from generation to generation, because a boy like Jace Young should have been able to grow up safely in his own community. We must hold ourselves accountable and end this viscous cycle. We must talk to our children, talk to our extended families, talk to our loved ones, talk about the cruel death of a six-year-old boy. We must address the systemic factors that continue to perpetuate this senseless loss of life."

This is the real puzzle we have to solve. It's time for all of us to say, "OK, I'll be part of this world."

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