If I Grow Up… Will Our Black Boys Ever Get to Be Men?

Imagine being a young African American male celebrating your 14th birthday, and is customarily done at birthday celebrations, you are asked by your family and friends to make a wish before blowing out the candles. What would your wish be?

Would you ask for a video game; a new bike; a basketball; or what about the latest technological gadget?

Those are great wishes, but for 14-year old O’Cyrus Breaux, there is one wish he can no longer be granted – the opportunity to grow up and become the productive young Black man he was destined to become.

This past Monday morning – not even a full day after celebrating his 14th birthday – O’Cyrus Breaux, who attended Stovall Middle School, was fatally shot and killed in the Greenspoint area by a stray bullet as he was innocently hanging out in the driveway with his family and friends. No warning. No reason. No longer having the ability to grow up and live his life.

According to police, O’Cyrus was taken to Memorial Hermann-The Woodlands Hospital, where he was pronounced dead from a gunshot wound to the abdomen.

Sadly, no one has been captured, or even identified, as it relates to the murder.

However, what we do know is that another young Black male has been killed. A family is left to mourn the death of their loved one, while also continuing to search for answers and the person(s) responsible for murdering the young honor roll student.

O’Cyrus is another young Black male who will never get a chance to make a positive impact on this world because of senseless gun violence. This is a disturbing trend that must be addressed from every level of government, as well as in our homes, in our churches, and more importantly, in our communities.

According to a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading cause of death for Black males, ages 15-34, in the United States was homicide. To be more specific, relative to the CDC report – 48.6 percent of Black males, ages 15-19, died as a result of homicide; 47.7 percent of Black males, ages 20-24, died as a result of homicide; and 31.9 percent of Black males, ages 25-34, died as a result of homicide.

As you can see in the CDC report, nearly 50 percent, or 1 in every 2 young Black males, died as a result of a homicide; most of which came as a result of gun violence.

For years, Americans have had intense back-and-forth discussions about the level of increased gun violence in this country, along with the number of deaths associated with that gun violence.

Many Black families across America have found themselves living in a constant state of fear, hoping and praying that their young Black boys and girls don’t become the latest casualty in a country that has been beset by this increased level of gun violence.

Much of what America has focused on over the past several years in this country, has been the issue of law enforcement killings, which has undeniably been an issue, especially when you consider the number of young Black males who have lost their lives as a result.

Since the unarmed shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014, several other young Black teenagers have been killed by law enforcement in respective cities, such as Tamir Rice (14-Cleveland, OH); Cameron Tillman (14-Terrebonne, LA); Jordan Edwards (15-Balch Springs); Laquan McDonald (17-Chicago, IL); VonDerrit Myers Jr. (18-St. Louis, MO); and many more.

There have been others who, although they crossed the teenager plateau in age, were still young adults in the prime of their lives when they became victims of police killings, such as Philando Castile (34- Falcon Heights, MN); and several others.

According to the law enforcement watchdog group Mapping Police Violence, police in the U.S. killed at least 336 African Americans in 2015, at least 309 African Americans in 2016, and have killed at least 160 African Americans so far in 2017.

While this has been a disturbing trend and a significant contributor to the loss of Black lives, it is not the only major contributing factor – Black people are significantly killing one another also.

Every day, news outlets report on Black-on-Black homicides across the country.  Although the city of Chicago has somehow become the focal point of most of the mainstream media’s attention over the last decade, the issue of Black-on-Black homicides have been on the hearts and minds of people in almost every American city, especially right here in the Greater Houston area.

Of course, the Forward Times has had the unfortunate task of reporting on several incidents here in the Greater Houston area, involving Black-on-Black homicides.

There was the senseless killing of 22-year old Joshua Dorrell Woods for his Nike Air Jordan XI ‘Bred’ sneakers that retailed for about $185, back on Dec. 21, 2012. All four of the individuals charged with the murder of Woods were teenagers at the time – Anthony Quinn Wade (19), Kegan Arrington (19), Neal Bland (18) and Deron Taylor (16). They were all given jail time.

Then there was the incident back on March 26 at the Haverstock Hills Apartments that ended the lives of two Black men – Gary Rusher (31) and Christopher Beatty (33). Both Rusher and Beatty were fatally shot, along with four other people who were wounded, after investigators say that two other Black men – Kenneth E. Jones (35) and his brother Harvey Jones (34) – arrived at the apartment complex, pulled out an assault rifle and started shooting into the crowd of people gathered at the apartment complex. Kenneth Jones has since been arrested and charged with capital murder.

The issue of senseless gun violence and Black-on-Black homicides is a much deeper issue than the committed acts themselves, in that it appears society’s view of Black-on-Black homicides has become somewhat status quo and an acceptable new normal.

The U.S. Department of Justice released a report in November 2011, showing that Black people have been responsible for committing the most intra-racial murders in the entire country from 1980 to 2008. In that Bureau of Justice Statistics report, entitled “Homicide Trends in the United States,” it shows that from 1980 to 2008, 93 percent of Black victims were killed by Black offenders. Blacks are disproportionately represented among homicide victims and offenders, compared to any other ethnic groups in the country.

These statistics are actually extremely startling, considering that the overall percentage of Black murder victims killed by any race of people during that same timeframe was only 47.4 percent, while the overall percentage of Black offenders who committed an act of murder during that timeframe was only 52.5 percent.

According to the report, most of the people who are murdered are being murdered by young Black men; many of which live in inner-city neighborhoods, where poverty is a significant factor in high homicide rates, along with gang activity and the drug epidemic.

Many Black youth grow up without adult mentors or positive role models to provide them with adequate direction, which has driven many young people to create and join gangs, and to embrace the drug culture. These lifestyle choices are the direct result of many Black youth feeling as if they have no other choice but to embrace a lifestyle where most of them feel wanted and accepted.

Every day, the news is filled with stories of the brazen callousness of young Blacks committing senseless killings over senseless things such as gang violence, material possessions and other petty issues.

While there are systematic and culturally acceptable issues that contribute to this disturbing trend, there must be a level of self-accountability in order to bring about the change needed to address the issue. It must take active and concerned adults that are focused on bridging the gap between the generations, and figuring out strategies and effective ways to stop the senseless violence.

This disturbing trend didn’t just happen overnight. It must be proactively addressed by a committed collaboration of elected officials, law enforcement, church leaders, community organizations, concerned families and citizens, educators, civic leaders and media outlets.

This cultural phenomenon must be eliminated before more damage is done to the Black community, as well as to the young Black males who desire to live in a society where they truly get a chance to grow from boys to men.