Monday, February 19, 2007

No President's Day For Dante.


"For what its worth, Dante Jackson Freeman was the toughest kid in Philadelphia. Ever.
Four years ago, in a craps game in his North Philadelphia neighborhood up around 29th and Oxford Streets, he won what some apparently felt was too much. At least that's his mother's theory of how his trouble started. Stacey Jackson wasn't always sure what was going on with her teenage son in those streets. She was relaxing at a neighborhood club on a winter night when she was told her son was outside. She found Dante, furious, standing on the cold sidewalk in his socks.
"Can you believe this?" he asked her. He had been jumped by some boys he knew, and they had taken his jacket and his boots.
"He felt violated," Stacey said. "People he knew did it to him. After that, Dante just went off."
Another Dante conjured up one stunning vision of hell, but there is another real one burning in fierce pockets around this city. African Americans here are three times more likely to be murdered than the countrywide average. Most of the victims are young men. There were 317 gun-related homicides here last year, compared with 233 four years ago, despite world-class emergency medical care that every year pulls more and more back from the grave. The trend reflects an out-of-control urban underclass, an abandoned and shockingly vicious subculture that is one of the biggest ongoing stories in this city and country.
Yet these are rarely the kinds of killings that get much press. The carnage in the streets of American cities in any one year far exceeds the combined death tolls in Afghanistan and Iraq, yet it is not even on the agenda of national politics. More and more, the shootings are not about money or drugs, but about nothing at all, or what amounts to nothing in the larger world. Today's murders are often about being "dissed." The reckless pride of a teenage boy is not new, but what of a society without the constraints of family and community? That amplifies petty vendettas with easy access to deadly weapons? That encourages it in film and song? There is something new about that.
So Dante's story began with stolen boots. To his mother, he was not perfect, but was basically "a good boy," polite and caring, a dropout just a few credits shy of his high school diploma. To the system, he just fit a familiar mold - an angry young man with prior drug and handgun arrests in a willing swan dive toward death or prison.
Three weeks after his boots were stolen, Dante was shot for the first time. The round hit his lower left leg and foot. He was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital, where they stitched him up expertly and sent him home on crutches, his leg in a cast. That lasted for a few weeks. As soon as the leg would bear weight, he cut off the cast and went back out with his gun.
He was shot the second time just a few weeks later, in the other leg. This time he was repaired at Temple University Hospital, where Dante was to become a regular. He was sent home once more in a cast, and after a few weeks he cut that one off and went back out with his gun, where he was promptly shot a third time. That round went into his side in the front and exited in the rear. No organ damage. They stitched him up in the emergency room at Temple and sent him back home.
"Dante, he was a quick healer," Stacey said. He wasn't down for long.
The fourth time was more serious. On April 14, 2005, he was hit multiple times - "four or five," Stacey said - in the chest and stomach. He was with his friend Pierre "Scooter" Gatson, who died. At Temple's trauma center, where he was now on a first-name basis, 19-year-old Dante had a hole poked in his neck to attach a breathing machine, and surgeons sewed up his innards, which had been savagely rearranged. They cut out a damaged portion of his bowels. He spent 30 days in intensive care.
"He was a wiry, angry kid," said James Curtis, a trauma nurse who got to know him during that visit. "I could relate to him. I grew up in a neighborhood like that. I gave him the talk, the one about putting the guns down, finding a job. They are a captive audience for a while. You hope that the shock of the shooting will open their ears. I give them hard words. Some of them listen. I've had kids who have taken it upon themselves to change. But for some of them, that world is all they know."
Scott Charles, the trauma outreach coordinator at Temple, tells a scarred kid like Dante that getting shot is not like getting hit by lightning; that, hit once, he is more likely to be shot again; that unless he makes big changes, he will probably be back, or dead. He points out that the surgeons and nurses are all making a nice living patching him up repeatedly, that they drive cool cars back and forth to lovely homes on safe blocks. He speaks up for education, responsibility and hard work.
Dante was a polite listener, but unmoved. He knew, but would never say, who shot him. He was annoyed when the women in his family sniffled at his bedside over his terrible wounds.
"You stop all that cryin'," he scolded them. "But when I do die, I want you all to get tattoos."
Dante went home that summer with a colostomy bag. The surgeons left a hole in his abdomen so that the large intestine could drain feces into it. It wasn't permanent. When the healing progressed, they planned to reattach the severed portions and get rid of the bag, but Dante didn't last that long. He had lost a lot of weight, so under his oversized shirt you couldn't see the bag... or the gun. He was hit for the last time on Aug. 18, 2005, in a gangland-style shoot-out with a passing car, which sped away. Stacey found him still on the pavement, silent, his breath coming in heaves, wounded this time in the neck and back.
There are still many, many tough kids in Philadelphia, armed and angry and ready, but I think Dante gets the crown. The old ghetto joke is: If you want to look tough, have a broken arm. So it should come as no surprise that on his fifth delivery to a trauma center, the toughest kid in Philadelphia was dead.
He is buried in an unmarked grave in his old neighborhood. Stacey is planning to get a stone in time for the first anniversary of his death. The girls in the family have tattoos. "

I would like to thank Mark Bowden from my hometown paper, The Philadelphia Inquirer, for that moving and all too familiar story.


Memo to my white liberal progressive friends at blogs like My DD,Huffington Post, and Daily Kos: Dante Jackson and many more like him, is the reason we can't go into this raging cultural and political war together. The truth is, there are no Dante Jackson's in your world or in your neighborhoods. And although there might not be any Dante Jackson's in my neighborhood either, Dante looks just like me, and we share something that none of you ever will; our race. The blood that ran through Dante's veins is the same blood that runs through mine, and more than likely, the person's that killed him. It's what separates me from all of my progressive friends who might share some of my politics, but know nothing about my struggle.

When I wake up every day and have to read about yet another young black man taking the life of another it hurts. And it pains me that a country that can spend billions of dollars to protect the life of people thousands and thousands of miles away can't protect the children right here in Philadelphia. It pains me to watch poli-tricksters posture with bulls**t issues (Troop surge no troop surge,non-binding resolutions,binding resolutions, and on and on) when kids are dying out here on these streets, and neighborhoods are being lost . Why? Because it's not their kids, and the kids that are dying do not look like them. " Field, why are you so angry all the time?" Because America and the ignorant ass selfish people running it made me this way.

Oh well, happy President's Day everybody. Hey, just one more day to be happy for. I bet there will be some great sales in the stores. They even say it's the best day to buy a car. Thank God our 43rd President, the frat boy, is fighting for us over in Iraq. How else could we afford to keep the price of oil down. After all, what good is a shiny new car if you can't afford to gas it.

22 comments:

I am not Star Jones said...

Thanks for explaining the why behind the chasm that exists in progressive america.

Sam said...

Fields,

Very well written shows your passion for the Black Community. I also agree that most politicians think of Black or White citizens as chess pieces and most should be voted out on their ass. If I understand you correctly about not needing help in the cultural war, I do disagree. Everyone's help is needed, the problem is getting worse. Kids that die because they were disrespected is a true tragedy. I hope that America can stop this senseless crime of kids killing kids.

God Bless

Sam

Run Up The Score! said...

As someone about to move back to Philadelphia, what the hell is going on on North and West Philly? Jesus Fucking Christ! Philly.com also ran an article this weekend about the number of non-fatal shootings last year -- something around 4,000 and 3,600 of the victims were black! If you look at the philly.com maps (2004, when crime was actually lower!), it's pretty clear what parts of the city are war zones.

Explain it to the white guy. What can be done about this? It seems like everyone bears some responsibility to make this better.

Bygbaby said...

Dante's story is moving & makes me slightly angry. I know it is easier said than done but after the 1st time you get shot, you need to chill your ass out. The second you get shot, you need to,move your ass in with a relative in Alabama, Mississippi, or Louisiana to get yourself together.

"The carnage in the streets of American cities in any one year far exceeds the combined death tolls in Afghanistan and Iraq, yet it is not even on the agenda of national politics." This is so true but our inner city struggles will not make local/national headlines unless our drama spills into "their" streets.

Peace,
Bygbaby

Cynthia said...

Philly, like New Orleans, I bet have the highest dropout rate for young black men, which makes this group of people a permanent underclass. It appears if you are in this situation, it is easier to die than to live.

I've always said the worst thing that could have happened to Black people was integration. It gave us a false sense of security. It allowed some to excel, while others are doomed for mediocrity

field said...

You all make excellent points. Thanks for contributing to this discussion with me and offering me a form of therapy.

Run up the score, it's not only North and West Philly; but now South Philly and South West is getting really bad as well.

Unfortunately, as Cynthia said,we have a permanent under class mired in poverty and hopelessness.

bygbaby, I too read this story and said: Dante WTF were you thinking? But you know what; Dante is just a product of his environment, the problem is so much deeper.

Bygbaby said...

Cynthia - "I've always said the worst thing that could have happened to Black people was integration." I agree & a group of friends & I talked about the bad results of integration recently.

years later, the results are not all that good; sad to say.

Bygbaby

Exodus Mentality said...

It's real in the field. So many of us do not even realize the depth of this problem. The young brothers who are not dying are being mainlined right into the new plantation (the prison industrial system). Like you I feel nothing but anger at the so-called leadership of this country, at all levels, for basically consigning a gnereation of young brown men all over the world to a dismally short, violent, dead-end future. Soembody needs to tell them it don't make no difference if you got the right to vote if you don't have enough to eat.

Field, when they come at you with the old personal responsibility dodge, or the old line about we don't need/can't wait for the government to solve our problems, tell them how it T.I.S. The occupied and oppressed state of Black and Brown neighborhoods nationwide and worldwide are the direct result of benign neglect and overt hostility from the government. Until they take responsibilty, and act to remedy the situation, we should consider ourselves in a state of war. If you are from those streets, you know that already.

Liz said...

Field,
This made my eyes get a little shiny with tears. I suppose I'm like all those female relatives, even though I have no tattoos. You should check out a book called, "Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome" --it's a real eye opener and part of it talks about why it is that we're killing each other over folks looking at us wrong. Yeah, you're right taht there's a whole generation of health care professionals getting paid over the Dante's of our world. And a whole generation of journalists making loot writing about them too...

Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

02 19 07

Golly that boy was a tough SOB! Props aside, it broke my heart to read that Field. I recall when we lived in East Oakland and we saw a guy get shot and killed in front of our house. Back then everybody had two things to say:

"You hear about so and so, well he got shot and he died. Left a baby girl too..."

"You hear about so and so, well she had her baby..."

Those two phrases were things that I dreaded hearing as a child, but it seemed like no matter where we were, Black men were dying like flies.

People seem to think that terrorism is an international problem and that men in turbans are out to get us. And while there is a skewered element of truth to that, we must deal with domestic terrorism in our own cities.

Klansmen, skinheads, gang members and killers are all guilty of terrorism and should be tried, treated and convicted as such.

Poor Dante. Hopefully he is in heaven living a better quality of life!

aulelia said...

i thought only black britain suffered from this kind of crime between black people. it is so sad and awful.

yet it raises another question: despite the fact that our own brothers and sisters are being gunned down, why do we have such a hushed view on telling the truth or as some hip hop artists say ''snitching''?

Dante's refusal to say who killed him is so painful because it continues the ideal that silence is golden and earns you a kind of place in the Omerta coalition. Yet his silence will only allow his murderers to live and continue their path of carnage. Maybe Dante was protecting his family from future attacks yet I can't help but feel like we will not take any steps forward as black people until we address this whole 'snitching' issue.

Run Up The Score! said...

why do we have such a hushed view on telling the truth or as some hip hop artists say ''snitching''?

I didn't want to be the one to bring that up, but would really like to have this phenomenon explained to be because it's a huge problem. I understand not trusting the cops and everything, but...

Tasha said...

Field,
this is an excellent post, brought tears to my eyes. There are so many Dantes walking around that are careening toward their own demise at breakneck speeds.

why do we have such a hushed view on telling the truth or as some hip hop artists say ''snitching''?

It takes someone who is prepared to become a pariah or a martyr to stand up and stop the continued perpetuation of mediocrity that occurs when people don't "snitch". I think a lot of young people are not prepared for that type of responsibility, or don't have enough self- and community-worth instilled in them as very young children to take that on.

field said...

Another problem that hinders witnesses coming forward-and I know about this first hand from my experiences with the criminal justice system-is the lack of protection for them and their family members from retribution. Cities and local DA's need to start spending more money on things like witness protection programs to protect these brave souls who come forward.

Too often people who come forward are risking their lives, and that of their families.

C-dell said...

You are absolutely right. What happens here is much more important than Iraq. We need help here and now. I saw on a doucumantary that the number of people that die in gang warfare in California is equal to that of actual wars. Yet nothing is done about it. Sad, but we black people can do something too. If rappers would be better role models. If we could want more than rims and cars, and grills and other useless show off crap like that. It is the govn't fault for not caring about this issue. It is also our own fault for not caring about ourselves, or tryin to better ourselves.

Christopher Chambers said...

Hey man, don't toss in the towel in this war yet, though I know you are hurting over Dante. We don't have to be a part of their army, but we can be allies like those dudes in the Lord of Rings flick (the last one) who came ridig over the hill to liberate the city.

Run Up The Score! said...

lack of protection for them and their family members from retribution.

That's the damned truth.

Andrew Kujan said...

Sadly, things are no better in Baltimore.

Over 40 murders in the City in less than two months and there is barely and outcry. Its all par for the course, and getting anyone to listen is almost impossible.

Lorraine said...

cheap wedding gowns
discount bridal gowns
China wedding dresses
discount designer wedding dresses
China wedding online store
plus size wedding dresses
cheap informal wedding dresses
junior bridesmaid dresses
cheap bridesmaid dresses
maternity bridesmaid dresses
discount flower girl gowns
cheap prom dresses
party dresses
evening dresses
mother of the bride dresses
special occasion dresses
cheap quinceanera dresses
hot red wedding dresses

freefun0616 said...

酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店小姐兼職,
便服酒店經紀,
酒店打工經紀,
制服酒店工作,
專業酒店經紀,
合法酒店經紀,
酒店暑假打工,
酒店寒假打工,
酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店小姐兼職,
便服酒店工作,
酒店打工經紀,
制服酒店經紀,
專業酒店經紀,
合法酒店經紀,
酒店暑假打工,
酒店寒假打工,
酒店經紀人,
菲梵酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,
禮服酒店上班,
酒店小姐兼職,
便服酒店工作,
酒店打工經紀,
制服酒店經紀,
酒店經紀,

,

Anonymous said...

коттедж
восстановление зрения
зеленый лазер
электрошокер

Anonymous said...

коттедж
восстановление зрения
зеленый лазер
электрошокер