Cracked Eggs, Nerf Guns, and the Murder of Karon Blake
At the time of my writing this, I am sitting in my big chair, staring at my front window from inside the house, looking at the drippings that have stained the glass from the eggs that some neighborhood kids hurled at my window almost two weeks ago. They were mad at me (I suppose) because they came to steal another package off my front porch in December, but they did not know that it was a package I’d planted with a note inside. I had them on camera stealing several packages on my block during the winter break, including one of mine that contained dog food (I know they were disappointed when they opened that one up ha!). Instead of calling the police or posting their faces on the many neighborhood apps, I decided to take an old amazon box, place a note inside, retape it and leave it on the porch.
The note read: “God loves you. I care about you. Stop stealing packages. -Pastor Mac.”
I wanted these 3 kids who look like they are no more than 12 years old to know that someone cares about them, that this world overwhelmingly wants to see little Black children fail, and that even amidst their foolish behavior, nothing can separate them from the love of God.
They came back to my home on the evening of January 6, 2023 with nerf guns and while hurling eggs at my front window, they shouted, “Come outside B*tch!” I wasn’t home. I watched them on the camera that I have connected to my front doorbell. The next morning—literally hours later—13-year old Karon Blake was shot and killed in Northeast D.C. around 4am by a “neighbor” who allegedly saw Blake and his friends tampering with cars.
Here begins my
exploration of the conflicting tensions many of us are increasingly overwhelmed by
but might not have an outlet to express them in or the careful words to do so.
I am very clear with myself (and hope to be clear in this frustrated
exploration) that Blake should still be alive. I am also wrestling with what I
can do to show up for the children I so deeply worry about, and how to hold
myself accountable for the ways I may participate in maintaining the deadly systems
of injustice. I surmise that the children can’t be our future if they are dead.
Car theft and carjackings are daily occurrences here in the district. They are happening in many cities. I get phone calls from my relatives in New Orleans talking about the rise in carjackings that are happening, and the car theft that is making insurance rates go through the roof. On New Year’s Eve in D.C., I drove into the parking lot of a church around 6:30pm and witnessed an attempted carjacking in action. As I drove into the lot, a police car was coming in the other direction. The young boys dropped the victim’s keys and ran away. I later found out that the victim was a minister at this church I was attending, and I reflected on my own experiences as a carjacking victim decades ago. These types of crimes are happening so frequently that some folks in the district are leaving their car doors open with the hope that maybe they won’t have to replace yet another broken window.
Karon Blake’s murder has aggravated already high tensions in
the nation’s capital. We—the public—do not have all the facts yet, but here’s
what we have been told:
was shot multiple times just before 4 a.m. in the 1000 block of Quincy Street,
NE, after a man allegedly saw the 13-year-old breaking into cars on the street.”
arrived at the scene, where they found Blake on the sidewalk, suffering from
multiple gunshot wounds. The man who fired the shots called 911 after the
shooting occurred, police said, and the shooter gave CPR to Blake while waiting
for police to arrive.”
shooter is African American and works for “the government”
4. Karon Blake’s only prior documentation with MPD was a missing person’s case filed on him in 2021, letting us know that at 11-years old, he was not with his family/community for a few days. We don’t know why.
The same week of Blake’s murder, a 6-year-old in Virginia brought a gun to school and shot their teacher. Between my home being targeted by neighborhood kids, the 6-year-old shooting their teacher, and the 13-year old being killed, I could not sit idly by and allow people to flatten this “call for justice” into merely holding Blake’s killer accountable. We have some things to discuss; there is an entire iceberg beneath the surface of Blake’s unfortunate death and if we fail to acknowledge it, more ships will sink.
The reality is Blake is not alone. There are many children on the streets of D.C. at night who are without guidance, without after-school activities, and perhaps, without family at home—if they even have a home. Blake wasn’t even alone the night of his death. It is my understanding that there were other kids with him or near him who fled when the shots were fired. What will become of those kids? What will become of Blake’s schoolmates? Will they be provided psychological care? Will they be encouraged to retaliate? When the funeral is over and the doves have been released, what systems will have changed to make sure that this does not become their fate as well?
I worry about the children. I worry about children because I want them live, and live fully, and live outside of cages. I worry for them. The kids in my hood who are boldly becoming at-risk before our eyes before they hit the age of 13, I worry about them. I worry that they are going to ring the wrong person's doorbell or vandalize the wrong person's property and will not make it home alive. I worry about them.
As a systems thinker who sees patterns and desires to get to the root of the problem, I worry. I worry about the narratives told after they have been arrested or worse, killed by vigilantes or cops. I worry about their souls. What a life they are living in these perilous times!? I have no intention of harming these children, regardless of what they’ve stolen from the porch, but a 13-year-old was out at 4am doing whatever he was doing (which is not cause for capital punishment) and is dead. I worry! The kids are 6 and shooting teachers. They are 11 and pointing toy guns at homes. They are 15 & carjacking ministers in the church parking lot. In a society where people have been emboldened to protect their property by any means necessary, somebody they come across is not going to be as diplomatic as I am—as critical a thinker as I am, as compassionate as I am trying to be—and they will end up becoming a hashtag, a face on a t-shirt, another balloon-release in the park as their community struggles to sit with the tension between their untimely death and the circumstances that led them to such a moment. I worry.
I worry that when our “call for justice” only means “arrest
the killer”, we lose sight of the system of killers that murder our children
every day. Just because it/they didn’t pull the trigger doesn’t mean that they,
too, shouldn’t be held accountable. I worry that we are so quick to silence questions
like, “Why was he out at 4am?” or “Where were his parents?” Those can also be justice-demanding
questions. Being concerned with why a minor is outside doing anything at
4am without an adult is not negating the fact that they didn’t have to die this
way. These unaccompanied children wandering the dangerous streets at night is a
justice matter! These children with no 3rd space (home can be a 1st
space if they have one, school is the 2nd space) are finding themselves
in a host of situations that could be life-threatening, and we have to ask “why?—
Why were they away from the care of community?
Why are they stealing packages?
Why are they breaking into cars?—
so that we can actually figure out ways to create change sans
increasing the police department budgets. Are they stealing because they are
hungry? Let’s feed them. Are they breaking into cars because they need money?—Because
it seems fun and they have idle hands? Let’s figure out ways to channel their
curiosities into something that can be life-giving, not death-dealing. Justice
is not merely accountability or charity; it is asking the hard questions—the why
and how questions. It is sitting with the uncomfortable understanding
that a) Blake might’ve been behaving like a foolish teenager (and we all did some foolish things at that age and beyond) and b) he
did not deserve to die.
I was talking with a relative who lives in New Orleans, my hometown and a city experiencing similar challenges, and they said the police should start arresting parents. While I vehemently disagreed (because arrest is never my first, second, or third choice in addressing systemic issues), I heard the frustration in their voice. They were carjacked in 1994 and thought those days were over. Now, not only has this brand of criminal activity risen, “the kids,” they said, “have gotten younger and bolder. They are doing [crimes] in the daytime. They are stealing Kia’s. I have a Kia,” this person said worriedly. The part about “the kids” being younger really struck me. I was flabbergasted when I played back the video of my first package being stolen and realized they weren’t even teenagers but elementary school-aged kids. I was shocked when they came back a few days later to steal Christmas decorations off the lawns of my neighbors. When they came back with nerf guns and egged my front window, I chuckled as I thought, “Who is wasting eggs in this economy? I know one of their grandmama’s is mad her eggs done gone missing!”
I’m able to joke about it partially because I ain’t scared of these kids! LOL! I contend that I choose not to be scared of my people--the Brown children who could be my children. To my mother’s chagrin, I plan to continue to find ways to engage them carefully and compassionately for as long as they roam these streets. I believe that what is missing in our communities is the care and compassion we once knew. I remember locking myself out of my mama’s house and being able to go next door to Ms. Georgette’s house for the spare key. I remember coming home one Thanksgiving and I put the turkey in mama’s oven only to realize it wasn’t working. Ms. Georgette gave me her key and let me come back every hour to baste my turkey that was cooking in her oven. There was a time when I would have known who these kids’ parents and grandparents were (and I desire to); I would’ve have been able to knock on Ms. Shirley’s door and say, “you missing some eggs, maw?” But times have changed. I’m worried for them.
We cannot continue to act like greater policing and detective work is going to solve the case of Karon Blake’s murder. We cannot continue to act like “justice” is merely indicting or convicting one man with a gun who put property over people. Justice needs to look deeper and wider than convictions and accountability. It needs to look like pouring monetary and human resources into communities so that people don’t have to steal to make a dollar. It needs to look like the (re)elevation of 3rd spaces like community and faith centers. It needs to look like dumping that policing money into public schools. It needs to look like government-funded preventative programming not reactionary vigils. It needs to look like divesting from notions of protecting property at all costs. No car is worth killing somebody over, even if they are tampering with your vehicle at 4am. Justice needs to be bigger and wider and deeper than what we’ve allowed it to become, and we must hold ourselves accountable to that vision for a future—a hope for a tomorrow where the “neighbor” who shot Blake could have played vindicator instead of vigilante and Blake would still be here.
We’ve just honored King Day and I’m reminded of this quote as
I think on Blake’s death:
machines and computers, profit motive and property rights are considered more
important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and
militarism are incapable of being conquered."
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1967
I have not washed away the dried egg yolk on my window nor
picked up the cracked eggshells that are disintegrating into the cement (mostly because
I winterized my hose bed). The yolk is a
daily reminder that I have work to do—that I owe the children more of myself.
My exploration doesn’t end here. I hope to engage in ongoing dialogue. I will not stop fighting for them to live.