Last week, Lil Jojo, a young Chicago-based rapper who was born Joseph Coleman was killed. According to some articles and blogs I have read over the last few days, he was the rival of fellow rapper Chief Keef, who posted some disrespectful tweets shortly after Lil Jojo’s death. One of the tweets read, “Its Sad Cuz Dat Nigga Jojo Wanted To Be Jus Like Us #LMAO.” Disturbing? Yes. Ignorant? I think so. Minutes after, the Twitter world was buzzing about the death of the young rapper and confronting Chief Keef, some threatening never to listen to his music again.
Shortly after learning about the death of Lil Jojo, a Facebook friend posted a screen shot of a message exchange that was apparently between Joseph and a friend of his, the same day of the shooting that cost him his life.
The fact that death seems to be normalized frightens me. We should not expect our friends, let alone ourselves to be killed on any given day. Yes, people die everyday. But to be murdered, with the perpetrator having to intend on killing, is a different story. You know premeditated murder… that scares me. As a Black woman in America, with friends and family that identify as Black men, the thought of normalized Black on Black murder just does not sit well with me. And folks laughing post-killing? Damn.
Last week, D.L. Chandler wrote a piece about ten victims of Chicago violence since the top of 2012. And remember that although Chicago has one of the highest murder rates in America, it is not the only place where people die. Did you read or hear about most of these stories? I did, because I sought them out but imagine how many people are not aware of what is happening. And imagine how many murders are not being reported, or go unnoticed as just another loss. There is a bigger picture here.
About two times a week, I pick up a 9th-grade student from his private school in Palos Verdes, which is a well-off area of Southern California with houses on hills equipped with pools and garages with nice cars parked in them. He grew up in a part of Los Angeles that is not what I would classify as safe. Yes, there are places that are much less safe but if I had my way I would not opt to live there. During on of our first conversations, he told me how he enjoyed not having to deal with “all that extra stuff.” That extra stuff including joining gangs, witnessing violence, and other problems that come with living in the hood.
I feel him. Although I wasn’t brought up around all that stuff because I was what some would call sheltered, I heard about it from others. I grew up in an unincorporated city near Compton, CA, and went to schools in Compton, as well as South and other parts of Los Angeles. It was known that on any given night, a liquor store down the street could be the scene of a crime. I knew that I lived near different gangs. I also knew people were dying because of these things. I ignored it because I could but I can’t anymore. Murder cannot be normalized. Young people should not have to escape their neighborhoods to avoid what they do not want to be affected by.
But people, like Jojo have already become used to the life they feel they have to live. Others have begun equipping themselves with the tools to turn away from that life completely. Reading that exchange on Facebook made me sad. I know that other folks probably have similar conversations everyday. What is even sadder is that fact that I don’t think that the trend is going to fade anytime soon. Black boys and men will keep getting buried six feet under unless everyone starts caring. We all have to do our part. As a sister, mentor, employee, writer, girlfriend, daughter, and every other role I play in people’s live, I will use my sphere of influence to shed light on what is happening to Black boys in America. Black boys still die.
Oh yeah! Listen to Chrisette Michele’s “Black Boys Still Die.” And answer these questions. What are you going to do? Do you think this is even a problem?