Hip Hop Culture for Grown-Ups
Rest in peace, Demario Bailey.
According to various reports, last Saturday (December 13) in Chicago, IL., 15 year old Demario Bailey, along with his twin brother, Demacio, were on a stroll to a local basketball game when they were approached by a small group of individuals. Said individuals attempted to rob the boys, a scuffle ensued, & when the smoke cleared, Demario Bailey had been shot once in the chest. He died trying to defend & protect his brother.
Authorities have since arrested a handful of suspects who aren’t but a couple of years older than the victim & his brother. In theory, they could’ve all just as easily been headed to the same place to shoot hoops that day instead of shooting guns at each other.
Realistically, that’s an incredibly dignified & noble thing to do. Especially these days, where chivalry is surreptitiously rewarded with uncalculated murder. Sure, we are our brother’s keepers, but I’ve seen people running away from danger in hopes that others would be doing the same. In fact, the “fight-or-flight” reflex almost demands this happen. But, no. Demario stayed with his brother, fought & died like a hero. Obviously any urge he had to flee was overshadowed by love & devotion, & you only see that type of loyalty in straight-to-cable movies. Or relationships between disabled people & their service dogs. God bless that valiant young man’s family during this time of heavy burden…
I was going to post about this on one of my social MEdia accounts but I quickly realized I had much more to say than I thought. A few paltry characters wouldn’t do the story any justice. My oldest son is merely 2 years younger than these twins (& he is a twin), so these types of stories always hit close to home in an oddly familiar yet uncomfortable way. & as a Black father in America, I suspect they always will. But — I pray — never, ever too close.
For months, USA’s community-at-large (especially African Americans) has been protesting & boycotting to voice their disgust over killer cops & rampant police brutality. & if you’ve been keeping score, you’d know that it seems to be making a difference. Wheels are finally turning, lines of communication are being laid, & police policy & procedure transparency is becoming a topic of discussion. No matter what, the precious lives lost at the callous hands of runaway boyscouts can’t ever be replaced, but, shit. Better late than never, right? Maybe our grandkids will live in a more comfortable tomorrow because of our efforts today. Granted; we’ve come a long way since the Rodney King beating & subsequent trial of the officers which saw four acquittals announced, but it’s clear that there is much more ground to be covered before any viable resolutions reveal themselves. The thing about Demario’s murder, however, is that he wasn’t killed by off-duty cops or a trigger-happy bigot in uniform. Demario was killed by a kid who looked like him, probably grew up around the same area, & I’m even willing to bet that — somewhere down the degrees of separation — they probably even had a couple of mutual friends. My question is: “How do we boycott that?”
Make no mistake: I am in no way attempting to compare savage policing (police brutality) to urban crime statistics (“Black on Black” violence). That would be like comparing apples to computer diodes. But the two do seem to intersect smack dab in the middle of our community & one can’t be addressed without at least glancing over in the general direction of the other. Why? Because the two biggest threats I — as a Black man in America — face daily are rogue peace officers & my own people. If we, as a unified front, can stand up to police brutality, surely we can carry the momentum over to our streets & neighborhoods. Surely we can muster up the energy needed to make tangible changes & better decisions regarding OUR immediate environment. I don’t have the answers, but I have the questions, & that’s at least a starting point. When Mike Brown was killed by Darren Wilson, I could see that a proverbial boiling point had been reached & the common civilians of the US had had enough. It’s overly apparent that change in the justice system will be manually implemented via the people, for better or worse, if no other entity wants to step forward. (Shout out to Pres. Obama for trying to snag more body cameras for police monitoring.) We have reached the same empasse on the homefront, & quite frankly, I’m tired of worrying when I or my sons will be killed for absolutely nothing other than standing where we are standing. The #BlackLivesMatter hashtag serves more than one purpose, even if it was unintentional. Something needs to change & only a sociopath would disagree with that somber observation.
Back to Rodney King. After the riots simmered down & the smoldering emotions began to wane, there was a strong sense of togetherness in Los Angeles. We treated one another like family. There was an unspoken bond afloat & Black folks in the city of Angels exuded open, public, collective unity. Simply put, our endurance through the whole ordeal had become a family tie. A similar thing occurred the day after President Barak Obama was sworn into office. I remember catching the bus somewhere & a staunch, somewhat overwhelming air of victory blanketed everyone, everywhere I went. For months. Solidarity. Communion. In my eyes, if we can re-harness that love & kinsmanship, more changes would follow suit. I believe this fight with the justice system will come to prove itself another tie, another bond. What direction the narrative takes after that will be totally up to those willing to shoulder the lofty task.
When the media grows weary of covering the protests & the marches & the rallies & the die-ins, all we will have is us, the same as it ever was. It’s at that moment we should reflect on The Bailey Brothers, living documentation of what it means to be your brother’s keeper. Rest in peace, Demario.
Words by Tony Grands