Rest in peace Darcside even thought I never knew you.
It was like stepping back in time. I was transported back to day one at the south Chattanooga rec center. But this time I was in Bushtown at the Carver Rec. Moving from the lobby couch into the multi-purpose room the kids looked at me like I was an alien - clearly recognizing me as a stranger to their hood. One even asked if I was the police. Heard that one before over a year ago.
Darcside got shot last night in Bushtown, a neighborhood I don't frequent. I read it on Twitter and watched the new report. Like many of the other gang-related shootings I was saddened to hear of another young black man being shot for flyin the wrong flag. Following the reporting I was glad to hear it wasn't another drive-by in the southside. Better Bushtown that Alton Park... Then I got a phone call. The director of that rec center was reaching out for pastors to come and listen to the kids - friends, neighbors, acquaintances of Jordan Darcside. To listen. To encourage. To be available. I knew Don from his time at the South Chatt Rec so I told him I'd send an email out to some people I thought might be available. Shortly after I got in my car to drive to Bushtown.
Almost all of the kids who go to the Carver after school knew Darcside. I knew Don called me just in case any of them needed to talk and the response I received was to be expected - a white man in a primarily black neighborhood trying to talk to kids about guns, gang violence and neighborhood trauma - who the f*** are you? I spoke for a few minutes with another minister who I sort of knew. It was like an odd dejavu standing in that sparsely decorated, vintage painted space. I've never been here but I feel like I've been here before. I don't know any of these kids, but I know all of them. I am comfortably uncomfortable and agreaably awkward. The words coming from my lips are familiar yet felt distant, the recollection of a recessed memory.
Similar to the original days holding down the spot at the South Chatt Rec I had no rapport, trust, or any kind of relationship at all. It was painfully obvious. Yet, I was reminded of how far we've come since those early days in Alton Park. We have achieved some development of trust (still working on that one :-), a rapport, a small sense of credibility, unspoken respect and, hopefully, the ability to speak into situations of violent tragedy or painful loss.
I could see in their eyes that some wanted to talk. Most were rightfully leary, while others were apathetic. On my way out one girl asked if I was leaving - I saw in her eyes that she wanted to say something, talk about what happened, ask a question, something...
Rest in peace Darcside. Rest in peace memories of the past. Thank you for the reminder.