It was your smile. It didn’t quite reach your eyes in the first picture I saw of you and it made me curious. How can one seem so sad with a smile that bright? I learned your name and I will never forget it.
A young man from the Bronx, a neighborhood in NYC rich in culture and pride but filled with poor minorities from all walks of life. I love him and I will never meet him. I do not even remember if a movement was officially established back in 2014 when I first heard his story, but I wanted to fight for him and all young black men like him. His story is both enlightening and tragic.
Spike just concluded a six-part series dedicated to Kalief, which is not unlike others who are suffering through the same exact situation now, as I type this post. Born into “the system” he was an adopted child who was quiet, happy, and most importantly…woke. Kalief learned at a young age that the world takes in more than it gives out and that if you believe in something, you have to see it through until the end. Through a very public injustice that his older brother endured, he feared law enforcement. The harsh reality is that what he would go through would make that fear all too reasonable.
At 16, Kalief was arrested for allegedly stealing the backpack of man that would not testify against him or even really remember who it was that stole the backpack from him in the first place. Because he could not initially make bail, Kalief would go on to spend 3 years at one of the most notoriously violent prisons in the world: Rikers Island. More than half of this time would be spent in solitary confinement where Kalief would try to take his own life just to end his suffering. Keep in mind that he was just a child, treated as a hardened criminal. He endured many beatings from other prisoners and guards, developed mental issues, and kept getting rejected, denied, and neglected by a system designed to break him.
In all of the tragic turns of this story, he won.
He went from being an average student to excelling in his college courses. He went from being a prisoner to a brave soldier who stood for what was right. He went from mental distress to being a vine on the window. He is now the equivalent to the rose that grew out the concrete. I can just imagine that his smile is now very genuine and I am yet praying for the strength of his family, friends, and supporters. I wish I could see that vine as it grows and prospers, but his story makes him immortal. I will forever remember him.
Watching this show for the last month and a half and learning more about him and his family, I endured the pain because it was absolutely necessary to know all facets of what Kalief went through. His mother, his angel on earth and now in heaven, Venida Browder suffered right along with him, and her heart literally could not take it when he ended his life.
Her strength and his courage are inspirational. They have inspired me in ways I never thought possible. It makes me want to do everything I can to protect other men and women from suffering the same fate. There are so many organizations and petitions that can be signed from addressing bail issues to raising the age of accountability in the state of NY.
I won’t dwell on any more negativity. Not his sad excuse of a father, not the numerous judges he saw, not his public defender, not those inhumane guards, and certainly not the political agendas that kept him in a place commonly referred to as “hell on earth”.
What I will do is make sure that I participate and spread the word. This is not a New York issue, and not even an American issue, but it is the lack of love and unity amongst humanity that accounts for this stark miscarriage of justice.
Rest in paradise to Queen Venida and Prince Kalief
Peace and Blessings.
Click here to find out how you can help and share Kalief’s story!