“He NEVER had a chance” Part 1: “Dahvie’s Campaign for Help”
HW: Over the next few weeks, we will be diving into Dahvie's childhood from the perspective of his childhood teacher (also my mother-in-law...read about her here) She reflects on the immense challenges Dahvie faced as a child...challenges I could not even begin to fathom. But first, we focus on why it was so important that this story be told:
In 2013, a letter went out to a myriad of agencies and charities in the Chicago area, which read:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Love,
I write to you out of complete desperation. I need your help! I MUST HELP ONE OF MY FORMER STUDENTS but I can’t do it without YOUR help! I need someone, anyone, to connect me with a Chicago-based program to rehabilitate a gang member in order to save a young man’s life. NO ONE WILL HELP HIM, NOR WILL THEY HELP ME TO HELP HIM! No one will even return a phone call! I can’t let his life be ignored – our society MUST do something to save him!
Only a miracle will save Dahvie’s life, and I am praying that [organization name] will answer my prayers. He is barely an adult, truly still a boy in a man’s body, only 19-years old and already incarcerated in Stateville Correctional Institution in Illinois, a maximum-security facility. My heart is breaking and it is unbearable that this young man is doomed to become another meaningless statistic, yet another Black American male incarcerated and discarded before his life truly began. He NEVER had a chance.
I failed Dahvie when he was a young boy, please help me now! He deserves a chance at a better life. He needs someone to provide him the tools to start writing a new life story. I can’t sit silent as he vanishes off the face of the earth to be forgotten and discarded in jail. My heart won’t allow me to fail him again. I’m praying for a miracle!
Please be the difference and help make this miracle happen,
HW: These words break my heart. It’s just so obvious that Mrs. Christina has loved so deeply yet feels like there’s nothing she can do to help.
HW: Following this letter were a series of recollections of Mrs. Christina’s interactions with SL, which she titled “Dahvie’s Campaign for Help.” The Campaign contains many similar sentiments as the letter that preceded them. Even the beginning catches you in the raw emotion:
“The year was 2001—truly unforgettable. The same year the terrorist attacks took down the Twin Towers. MY world got rocked but it wasn’t terrorists. It was little, ferocious, beautiful Dahvie.”
Originally, the campaign written to try to capture the attention of Chicago agencies and charities, trying to find someone, anyone, who could help. She emphasized the point that: “He needs help navigating the tangled maze of his current lifestyle. He must be given a chance! Won’t you help?” Reading through them now, they provide a keen insight into SL’s childhood, and the meetings of two completely different words. For these reasons, I’m going to go through some excerpts of the recollections the next few weeks.
A Brief Note
Before we begin on this series, I want to add a brief note. Perhaps you may read these excerpts of Mrs. Christina’s recollections as a white woman’s prejudice against SL’s family’s lifestyle. I would just ask that you, before you cast judgement, consider a few things:
1) The immense love that she clearly has for SL;
2) Her awareness of her own differing paradigm;
3) SL’s own perspective of Mrs. Christina: SL: “I know she’s [Mrs. Christina’s] genuine. She respects my mind and opinion. If she don’t agree she still try to understand without judging or at least make me feel judged.” “Ever since Mrs. Christina found me on FB things been…different. I’m super grateful for wonderful people in my life and interested in my well-being.”
I also think that one of his journal entries gives good perspective:
Savage Thought Undated: Today Mrs. Christina’s birthday. A wonderful lady who taught me in second grade but never forgot about the kid. Since departing from here years ago, she made it her duty to get in contact with me and she did. Like 10 to 12 years later through Facebook. Ever since she found me she been one call away for me whenever I needed something. Even when I got locked up. She showed me more support than my everyday people. Shit’s crazy she the one who recommend me to write my thoughts down. So for her b-day I had someone make her a card. This goofy MF spell her name wrong. He across the hall from me so I couldn’t be on his ass. The card came out ok though. I hope she likes it.
HW: So, stay tuned for next week when we meet "General Bad Ass," our little, adorable, terrifying, second-grade Dahvie.