In April of 2010, I wrote a blog post entitled “Are You Your Brother’s Keeper”. That post was a based on an incident that took place on April 24th, 2010, where a homeless man was brutally stabbed while saving a woman from a knife-wielding attacker. The homeless man was left to lie in a pool of his own blood for more than one hour while several New Yorkers walked right past him. One person even took a picture of the man with his phone, while another shook him to see if he was alive. Both walked away doing nothing. No one even bothered to call 911. This was all captured on video surveillance.
Approximately eight years later another “public street” tragedy has rocked our community. On June 20, 2018, Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz, a 15 year old child was brutally slain at the hands of gang members in the Bronx. Like every major event, I learned about Junior’s death through Instagram, specifically, on the social media platform, “The Shade Room”. To be completely honest, when I first saw the headline that a 15 year old boy was fatally stabbed in the Bronx, I said a quick RIP and continued to search for the latest “tea”. Unfortunately what happened to Junior happens all the time. These children just become names after a while. It was just another sad post. You read it and you move on.
However, I couldn’t move on so quickly. Herein lays the power of social media. I kept seeing posts about Junior. “The Shade Room” wouldn’t stop. Social media would not stop. I got home late last night. As I was getting ready to go to bed, I remembered that “The Shade Room” had posted something about Junior’s funeral. After watching that video, I continued scrolling the” gram”. That’s when I came across a video montage of Junior. It was at that moment that I saw him. Junior became real. He was no longer a headline.
I spent the whole night going down the hashtag “rabbit hole”. I clicked on the hashtag #JusticeforJunior and what I would see would haunt me for the rest of the night. I didn’t sleep last night… I was troubled. I was disturbed. I was anxious. I turned on the light. I opened my door. I felt evil around me. A sense of fear and discomfort overcame me. I have a son only a few years younger than Junior. This could have been my son. We could have been chanting justice for my son.
I viewed the videos…, all of them. I viewed the video of Junior running into the bodega seeking assistance. I viewed the video of Junior being dragged out of the bodega by the gang bangers. I viewed the video where the cowards used their knives and machetes to hack away at Junior’s body. I viewed the video where Junior ran back inside the bodega begging for help, but was turned away. I viewed the video of Junior struggling to stand outside of the bodega, but then finding strength to run towards St. Barnabas Hospital, which was only a short distance away. I viewed the video of Junior’s lifeless, bloody body slumped outside of the hospital.
You would have thought I had had enough. I then viewed the videos and images identifying the girl who delivered the wrong target to her gang banging brother. I continued down the rabbit hole and viewed the images and videos of the apprehended low lives who brutally and savagely took the life of this innocent boy. A case of mistaken identity they say. “They got the wrong kid”. Is this what our world has come to, where “my bad” is the response to slaughtering an innocent child?
I, along with millions of people, watched a boy seek refuge in a neighborhood bodega, a place where you were told as a kid could be a safe haven if you were ever in trouble. We watched him get turned away. Now, I know what some of you are thinking. What was the bodega employees supposed to do? They probably knew what time it was and knew trouble was coming. After all, do they not have the right to keep themselves safe and out of harm’s way? The answer is yes. Yes, they do have the right to be safe. But they could have simply dialed 911.
Although there are reports stating that the bodega employees did call 911, we do not know when they called, nor do we know what was said. I submit to you all that the call either never happened, or that the call was insignificant. How many times have 911 calls been played for all to hear through the media? How many times have the media leaked 911 call transcripts? The stabbing happened right outside of the bodega. They knew what was going on. I am pretty sure Junior wasn’t silent while being stabbed to death. But then, Junior ran back inside of the bodega, this time bloodied, and instead of helping him, they again turn him away. What about the passerby’s on the street? No one thought to stick him in their car and drive him to the nearby hospital? Instead, he ran for his life. He could have still been alive if someone had lent some assistance, if someone would have just made a call.
Situations such as these beg the question, what kind of society allows for individuals to stand back and watch another human being get slaughtered right in front of their eyes? Instead of calling 911, people are Instagram “live’ing” brutal attacks for the world to see. We are so obsessed with capturing a person’s final moment that it doesn’t dawn on us that we could have saved their life. I asked this question in April of 2010, but I will ask it again. What does it mean to be your brother’s keeper? Should we feel a sense of responsibility when our neighbor is being harmed? The answer is YES. We are all responsible for each other. I am deeply disturbed by the state of humanity. It sucks that I have to raise my black male child in this mess. I am not hopeful for his future. Not when children can be slaughtered in plain sight and where not one sole will place a call to 911.
But something has to be done. Those of us who bleed red and whose heart beat cannot just sit back and watch our society crumble before us. We have to save our children. We have to save our streets. It can be done, but we have to be willing to sacrifice. Serious work needs to be done. We cannot wait around for politicians to show up. We all know how that goes. We have to take back the streets, but in the right way. I do not purport to know all of the answers, but I do know one thing. This CANNOT be life. No more hashtags. No more names. No more senseless killings. No more guns. #JusticeforJunior and for all of the children who fell victim to these ruthless streets.