Friday, August 21, 2015

Raykwon Young


I won't pretend that I knew Raykwon Young, the young man that was senselessly cut down on Thursday, Aug. 20, 2015. He grew up in and around Remington and had many friends here, especially among the multigenerational residents. And Thursday morning, about 11am, he was shot in the face after an argument. Young clung to life for many hours in the hospital, but eventually the severity of his injuries was too much, and he died in the night.

Over the next few weeks, I hope we'll learn more about Raykwon. The urge to know what happened and why is strong, because we want this to make sense. We want to assure ourselves that this is an anomaly. We want to find something we can do about it. Frankly, part of it is that we want to find ways that he was different than us, so we can feel safe.

One of my security blankets is that the overwhelming majority of violence in Baltimore is drug-related. I'm not involved in drug-dealing, so taking myself out of that category--and putting as much negative stuff as possible in it--makes me feel safe.

One report about the motive for this shooting is that Young confronted somebody about riding dirt bikes in a manner that was endangering others, and that person came back and shot him about it. Some of the dirt bike riders also deal drugs, so this could have been tangentially drug-related. I can't confirm that the above is what happened. But the media coverage, police investigation, and prosecution of this is likely to assume that Young was involved in the drug trade. Maybe he was. At least until all the facts are in, I don't mind being one voice suggesting he may have instead been pushing back against it.

But we also want to know his story because telling that story is part of how we mourn. It is right and normal for the community to mourn this death, even though many, most of us didn't know Raykwon. You're right to be sad that a young person from our community has died. His family and friends will surely be having a very hard time of it, and we all need to respect that their loss is more intense and personal than ours. We need to understand the context of any anger they express, and let it slide. We need to let them speak but not demand that they do.

Today is my eldest daughter's birthday. Her name was Anna, and she died a few days before she was born. If she had lived, she would be four years old. What she shares with Raykwon is a hometown, a community, and the painful fact that she never got to show us all what she could become. Every life, and every death, is different. But for me, it helps when she's remembered. When someone says her name. Anna Treseder Bettenhausen. To hear it, say it, write it, feels like spitting in death's eye. But mostly it makes her real to me again for a few minutes.

Raykwon Young, I'm sorry I didn't get to know you. Raykwon Young, may God welcome you into his loving arms.