Tomorrow, friends, family members, classmates, teachers, and school officials will pay their final respects to 17-year old Raekwon Brown, a junior at Jeremiah E. Burke High School, who was shot and killed near the high school on June 8. According to media reports, the outgoing student dreamed of going to college and launching a music career.
Just four days later, in the shadow of this tragedy, we woke up to learn of the murderous rampage at an Orlando nightclub, where 49 innocent people were gunned down and killed in a senseless hail of bullets. Media reports suggest they were targeted for this barbaric end simply because they belonged to the LGBT community.
In his commencement address to the Jeremiah E. Burke High School Class of 2016, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said, “You’re sad, you’re angry, you’re upset–you have every right to be, because I am as well. It’s sad a young man’s future has been cut short.”
These senseless killings have shaken us at our very core. Many of our students and graduates were once aspiring and determined students at Burke High School, just like young Raekwon.
I know I speak for all of our readers in saying, I am also sad and angry—and baffled that in less than a week, we must mourn the loss of one of our young aspiring high school students and 49 mostly young individuals who were simply enjoying themselves on a Saturday night.
All of us at Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology extend our sincerest condolences to all those affected by these tragedies. These senseless killings have shaken us at our very core. Many of our students and graduates were once aspiring and determined students at Burke High School, just like young Raekwon. There are no words that can provide true comfort to the mothers, fathers, siblings and loved ones who have been impacted by this violence. All we can do is to keep them in our hearts and prayers and offer whatever support we can give.
The young people of Boston, especially those in our communities of color, face daunting challenges every day. In addition to violence, these communities are burdened with higher unemployment, lower incomes, and rampant imprisonment of community members. Now, sadly, violence has made it to the top of the list, and it simply must stop. Young people should be able to go to high school without the fear of getting gunned down steps away from the door. Lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and queer folks should be able to enjoy a Saturday night out without the fear of losing their lives due to cowardice and hatred.
As we grieve and reflect let’s rededicate ourselves to creating a society where the young and the not-so-young are able to live, to learn, and to enjoy themselves without the fear of losing their lives due to their sexual orientation, their color, their means, or their zip code.
Just a couple of weeks ago, our college raised a rainbow flag in honor of Pride Month, which is celebrated every June. As I approached our campus on Monday morning, the flag served as a somber reminder of the many lives lost, but also of tremendous hope that our diversity, love, individuality, and common bonds can defeat intolerance, ignorance, fear and greed. My sincerest wish is that this will be our last blog post on this topic. I call on all of us to rise above the fear that this will not be.
The cure for the national epidemic of gun violence may be as complex as its causes. For me, it starts with the belief and hope that we can love and honor one another sufficiently that no one is consumed or destroyed by the impulse to violence. As we grieve and reflect, let’s rededicate ourselves to creating a society where the young and the not-so-young are able to live, to learn, and to enjoy themselves without the fear of losing their lives due to their sexual orientation, their color, their means, or their zip code.
To support the victims of the Orlando tragedy, we encourage you to visit their GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund.
A visitation for Raekwon will be held tomorrow (Thursday) at 10 a.m. at the Charles Street A.M.E. Church on Warren Street, and a funeral service will follow at 11 a.m. His burial at Oaklawn Cemetery in Roslindale is scheduled for 1:45 p.m.