He called me late, as I was settling in for the evening. “My best friend’s uncle was killed,” he said. Unfortunately, this was not the first time I received one of these calls. He lost many friends and family members to gun violence. And every time he suffered a tragedy and wanted to talk about it, I was happy to be that person, that mother-figure, with whom he felt safe sharing his feelings. Although we had no blood relation, he called me his “godmother” because I was always there for him. In those times he was grieving, I said all the appropriate things you say to someone who has just lost someone dear to them. But in all honesty, I truly didn’t understand what he was going through or how he was feeling. How could I? I was raised privileged and white. He was black and grew up in the projects. I didn’t truly understand until March 8th of 2021, the day he was killed.
That’s why I am here. I am learning to write by telling my story so I may develop the writing skills to adequately tell his story. I haven’t been able to talk about it without crying and even now, trying to type through tears, is difficult. Dredging up these emotions is painful and hard. It would be so much easier to just put it behind me and move on with my privileged life, free of pain, completely care-free. But silence is no longer an option. Feigning ignorance is not an option. There are still days I wake up in the middle of the night, crying. There are mornings like these when I can’t adequately express why I’m so passionate about this cause, but I must. I must step way outside my comfort zone and learn to use my voice, for him. My passionate cause is to use my voice for Xavier, who is no longer able to use his.
How am I going to do this? I have no idea! But writing is my start. I want to tell his story to the best of my ability. I have just moved to a new city so I’ve begun researching organizations such as Black Lives Matter, Just Leadership USA, the Innocence Project, the Sentencing Project, and several reading organizations for children in low income neighborhoods. I don’t yet know which organization will benefit the most from my time and talents, but I am actively searching, while still grieving, and hoping I can make a difference.
In case you were wondering, “Longway” was the name he trademarked for his clothing brand. He started this company, and was actively building a music career because the pandemic shut down his job as an international basketball player. He was making it. He had big dreams and was working really hard, day and night, to fulfill them. And that uncle that died, his name was George Floyd. Big Floyd was was the first person to show him he could use basketball as a means of getting out of the projects. Xavier went on to play Division I basketball, graduated college and became an international basketball star, in addition to a popular rap singer, but he did it by going the ‘longway.’ His brand was meant to encourage those in the midst of the grind. It was all about the journey from where you’ve come to where you want to want to go.