04 February 2008

Not Forgotten

On the same day my son Jeffrey died last April, Shamar Patterson, another teenage boy from another suburb also died. Our families spent our final moments with our boys on opposite sides of the same pediatric ICU. Two kids now dead, Jeff from "natural causes," Shamar murdered, shot dead, allegedly by a pair of teenage brothers.

According to statistics compiled by the State of New York, during the five-year period 2002-2006, there was on average just over one murder per week in Monroe County. The vast majority of these occurred in the City of Rochester. Things got so bad mid-way through 2007 that the Mayor implemented a "zero tolerance" policy that included millions of dollars in police overtime aimed at trying to get the rate of violent crime under control.

Shamar Patterson was killed in the City; he was there visiting his grandmother. Fifty-seven other children, women, and men were murdered in Rochester in 2007. The George Eastman House here in town is hosting an exhibition of work by Will Yurman, a photographer for the Democrat and Chronicle that documents the deaths and recalls the lives of the 58 people who were murdered here last year. The exibition is called "Not Forgotten: Portraits of Life and Death in Rochester." You can find information about the exhibition and related events here and you can find a slide show of each individual at the D&C wepage here.

Shamar Patterson was an African-American boy shot down for no reason. His murder clearly is part of an awful statistical pattern. But as Will Yuman makes amply clear, Shamar hardly is just another African-American boy shot dead. We see his pictures - as a baby, growing up, with his family, goofing off. We see his friends and classmates crying at his memorial service. We hear his mother, voice full of loss, telling us that they've played no music in the house since Shamar's death. We wonder what he might've become, the places he might've gone. By all accounts Shamar was a good kid, a fun-loving boy, just verging on being a young man. Although we never will know, I suspect that, given the chance, he and my Jeff could've been peas in a pod. I'd bet on that.

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Anonymous Dawei from Beijing said...

Jesus, that slide show was depressing as hell! I always thought Rochester was a nice, quiet, suburban town -- I guess not!

04 February, 2008 13:46  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

The City of Rochester is a mess - ridiculous rates of crime, extreme rates of poverty, a 39% graduation rate from the public high schools last year. The industrial base is vanishing; my University now is the largest employer in town due to its Medical Center while Kodak, Xerox & Bausch & Lomb which at one time were the large private employers have jumped ship. The city has a large minorty population. The suburban ring is overwhelmingly white and much wealthier. The problem is that since the City (which has been run by largely incompetent Democrats) is a mess, so too is Monroe County, which is run by extremely right-wing, extremely dupllicitous Republicans. SO while the area is going down the crapper, the County and City cannot work together. Each plan for 'revitalization' is more bizarre than the last. I will stop there becuase it is simply too depressing.

04 February, 2008 14:08  
Anonymous mindtalks said...

God!, the stories there are so touching. When shall We, "the human", turn back to our virtues?


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