By Mashaun D. Simon
This year I turned 35. It’s a milestone year, or at least it should be according to some.
It’s not quite middle aged, but on some respects it’s another year of transition. The mid-30s signify that one’s adolescence is surely behind them, and to some extent, it’s the time to consider where a person is in their life and where are they going.
Recently Michael Dunn, 47, shot and killed a young, black male by the name of Jordan Davis. He was convicted on four charges including three of attempted second-degree murder. Reports say loud music coming from the sport utility vehicle occupied by Davis and three of his friends and other factors led to Dunn feeling the need to protect himself and pull his firearm. Jurors, however, were unsuccessful in convicting Dunn of killing Davis. (Our Founders and that right to bear arms, I tell you.)
Critics and pundits have argued extensively that Dunn’s conviction and mistrial is a clear indication of the value of black males in America. The same commentary we heard last summer when George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin — another young, black male – no longer really a boy, but not quite a man.
What’s more, the Dunn/Davis case and its outcome took place just weeks prior to the second year anniversary of the Martin’s death – February 26, 2012 — the same day I turned 33.
Two years! Where has the time gone?
In the course of two years, there have been rallies, calls to action, t-shirts produced, hoodies purchased, countless sermons delivered and a campaign to repeal Stand Your Ground in Florida and other states.
Much has taken place, yet there is still much work to do.
On February 26, 2014 – the second “anniversary” of Martin’s death – I turned 35. I am a young, African American male, born and raised in the South. I am my mother’s youngest and only boy, and my father’s baby boy.
My siblings will argue it has taken me forever to reach 35, partly because they are 12-plus years older. There is, however, something more to their declarations.
In a country that has seen the killing of Emmett Till, Sean Bell, Jonathan Ferrell, Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis while they were all still in their youth, my making it to 35 could be considered a triumph. Looking at each of these individuals, they all were well below the age of 30 and killed under the auspices of justice and/or self-defense.
I have, for lack of a better word, survived; I am reached a milestone that many others may never reach. I find myself wondering why have I made it this far and others have not. How does a person find self-worth and value when instances like Davis and Martin would suggest young, black males have no worth or value? How does someone celebrate reaching such a milestone in their own life when other African American males like Trayvon no longer have that chance?
I did not know Martin or Davis, but there is something about these stories. The reality that one happened on my birthday has left an indelible mark on me.
Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis fell victim to the evils of this world. I don’t know why God allowed me to be here and allowed them to go, but their lives and stories influence me to chase after whatever purpose God has designed, causing me to still be here when so many others are no longer.
Matthew 22:36-40 instructs us of two major commandments – to love God with our all and to love our neighbors the same. I pray one day God’s love will permeate this world so greatly that the life of another young, black male will not be snatched because of someone’s privilege and fear.
Mashaun D Simon, MDiv is a preacher, teacher, writer, student and scholar. A native of Atlanta, GA, he began his professional career as a journalist and communications specialist. He received his Master of Divinity from the Candler School of Theology in 2013. He is currently the Director of Christian Education for House of Mercy Everlasting in College Park, GA and intends to eventually pursue a PhD in Religion and Homiletics.