I have not been able to bring myself to read the multiple stories here concerning Trayvon Martin for one reason Chace Coe. Chace was my son and he was shot in the back of his head with an AK-47 one night in February 1993. I had just returned back in Elmont, NY after a winter in South Carolina. It was a long lonesome drive except for my dog Sunny, who was my constant companion. I recall I hadn't been asleep long... when the call came.
My boyfriend answered the phone, but I woke up because it was the middle of the night, and those calls are always bad news. I watched my boyfriend's face, between the color leaving his face, and his stunned silence I knew whatever it was it was bad. He looked at me and said it's your grandmother. I could hear her crying no -- wailing-- before I put the phone to my ear. When I said, "Motherdear what is it?" She screamed,"He's been shot! Chace has been shot!" I was scared to ask if he was dead, because I didn't want to know. No mother wants to know.
Once I found out he was in the hospital I packed my stuff, because I had to catch a plane to Gary, Indiana. I had to get to my child before he died. I had to let him know that I loved him, and I had to bargain with God for his life. My boyfriend made the arrangements then he got me to the airport right away. I recall that there were moments of great calm, as well as hysterical crying fits through the flight; but the flight attendants were wonderful with me. They even bumped me to first class, which was pretty empty they even tried to give me free drinks. I refused the drinks, and hid my face in a pillow to avoid making the other passengers feel uncomfortable.
My son didn't officially die before I got to him, but he was brain dead: we arranged with the hospital to keep him alive until my family could make it from various parts of the country.
People keep talking about how well Trayvon's parents are holding up in light of what they are dealing with. And I can only speak for myself, but when your child has been killed, and you know who did it--that-- becomes your focus. You still have the moments when you lose it, but you have something much more pressing than grief that keeps you moving. It isn't about revenge, at least it wasn't for me, but it was about justice for my child.
What far too many Black parents find is that justice is hard to come by if the media doesn't pick up the story, and most of the time they don't. Our children's lives are thrown on the dung heap of what passes for a justice system. If it isn't gang related; or a death because your child was killed while in the commission of a crime, and if the crime doesn't solve itself...it isn't like Law & Order. The detective didn't contact me after her initial contact, which was to introduce herself. She also let me know that my son was one of those rare cases of a victim that everybody liked.
The next time we spoke she attempted to label him a gangbanger. I asked her based on what? She told me he hung out with a group of boys, and that they had been in fights in high school. At that point I educated her that I had grown up in middle-class white neighborhoods, and that my friends had grown up with each other, and they often went to parties and got into fights. The difference is at no time would the cops have labeled them gangbangers for doing what teen boys do. I also informed her to think of me as white, and to not make that mistake with me again.
We spoke once after that. I had called the police with a lead on the van used in Chace's murder, my detective was off so I left her a message. You would think in a murder investigation that another detective would have taken the information and checked it out. When I called her three days later she hadn't even gotten the message, or so she claimed. She was more interested in how I had gotten the information than using it to find a killer. I was later educated that police don't have to investigate murders. That way if they don't do their job, you can only sue them if you can prove collusion between the cop and the killer.
My father hired a private investigator, for $5,000.00 he went to the police station once, and he was told there was no investigation of Chace's murder. I was later told the same thing when I spoke with a policeman. I went to the local paper and spoke with them about my son, but a little blonde haired, blue eyed girl had gone missing. In the real world black kids aren't a priority. So I called the Oprah Winfrey show, surely she would care, also Gary is just 32 miles outside Chicago. I never heard from Oprah.
Chace and I never saw justice: three years after his death a Federal taskforce brought his killer to trial. The evidence they had was based on the information I had given the police. I had gotten the information about who drove the van; who was in the car, who shot Chace, and what they did with the van from a twelve year old. He was a student of my friend, and I befriended him on my visits to their class. I encouraged him to study and lavished him with attention, because he had behavior problems. He responded by telling me everything after my friend took him some of Chace's comics, which I wanted him to have. The driver was his brother.
The taskforce had no weapon, no van, and no motive. Their witnesses were serving time. One was a drug dealer doing 50 years on a federal cocaine charge. He had been in the car. The other was a convicted arsonist, his girlfriend bought the missing gun, which was sold to the defendant. The Assistant DA that tried the case had never tried a murder case, and she met with my grandmother and myself once for less than half an hour. She never conveyed to the jury the wonderful artist and kid that had been shot for a car amplifier. In three days she did nothing other than present a bare bones case, and let a killer go free.
I'm not angry or bitter that Trayvon's parents have been able to use social media to draw attention to their son. Their use of social media to drive the "real" media to the circumstance of their son's death gives me hope. I not only hope they will get justice, but I hope that other parents use social media to drive a nation to see that justice isn't for everybody.