An Open Letter to Donny Hathaway About 4 Boys Who Never Saw 21

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 13:  (L-R)  Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo; Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin;
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 13: (L-R) Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo; Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin; Samaira Rice, the mother of Tamir Rice; Lesley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown Jr; Esaw Garner, the widow of Eric Garner; and Rev. Al Sharpton address the 'Justice For All' march and rally in the nation's capital December 13, 2014 in Washington, DC. Organized by Sharpton's National Action Network, this march and others like it across the country aim to tell Congress and the country that demonstrators will not stand down until there is systemic change, accountability and justice in cases of police misconduct. Sharpton said the demonstration is happening in Washington 'because all over the country we all need to come together and demand this Congress deal with the issues, that we need laws to protect the citizens in these states from these state grand jurors.' (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Dear Mr. Hathaway,

I wish that I could say to you that things just haven't been the same since you left us here on Earth. But sadly, some things will forever be a constant. Just as sure as the sun rises and sets. Just as sure as the seasons change. Black men and women are still being killed at the hands of those who choose racism as a life shroud and view Blackness as a danger. Some of those men, aren't men at all -- mere boys who will never have the opportunity to become men.

Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Tamir Rice, Mike Brown... four young boys, out of so many, who became martyrs for a cause they didn't ask to die for. Four young boys who will never see the age of 21. Four families ripped apart by tragedy and hate.

You know Donny, I try to hold on to the words that you sang in one of my favorite songs, "Someday We'll All Be Free."

Hang on to the world as it spins around
 Just don't let the spin get you down
 Think of moving fast
 Hold on tight and you will last
 Give your self respect, your manly pride
 Get yourself in gear
 Keep your stride
 Never mind your fears
 Brighter days will soon be here
 Take it from me, someday we'll all be free.

I'm tired of waiting on this proverbial someday, Donny.

What a world this would be if all we as Black men and women had to do was hang on, keep our heads up. Keep our pride and our stride. And if we can do that! Then oh on that great gettin' up morning our brighter days will be upon us! Free from colorism! Free from poverty! Free from racism. Free from having our little Black boys and girls killed -- snatched from us before they can have their first sip of gin, before they can even vote for the president of the country they live in but are never fully a part of.

When will that someday be Donny? When?

I'm tired of waiting on this proverbial someday, Donny.

Sometimes I look at my son -- sleeping, smiling innocently, cooing at his mother and I -- and I think about all the great accomplishments this baby will grow up to achieve. I long to see the man he will become. I bask in all of the time we have to grow together as father and son.

But then I realize that 21 years ago, Trayvon's parents were doing the same with him. A new baby. A new life. The future of the Martin legacy. Twenty years ago, Jordan Davis' mother stared at him lovingly as he lay in his daddy's arms. Thirteen years ago, baby Tamir drank from a bottle as his parents fantasized about the beautiful life she brought into the world. Thinking about what type of person baby Tamir would grow to be. Twenty years ago, little Mike Brown's parents wondered when would little Mike learn to drive? When would he graduate from college?


"We live in a country where little Black boys don't have the luxury of being little boys for long."

Each mother pondered when their little men would get married and give them grand babies to spoil. And all the fathers, looking at their legacies said to themselves, indeed, the birth of a new generation truly has the power to make one believe that we are actually closer to that someday freedom you sung about so long ago.

In those precious moments, all of those parents, like my wife and I, forgot one thing... one very important thing: the fact that we live in a country where little Black boys don't have the luxury of being little boys for long.

Little did these parents know that years later -- only a few years from the moment each baby boy was in his crib and they looked down on him with eyes full of innocence, hope and promise -- that the breath and life would be snatched from his body and their baby boy would be taken from them forever.

You see, Donny, they forgot that we lived in a country where a 17-year-old Black child can't put on a hooded sweatshirt, walk outside his door to buy skittles and iced tea for his brother, listen to music with his friends, play with a toy in a public park or walk down the street, without the fear of being killed, steps away from their homes.

Hunted down by men who looked at Trayvon, Tamir, Mike and Jordan, and in their minds, seem to have decided that little Black boys didn't belong in their neighborhoods. Black boys are a threat. And Black boys have to die.

Black boys and girls are dying everyday because of the insecurities, fears and mistakes of society. These four boys were squashed like a roaches. In fact, less than a roach because at least roaches have a chance to run. Then left on to die like roadkill with hot lead lodged into their internal organs. Face down in grass. Left in the middle of the street. In a car. A park gripping a toy. Boys. In America.

I'm tired of waiting on this proverbial someday, Donny.

And don't misunderstand me, Mr. Hathaway sir, I really want to believe in this someday you sang about. I need it. I crave it. But, I feel like I've had this conversation too many times. I've said the same things and prayed the same prayers over and over again and every week another Black man's life is taken by the hands of someone, whether they be Black or white or any other assorted color on the spectrum and honestly I'm just tired and exhausted of the conversation. Deep in my soul rests one burning question...

When is our someday?!

I really need to know, Donny. I need to believe those words you sang sir. SO melodious. SO powerful. Impactful. I may not know when our someday is, but I know that TODAY, there are no candle flames flickering on a cake for Trayvon's 21st Birthday. There are only candle flames flickering at vigils being held all over the country in memory of this life gone to soon.


"There are no candle flames flickering on a cake for Trayvon's 21st Birthday. There are only candle flames flickering at vigils."

TODAY, the Rice household is not full of hustle and bustle and joy of a family gathered together to grow and love, rather it is silent except for the muffled tears and cries of Tamir's mother, sitting in darkness on her baby boy's bed. Jordan Davis' mother is staring mournfully at her son's faded picture in a frame while sobbing into his favorite sweatshirt, grasping for the last linger of his scent. Mike Brown's mother is asking herself and God why her baby boy had to die.

TODAY, these boys' fathers are coming to the realization that they won't have their first drink as father and sons. On each of their son's 21st birthdays, they will drink alone, with only memories of their son' laughter and humor to keep them company.

I'm tired of waiting on this proverbial someday, Donny.

When is our someday?!

When will things change? We've been patiently waiting, Donny. We kill each other. Other people kill us. We kill ourselves. I'm angry. I'm sad. I'm curious. I'm numb. I'm confused. I don't know what to do. I don't know what to say. I'm scared for the son my wife and I brought into this death trap of a world.

I don't know what anger will accomplish. I don't know what peaceful protest will accomplish. I don't know what the hell Al Sharpton has to do with anything. I don't know what picture the media would show of me if I was gunned down. I don't know if it matters.

I don't know what prayer will accomplish. I don't even know what this letter will accomplish. But I do know that Mike Brown is gone. Rekia Boyd is gone. Tamir Rice is gone. Sean Bell is gone. Eric Garner is gone. Sandra Bland is gone. Trayvon Martin is gone. Amadou Diallo is gone. Jordan Davis is gone. Kendrick Johnson is gone. Tupac Shakur is gone. Christopher Wallace is gone. Jam Master Jay is gone. Malcolm is gone. Martin is gone. Medgar and Emmit are gone. Marvin Gaye is gone.

Donny, YOU are gone.

And Trayvon, Tamir and Mike... three of the boys who never saw 21? Their someday never came. Their killers walk free. Validated and vindicated in racism and cowardly actions. I guess their someday is here. They didn't have to wait. They didn't have to die. Because you see, for those who identify as white in this society, their someday is everyday.


"We all just want our babies to see 21. Why is that too much to ask for?"

Look at that list of lost lives. Lost BLACK lives. Lost BLACK talent. Lost BLACK potential. Lost BLACK bodies. Lost BLACK freedom. When a Black body dies in a violent senseless manner, it's not just his body that is destroyed. His family suffers, his friends suffer, his community suffers.

The Black body is so fragile. Disposable. Replaceable. Yet, we as Black men are expected to keep our manly pride and our stride and be proud to be America's walking targets. How can you take pride in a country where a little Black boy can be killed for being a little Black boy? How can you take pride in a country that finds a way to put young Black boys on trial for their own unarmed killings? Why must our Black son's American dream be making it home alive? Why is the American dream always at the expense of Brown and Black people? Why do Black men always have to be told to be safe when we leave the house from the age of 5 to 95? Why is Black skin looked at as a weapon? How do I know my son won't suffer the same fate as Trayvon? What protects him? My degrees? His mother's degrees? Our zip code?

Because we, just like Trayvon, Tamir, Mike and Jordan's parents are just trying to love our baby boy. But that won't save him when the rest of the world will grow to fear him. We all just want our babies to see 21. Why is that too much to ask for? Why don't our baby's lives matter?

Oh, someday Mr. Hathaway... Someday we will all be free!

SO I say to all the Black boys and girls who have been killed in the name of preserving racism, we love you: Rest in peace and know that even though your deaths were senseless, they will not be in vain. I pray your spirits are free. We got you. We got you.

I'm tired of waiting on this proverbial someday, Donny.

I need someday to be today.

Signed,
Urgently Awaiting Freedom