For the last several hours, I’ve been listening to and watching events unfold in Baltimore, ignited by the death of Freddie Gray. I’ve seen this movie before. Same story every time- broken black body, broken trust, broken hearts, broken windows, broken system, broken pieces. When I work on a puzzle, I like to lay all the pieces out on the table, turn them face up, and group them according to similarities. Before I start to build, I try to understand the bigger picture.

When my 19-year-old cousin who spent his days smoking weed, drinking, and hanging with his boys told me that he wanted something different, that he wanted to enroll in night school to get a GED, I believed him. 30 days later, I stared at his brain matter on the bedroom wall while waiting for the coroner to pick up his body the night he committed suicide.

When an angry, troubled teenaged boy caused yet another ruckus in his Sunday School class, the deacons decided that it was best to ban the young man from Sunday School to prevent further disruptions. Three years later, he was sentenced to life in prison.

When another cousin was 15, he told me he wanted a mentor- a man who was honest, genuine, smart, down-to-earth, driven, with a career in business or finance, and who would make time for him. I couldn’t find one.

When I started Zelophehad’s Daughters, the girls’ brothers said, “We need something.” When we planned a tea party for 40 little girls at church, I asked, “Can we get the men to do something with the boys?” When we held Sunday afternoon leadership development group meetings for youth, the boys outnumbered the girls. Only one man volunteered with the ministry.

As I lay out the pieces of this puzzle, I see a system that refuses to hear and respond to the cries of little black boys, but instead trudges forward leaving a trail of bodies in its wake. Bodies that are violently handled, systematically devalued, and disregarded. Brutalized and destroyed. Real bodies. Real boys’ bodies. Real brothers. Real fathers. Real sons’ bodies.

2 Samuel 21:8-14, New Living Translation
But he gave them…two sons…and…the five sons…The men…executed them…So all…of them died together…Then…the mother …prevented the scavenger…from tearing at their bodies...

I’m just trying to understand the bigger picture.