Justice for Kendrick Johnson
One only has to take a look at Detroit to know Black life is devalued. Violent crime is a public health crisis. Multiple murders remain unsolved. It seems as if no institution truly responds to missing Black people. So much so that a network outside of any government help — the Black and Missing Foundation — has been set up to assist the families looking for their loved ones.
Unfortunately, this condition is not unique to Detroit. Consider the story of Kendrick Johnson.
After going missing, the body of Kendrick Johnson was found at the teenager’s school. Apparently he died —or was murdered, as the parents suspect — in the school’s gym. The parents suspect the white child of an FBI agent knows something about what happened. The boys had two fights — Johnson won both — before Johnson’s body was found rolled up in a gym mat.
The parents have been searching for answers since the discovery, mostly to be blocked by school and local sheriff’s officials. Security video taken from the school were, some believe, tampered with — time is missing and images are blurred. However, federal investigators are not conducting a review or investigation of what happened to Johnson.
The family will not stop speaking out until they get justice.
They only want to know what happened to their son. Not too much to ask for any parent of a child who died at school. The fact local public officials do not see themselves ethically, morally or legally bound to help these parents is a miscarriage of justice.
At worse, it reminds us of the old South where young Black men routinely ended up dead. Worse than apathy on the part of local officials, this could be an elaborate cover-up to a crime; a crime where Kendrick Johnson is being sacrificed to save a murderer and uphold the whole local system.
All families should be encouraged and inspired by the Johnson family. They remain steadfast and unrelenting in their pursuit of answers. We must adopt this same kind of stance for victims of Black violence in Detroit. The continuation of Black violence and missing children is dependent on our apathy.
In Michigan, the St. Joseph River has claimed the bodies of more than one Black person. St. Joseph is the “twin” city of Benton Harbor. Most know Benton Harbor as a poor, mostly Black city that sits opposite St. Joseph, mostly white and middle class. Between the two cities is the river. Through the years, several Black bodies have been retrieved from the river. In most instances, the police did not investigate or found no foul play. In 1991, Eric McGinnis was recovered from the river. Some say he had been dating a white girl and was chased through the streets of St. Joseph after going to a party before he ended up in the water. DeWayne Flowers was found and described as a “parole absconder.” Timothy “Bulldog” Allen was found in the river when earlier that night the police ordered him to leave the grounds of the St. Joseph hospital overlooking the river. On Jan. 1, 18-year-old Karrington Penny Morrow was found dead on a Benton Harbor lawn. Detective Smigielski determined there was no foul play involved, but citizens beg to differ. Some believe Smigielski was romantically involved with a woman who allegedly served the now-deceased teen drinks just before he “mysteriously” died.
Benton Harbor is under emergency management. Help has arrived for the finances and the assets but none for the many, many people found dead or missing in Benton Harbor. Violence in Detroit? Just read the crime report printed every week on the Detroit page or consider the shooting-death of 7-year-old Aiyanna Jones at the hands of the Detroit police.
We don’t value Black life. And if we don’t, no one will. Apathy will not save us.