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I think I speak for the masses when I say the news of Alexis Crawford’s death was heartbreaking. I literally said a little prayer for Alexis and her family every time her story came across my news feed. While I know that more times than not missing Black girls don’t make it home, I wanted this time to be different, especially after mourning baby girl, Kamille Cupcake Mckinney. However, here we are again, searching for the blessing and the lesson in the untimely death of another brilliant, beautiful Black girl.

The second thing I thought about after learning Alexis was deceased was her mother. I don’t know Tammy Crawford, but as a mother the idea of losing my daughter evoked a sorrow in me that literally produced pain. I’m sure most mothers will agree that motherhood is the most magnificent hood ever. The joy of nurturing and influencing a life that you co-created to glow and grow into their own person is unmatched. Even as our babies become adults, our love and desire to protect our children is still as strong as it was at birth. I can’t imagine the helplessness of not knowing where my child is or whether or not she is safe. And I pray that I never have to live with Tammy Crawford’s devastating reality.

I remember leaving home for college in January of 1996. My mother dropped me off on the campus of Albany State University after giving me a short speech about staying focused on my grades and not getting boy crazy. At that time, those were the only obstacles my mother foresaw getting in my way of success. However times have changed, and there is so much more to prepare our children for, even when they are still under our care at home. I have literally been giving my children life lessons since they were able to comprehend, many of those teachings coming from my own experiences. I never watered down the truth or created this perfect image of myself. I wanted more than anything for them to be principled, God-fearing, and conscious of the world in which they lived. They needed to know that life happens and things don’t always work in our favor. I also want ed to make sure they understood that people may not always treat you like you treat them, and even people you love most are flawed and have the potential to do you wrong.

More than any other group, Black youth (especially girls) are being targeted, assaulted, and murdered by strangers and, sadly, by individuals they think they can trust. While the stories of Alexis, Cupcake, and Aniah Blanchard have received national attention, there are so many Black girls whose stories go unspoken and unsolved. While these stories affect us, we never see ourselves until our stories are laced with similar tragedies, and our daughters become a face on a t-shirt and a statistic.

I know that no matter how much we prepare our girls for the world, we can’t control the actions of others. I know that based on news reports Alexis did everything right. However, as a mother and a former teacher, there is always a lesson in every situation. Here are a few things I chose to discuss with my daughter following Alexis’s murder.

  • Be mindful of who you consider a friend because not everyone deserves the luxury of that title. Alexis cared enough about her roommate Jordyn Jones to allow her to spend holidays with her and her family before their relationship grew strained and Jordyn and her boyfriend Barron Brantley murdered the 21-year-old.
  • Never allow fear to separate you from what you know is the right thing to do. According to news reports, Jordyn and her boyfriend’s motive may have been a police report Alexis filed accusing Barron of “unwanted kissing and touching.” I’m sure some will argue that had she not made the report she would still be alive when they should be commending the bravery of this young woman who took a stand against being violated and refused to be silenced.
  • Pay attention to the actions and attitudes of others. I truly believe people always show you who they are, your job is to pay attention and take them at face value. I may be wrong but I’m willing to bet there were indicators that Jordyn wasn’t a true friend and that her relationship with Barron was more important than theirs.
  • Don’t be afraid to say you aren’t okay. Understand that there are people who love you and are willing to come to your aid but they must first know that there is a need.
  • Chose you first. I can’t help but think Jordyn’s involvement in Alexis’ murder was about nothing more than protecting Barron. She couldn’t have been thinking about how killing Alexis would affect her own future. However, now she has to live with the reality that she ruined her life and took the life of someone who loved her for someone who violated both of them in some manner.

This murder, like many others, has taken the lives of both the victim and the violators and is another huge loss for our community. We have to say and do as much as we can as parents to prepare our children for the world and to help them understand that violence is never the resolve for any situation. Yes, they will make mistakes, yes, they will fall short but they can always recover if we give them the tools to make wise choices.

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