Black men deserve to grow old too

·8 min read

Ahmaud Arbery deserved to grow old.

I write this as the notification alerts that the three white men who killed Arbery have been found guilty of murder continue to hit my phone. It's a sad form of justice, because as we sit down for our Thanksgiving dinners today, there's a family member missing in the Arbery household and in thousands of households across the U.S.

In this May 17, 2020, photo, a recently painted mural of Ahmaud Arbery is on display in Brunswick, Ga., where the 25-year-old man was shot and killed in February. It was painted by Miami artist Marvin Weeks.
In this May 17, 2020, photo, a recently painted mural of Ahmaud Arbery is on display in Brunswick, Ga., where the 25-year-old man was shot and killed in February. It was painted by Miami artist Marvin Weeks.

A couple of months ago, a friend texted me hysterically because her neighbor had been fatally shot in a drive-by shooting next door; she told me his kids had to watch as his body was zipped up in a body bag and carried into an ambulance. Over the years, I've heard of similar experiences with R.I.P. social media posts of people my age who had been taken too soon.

Homicide is the leading cause of death for Black men between the ages of 1 to 44 in the U.S., and there are thousands of Black men who die by gun violence every year. They are fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, nephews, friends and classmates. In some cases, they're even celebrities.

Young Dolph, a popular Memphis rapper, was shot and killed Nov. 17 after purchasing cookies for his mother at a Memphis cookie shop. He was 36. He left behind two kids and his long-term girlfriend Mia Jaye, the latter of who started a movement called "Black men deserve to grow old too."

In a post made in August, she shared the picture of fathers who had been taken from their families prematurely to violent crime within their community. Eerily, Young Dolph brushing his daughters hair was the cover. He is now one of those fathers.

Unfortunately, there are many deaths that only family and friends are left to mourn — that aren't broadcasted widely in the news. But it doesn't change the fact that Black men deserve to grow old too, if only they were given the chance.

— Laura Nwogu, quality of life reporter at the Savannah Morning News

Follow me on Twitter at @lauranwogu_ or email me at lnwogu@gannett.com

Pulse of The 912

Javares Taylor is the owner of Amp'D Up Recreational Sports League which is a sponsor of Savannah Squid Game. Within his organization, Taylor works with a lot of troubled youth and adults.
Javares Taylor is the owner of Amp'D Up Recreational Sports League which is a sponsor of Savannah Squid Game. Within his organization, Taylor works with a lot of troubled youth and adults.

Javares Taylor is all about helping his community, and he's using his nonprofit organization Amp'd Up Recreational Sports League to do just that. While one of Taylor aims is to get people physically active, his motive stretches deeper into promoting mental health awareness for Black men and helping troubled youths stay off the streets.

LN: Why did you start the Amp’D Up Recreational Sports League?

JT: “One of the main reasons I started the Amp’d Up Recreational Sports League is to basically get a chance to get people out of the house and get active. I was a very active individual all the way up to professional sports, and I thought coming back and giving some of these people a chance to get out and do something they love would be a great idea, especially in the city of Savannah.”

LN: When did you start the league?

JT: “I started the league in 2017.”

LN: What has the journey been like throughout those years? What has it been like building up the league, bringing people together through activity?

JT: "Since beginning the league, it has been going upward. Very positive progression from more individuals coming to join as a team, to having spectators come out just to watch, to having people wanting to vendor at the local games. So, it’s been very positive and enjoyable."

LN: Through the league, you also work a lot with troubled youths and troubled adults. Can you tell me a little bit more about that and the connection with the league?

JT: "So, one of my missions when I first returned back to Savannah from playing professional arena football was to find a way to give back to the youth and/or the adolescents. Because I played sports, I decided to do that in hopes of reaching a few individuals, a few kids, and deter them from doing things with idle minds, idle hands.

"So, I decided to do something in sports, which I originally started as a sports trainer for sports training, and I kind of branched off and did an actual league of games where they can show their talents. I'm still with that same mission. It’s to deter and get a few off the streets, out of the house. Get them active. Get them belonging to something [with] camaraderie in hopes of saving a kid or saving a few."

(From left) Javares Taylor, Bennie Poole, Antonio Bradham and Kenneth Bostick at the American Flag Football Championship. Taylor calls the men his biggest motivators.
(From left) Javares Taylor, Bennie Poole, Antonio Bradham and Kenneth Bostick at the American Flag Football Championship. Taylor calls the men his biggest motivators.

LN: What does it mean for you to be in this position to be able to give back to the community like this, especially the Savannah community?

JT: "It makes me feel like God is using me. It makes me feel in his presence. It makes me feel like I'm doing my calling. Because I literally talk about it, and it's probably my biggest conversation I can have with anyone. Sometimes it brings me to choke up because coming from where I'm coming from — which is Yamacraw in Savannah, Georgia — to actually having a chance to give back or do something positive is — I can’t say it's a lifelong dream, but it's a dream come true."

LN: Are there any moments that you could share throughout this journey that have stuck with you the most?

JT: "I would say my recent journey. I just partnered with a local mental health institution in hopes of having consultation for Black men's mental health. I feel like that's probably going to be my biggest accomplishment of doing adult league is to have a chance to give back to charity which is going to be through the Black Men's Mental Health foundation that I created. So, I feel like that moment right here, which is very recent, is my biggest accomplishment because I'm starting to learn. I’m starting to understand my position, and I feel like I'm catching on fast."

Javares Taylor is the owner of Amp'D Up Recreational Sports League, a nonprofit organization geared to prepare individuals for national- style events and service the community. Within his organization, Taylor works to help troubled youth and adults.
Javares Taylor is the owner of Amp'D Up Recreational Sports League, a nonprofit organization geared to prepare individuals for national- style events and service the community. Within his organization, Taylor works to help troubled youth and adults.

LN: I think that's wonderful, giving Black people — especially Black men — more avenues to accessing resources for mental health, which is something I think that we need more of in the community.

And is there anything the league has coming up that you'd like people to know about?

JT: "From this Sunday all the way up to Dec. 11, we'll be hosting games at Daffin Park. I'm looking to rent out one of our local fields and that will be our championship date. So, I would like people to come out to the Dec. 11 championship date and just kind of view, just kind of get an idea of what we do in our own backyard. And maybe that can help us get some more eyes and get more people out to do other things other than just playing, but also assisting, donating and maybe endorsing a sponsor."

LN: Why do you love the 912?

JT: "Savannah is my home. Savannah has molded me. Savannah has turned me into the man that I am today. And Savannah also needs my help, so I made it a mission. I do a portion to help. A portion to fix my areas. And so, I’m dedicated and that's why I kind of love it because it fits to my agenda in life."

Art of The 912

The 912 newsletter will highlight a local Black artist every two months as the header image for the weekly issue. This month's artist is Amiri Geuka Farris.

Amiri Farris created a painting for The 912 newsletter using vibrant and abstract shapes, designs, face silhouettes and symbols that illustrate Savannah. Farris said he wanted to capture the feeling of community.
Amiri Farris created a painting for The 912 newsletter using vibrant and abstract shapes, designs, face silhouettes and symbols that illustrate Savannah. Farris said he wanted to capture the feeling of community.

Follow Farris at his website and on Instagram:

Website: https://amirifarris.com/amiri-geuka-farris-artist

Instagram: @amirifarris

Stories of the 912

1: This Savannah pop-up restaurant wants you to become vegan for a day

Wing-N-It is conducting product research to make sure the new menu items for vegetarians and vegans are up to par. The first step in this was introducing their to-go product lines, which include their homemade jerk ranch and regular ranch, which also includes vegan options.

2: Dope KNife renews his commitment to Savannah hip-hop with new single, 'So 912'

Since co-founding the hip hop record label and collective Dope Sandwich in the mid-2000s, Kedrick Mack, aka Dope KNIfe, has been a key figure in Savannah’s hip-hop scene.

3: Have fun, but don't die trying: Local resident hosting Savannah version of 'Squid Game'

Savannah resident Tiffany Newbold is organizing a Savannah Squid Game, and unlike the hit South Korean Netflix show the event is based on, the results of this game promise family-friendly fun — not falling to your death during a game of tug of war or a tragic game of marbles.

4: Historic Ardsley house to set the mood for weekly music series from Shena Verrett, Xulu Jones

The house is filled with music every Friday night with a music series titled “Live from Lattimore” — a parlor concert series featuring musicians Shena Verrett and Xulu Jones, and conceived by Shelley Smith and the hospitality of Noble Boykin.

5: Jury finds 3 white men guilty of murder in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery

A jury found three white men guilty of murder and other charges in the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, who was Black, early last year.

Father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael and their neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan all face minimum sentences of life in prison for the murder on Feb. 23, 2020. The judge will decide whether that comes with or without the possibility of parole.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: The 912: Black men deserve to grow old too

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