Many of us have healed over and gotten back to our normal activities after the senseless murder of Dajae Coleman broke our hearts and motivated us to get our families fed and ourselves out the door and to a community meeting after a long day at work or after picking up our child from practice or both.
Today the colors and the crisp air say fall, a reminder that life goes on. Not for Dajae Coleman’s family. As a mother of three sons, the Colemans are living my worst nightmare. The sudden, permanent loss of their boy must be unimaginably painful. My thoughts wander to them often.
Dajae Coleman: The Story So Far
My thoughts also wander to the other family who lost their boy that night, the family of Wesley Woodson, III, the alleged shooter, who has been charged with first degree murder and will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. The Woodson’s loss is private and comes with great shame. My heart goes out to them too.
While I am not advocating sympathy for the boy who shot Dajae, I do believe it is critical to examine how our community’s dismissal of boys like Wesley leads to violence. If that feels too close to sympathy for you, please consider how NOT examining how our community dismisses boys like Wesley makes it a more dangerous place for boys like Dajae. That ought to change your mind quick.
We failed to keep Dajae Coleman safe the night he was shot. I would give anything to rewind time and call in a police cruiser to patrol Church Street. Anything.
We also failed Wesley Woodson, long before. We wrote him off. I did. Woodson was shot in his stomach in west Evanston this past May. I may have seen news about his shooting in the Evanston Review, but I definitely didn’t do anything about it, didn’t write a letter to anyone. I didn’t hear of any community meeting about the shooting, but probably wouldn’t have gone anyway, considering Woodson’s “gang associations,” hence the bullet in his gut. Woodson and his ilk are the boys I write off. They make me uncomfortable and seem too far gone.
It is much easier to care about, protect, and support boys like Dajae Coleman. Mayor Tisdahl was correct when she called Dajae Coleman, “what is best in our community.” By looking at the circumstances that created his killer, I’m really asking us to explore ways to raise up more boys like Dajae. How do we create an entire city of proud, promising, healthy young men?
Families play the biggest role, for sure. However, that is a topic for a different letter writer. I’d rather focus on the fact that there are committed people out there filling in where and when families need help. Dajae Coleman’s death has moved our family to give greater attention and support to organizations that SUPPORT AT RISK YOUTH IN EVANSTON, including Youth Umbrella Organization, The Ted Fund, the Youth Job Center, the Moran Center, Curt’s Cafe, Family Focus, and the McGaw YMCA. There are other groups and organizations doing their part. They need our help.
We all have full, busy lives, our own stuff to deal with. Still, unless we do things differently, we won’t be able to keep our children safe. Worse, we won’t properly honor Dajae Coleman and the tremendous suffering of his family and friends.
Let’s not go back to normal.