Sunday, March 2, 2008

Connections in a Life...a tribute to Derek Owens

You are looking at the next African-American presidential candidate that will get me as hyped as I am about Barack, one of only 3 people who can elicit sheer joy from me at the prospect of the future. He is my legacy, and he has his roots firmly planted in Toledo, Ohio.

Toledo, Ohio is a biggish small town. Especially when it comes to the University of Toledo alumni, sorors of AKA and frat brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha. So, when there is tragedy in the midst it touches us in a myriad of ways. "Derek Owens, 36, and another officer approached men Friday night and chased them when they started to run away, police spokesman Lt. Thomas Stacho said in Cleveland , Oh. A police officer who was shot investigating a group of men drinking beer inside an abandoned garage died hours later at a hospital, authorities said Saturday." The statement seems pretty cut and dry, and the article covering the news was even drier as I read it. If you pick up any midWest article, anywhere - you can read about a cop, soldier or African-American man who has died in the last 24 hours. This time, it was Derek Owens. What about the rest of the story?

I didn't know Derek personally - but we have fewer than 3 degrees of separation. I could go through the linkages, but it doesn't truly cover my point. This husband, father of 2, police officer, Alpha man - died trying to do his job. His wife, one of my sorority sisters, has had her life forever changed by the course of events in a few unforeseen moments. "Owens caught up with one of the men, who turned around and shot Owens in the stomach just beneath his bulletproof vest, Stacho said. Owens returned fire and the suspect then exchanged shots with Owens' partner, but no one else appeared to be injured, Stacho said." Well, no one but his family, friends, children, legacy - they all got injured. All of those close to the situation are having a hard time shaking it - the older we get the more visible it becomes. Life is not promised, and it is very, very short.

Yesterday my husband posted about the new Will.I.Am video which inspires a self-reflection about the fact that we are the ones - beyond our excitement and the energy surrounding Barack, this is our time. There are thousands upon thousands of us 30 something - 40 something (the generation of NOW), and we are collectively realizing our power and the potential to change the world. We aren't all running for public office, most of us are graduating, working, being and staying married, waiting for marriage (as in delaying procreation for a real revelation), volunteering, giving back to neighborhoods, actively involved in some church & ministry, and just doing the work of every day life. We are the ones who are changing this society one person at a time - and when you lose a foot soldier you just have to remind yourself that we're in this fight - but we won't all see the victory. I imagine Martin and John knew this, they certainly taught it.

Bringing this full circle, my Pastor said today that many of us fail to realize when we are deep in the midst of mess, Jesus is right with us. I can only imagine the many feelings that take over a newly widowed woman under 40 - when 48 hours ago her life was completely different. She was planning her future with the love of her life, and in a split second it all changed. Think about 9-11, and the moment when life changed for so many. I am humbly reminded in these instances that tomorrow is not promised.

Who knows what will happen with Barack, or any of us for that matter. But we are the ones, and the time is now. What are you doing? Who will remember you? What will your life matter? I dare say that our impact is bigger than anything that we can see today. What will be your legacy?

The optimism in Will.I.Am's video speaks to something bigger in each of us - not about the invincibility of Barack. a soldier. a politician. a man. a Black man. a father. a husband. Derek Owens is an example of that something bigger. People living their lives, taking responsibility for their family, making a difference in their community. We are those people. I am saddened to learn of his death, but I guess the bigger tragedy will be if we don't learn from his life.

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