For Freeman

November 25, 2014 — 25 Comments

I’m supposed to be grading papers, but the Ferguson news is breaking and it’s reminded me of what I’ve been trying not to think about all day, which is the fact that one of my students from back in the 90s – one of my favorites – died this weekend.

I hadn’t seen him years and I don’t know many details, but I know life had been rough for him after high school. I know he was arrested this year. I know that in most books his death will be just be another statistic. Another black man that died too young.

But I just went to my basement and got out a photo book with pictures of all my students and all of our trips and get-togethers, and I just started weeping because you can see it in the pictures what I really know about him: how funny and spirited he was, and how we had a special bond.

There he is standing under a microphone at the Motown recording studios with all eyes on him. There he is posing like a gangster with his Wendy’s hamburger. There he is embracing his classmates at the graduation dinner.

He was part of a scholarship program (the Marianist Urban Students Program at Purcell Marian High School in Cincinnati) that I directed back in the late 90s. I had 20 high school students each year, and I took them to Detroit and Cleveland and Gatlinburg, made them ride horses and make gingerbread houses, & brought them to see Colin Powell and Maya Angelou. I cheered them on at their sports games and took them to watch the Cincinnati Bengals at Riverfront Stadium and the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. When I got pregnant, the moms and girls threw me a surprise baby shower, and a couple of the girls babysat after my daughter was born. When I took the group to the African American History museum in Detroit, the parents introduced me to my first soul food restaurant.

As director of that program, I was young and naive, dreamy and ambitious. I was a young white girl driving to black neighborhoods clutching my ridiculous clipboard. I met with parents and grandparents. I discussed goals and devised study plans. I took the students on college visits. I wanted to change their lives.

I wanted to change their lives, but as a white girl from the suburbs, I had no idea what their lives were about. I didn’t know that they didn’t need to be changed. I didn’t understand that the “system” – what my current students call “society” – was was what needed to be changed. I didn’t understand that its history and laws and prejudices were so much vaster and deeper than my whiteprivilege mind could fathom. I thought that a study plan and a few poems by Langston Hughes could fix things up.

I wanted to change my students’ lives. But what is obvious now more than ever is that they changed mine.

*     *     *

Freeman. That was his last name; that’s what I called him.
Freeman, for what it’s worth, this is for you.

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25 responses to For Freeman

  1. 

    Word. RIP Freeman.

  2. 

    You will always have a special place in my heart. You were a great MUSP leader and we will all always love you and remember all that you did

  3. 

    Beautiful, devastating post, Kelc.

  4. 

    This is beautifully written. Thanks for your post.

  5. 

    Thanks for writing your article. Blessings. Rest in peace Craig.

  6. 

    Don’t give up. The world needs more people like you

  7. 
    Natalie Hervey Mullholand November 25, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    Kelsey, this is the first I am hearing about Craig. My heart is breaking. This post is beautiful. Thank you!

  8. 

    Great post, thanks for sharing! You were always a great resource for your students, and put their needs at the forefront!

  9. 

    Very well put! Being in the first class of the MUSP, I dealt with a lot from my neighborhood and going to a Catholic High School. I am glad that the opportunity was there for myself and classmates from St. Francis de Sales. 1 Love

  10. 

    Thanks whoever this lady is I miss him the min my mother called me im his older brother and he was a warm hearted youngman I just cant believe this even happen

  11. 

    I thank whoever wrote this he is greatly missed this his older brother and he was warm hearted young man I missed him the min my mom called me 5:12am Sat

    • 

      Cedric, thank you so much for your comment. I’m so sorry for your loss. Please extend my condolences and love to your family, especially your mother. I met her when he was in high school. I was Craig’s scholarship director at Purcell with the Marianist Program (MUSP). Craig was such a wonderful person and so special to me. I’m so sad and sorry to hear of his passing.

      Kelcey Parker

  12. 

    Thanks for sharing! I’d love to hear more.

  13. 

    I called him Freeman too…. I will always love my fiancé and he will truly be missed

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