by Jaaye Person-Lynn, Esq.
|We're all growing up and must step up to do what needs to be done.|
At 29 years-old, I am an attorney
with a good job, 2 degrees, have traveled to multiple countries on 4 continents
and about 30 U.S. states. I go to church
most Sundays, closed on my house Nov. 1, 2011, my car is paid off and I hold
offices with the local and national Hampton University Alumni Associations. I’ve been told by many a mother with a
20-something daughter I’m a perfect suitor, (unless they wanted tall grand
children as I stand at 5’3 ¾). A
spiritual, cultured, traveled, educated, social and politically conscious young
man is what any parent would want for their daughter. There was just one problem: despite all I had
done, all I had seen, all I had accomplished, I still hadn’t grown up.
Most of my time was spent
avoiding any real responsibility. I
can’t front--airports, rental cars, bottles in the club, women, gambling,
professional sporting events with behind-the-scenes access, taking off a month
of work to experience the World Cup in South Africa, I had a blast. But with all that, the whole time I knew
I was on some B.S. Something was missing from my life, from my spirit, and I
wasn’t doing what it took to fill my spirit.
Coaching, volunteering on campaigns and in my community and church, my
work with Hampton and Howard University Alumni, it was all meaningful. But it was all merely plaster covering up a
big hole in the dry wall that was my spirit.
I deliberately turned a blind eye to the more pressing needs of my
community, figuring it could get done later.
The last night of my youth was
April 3rd, 2012. I spent it
with my lady friend and some good friends in a suite at Staples Center. Drinks were flowing, the dessert cart came
and filled our collective sweet tooth, Dom Kennedy was on the iHome sound system and we were
spending OPM! (Other People’s Money).
One of my Westchester High School classmates was turning 30 and we spent a good amount of time discussing how we were going to turn it up
at her birthday party that weekend. On
top of all that, the Lakers won! Life was great! There was no need to be
serious because I was, as Snoop Dogg says in one of his latest songs, “living
young and wild and free!” Then, I got to
work the next morning.
Sitting in court that morning
waiting for proceedings to begin, I checked my FaceBook from my phone. I saw another high school classmate make a
post that said something about “R.I.P. Freddie Mac.” I only knew two Freddie Macs: my homeboy and
the lender. But, since my homeboy lived
such a good life, I knew it wasn’t him.
I figured the lender had finally gone under and thought to myself,
“maybe Sallie Mae will be next and I can keep my $700 a month for these college loans.” Then I scrolled down and saw another Westchester High School Comet alumni talk about how life is short, then another “R.I.P. Freddie Mac”, then
another and another. So I call the holder
of all Comet related info, my barber. He
hadn’t heard anything, which brought a temporary sigh of relief. Then, I called another Comet Alum that was at
the game with me the night before, and she hit me with the news. As the words
came out of her mouth, I stood there on the 5th floor of the largest
courthouse in the state trying to fight back tears, and I quickly lost that
battle, as well as my youth.
It was true, my homeboy, my
friend, Freddie Mac, Fredrick Demetrius Martin Jr. was among the dearly
departed. Fred, his best friend Joey
Hickman and his 8 year-old son “Tre”, AKA Fred Martin III had been clearing out
Fred’s grandmother’s garage to make room for a motorcycle. Two gunmen walked up on foot and opened
fire. Fred dove on top of his son to
save his life, but lost his own in the process.
He is our hero. Joey and Tre were hit too, but survived.
Fred and I graduated from Frank
D. Parent Middle School, Westchester High School, and both were alumni of HBCUs who came back home. We grew up in
the same neighborhood, even being driven to school together by my Mom for some
time. This wasn’t supposed to happen to
one of us. We did what society told us
to do. We have degrees! People with
degrees aren’t supposed to be gunned down in the streets, because we were past
that. Even more, Fred was never into
that life, never. He just loved life,
his 8 year-old son, Tre, and his family.
I would see him often, always at an event, smiling and having a good
time. I truly tried, but I can’t think of one bad memory of Fred.
So, after I made it through the
day in court, and gathered myself to go to his mother’s house, I believe it was
on that drive that I grew up. Having to
face this unimaginable reality, not having any answers to my questions of why,
things still needed to be done. The word
needed to get out and I helped get the word out. Many of Fred’s friends were asking what they
could do, so I helped start a fund for Fred’s children, which now sits at over $15,000 on https://www.wepay.com/donations/mac-martin-kid-s-fund
I pulled on media resources such as my mother, Isidra Person-Lynn, Jasmyne Cannick
and Brandon Brooks, who also lived in our neighbor and graduated from Parent
Middle School. Brandon is now co-editor of the L.A. Watts Times. They helped get radio, TV and print media to
cover the story and our press conference and for a few days it was the top
story in LA. Things were happening just
from a few hours of applying myself fully to something.
Those shots that hit Fred
shattered that plaster and uncovered that hole in my spirit. Now that it was
open, I pledged no more temporary fixes or cover ups. But I’m human, and life is a journey.
Becoming a man is a process. It’s common
knowledge that life is temporary, and though I had friends pass before, this
time was different. This time I was
brought to tears and compelled to act. This time it hit too close to home! This time, it made me face reality! I’m some months away from 30 years old. All of us who grew up with Fred are. There is no more time to waste. More than ever, my community needs me to play
my position and stop doing just enough.
Today, I write this as a man. Not
because of any material possessions, my age, or any academic or professional
accomplishments. As is stated in Sidney
Poitier’s autobiography, the measure of a man is how he cares for and provides
for his family. My family has been in
Los Angeles over 100 years, and this community has become my family. So I write this as a man because since that
night I grew up, I have been working for my community in ways I used to only
Fred was a leader by
example. In his final act, he left us
with a blueprint of how to be a man. He
showed us that it is our duty to sacrifice for those that come after us. We must do what is necessary to make their
lives better and broaden their opportunities.
Fred didn’t die in vain. He
sacrificed himself so those of us like me, who were living and giving just
enough, can wake up and realize that we have to give it our all or we are
letting our community down. In that
moment of heroism, Fred sparked a movement.
Trayvon Martin is the national face of that movement, but Fredrick
Demetrius Martin Jr. is our local spark.
I truly wish I could’ve learned another way, but I thank Fred for what
he did for all of the young men and women he touched. Mark my words, Southern California, because
of Fred’s sacrifice; you will see the quality of men improve drastically. Like the late great Michael Jackson, I’m
starting with the man in the mirror.
Atty. Jaaye Person-Lynn works
for the L.A. County Public Defender. He can be reached on Twitter @JaayeEsq or
by email firstname.lastname@example.org.