Thursday, May 17, 2012

The day I grew up!

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 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 dream of. 
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.  Thanks Fred!
Atty. Jaaye Person-Lynn works for the L.A. County Public Defender. He can be reached on Twitter @JaayeEsq or by email


Gailat11 said...

Life will bring you to your knees more than once. There is a line in the play Our Town "Isn't life beautiful. And awful." Hope the healing passage of time brings comfort and a re-dedication to justice.

SingleBlackFemale said...

Fred's son attended school with my son in Inglewood and as part of the PTA executive team, we had no qualms about donating to this young man.

It is also refreshing and impressive that you and your fellow alumni took matters into your own hands and started a fund for him.

Kudos to men who grow up and give back!