Remember Aaron and Shakere
By Joseph P. Charney
Twenty-three year olds Aaron Roseboro and Shakere Chambers were gunned down April 23rd as Aaron escorted Shakere to his family’s home to work on a new song they were composing. When I read the description of these very close cousins born two months apart, I thought of my twins, who just turned 24 three days before these cousins were murdered.
Music was Aaron’s and Shakere’s passion, spending long hours composing and collaborating and recording some of their compositions. Each was an accomplished student and athlete. As I read about these decent, talented and special young people, it was hard to fathom the horrific impact this event would have upon both sets of parents
As someone immersed for decades in the criminal justice system I have long been aware of the carnage taking place in certain communities within Los Angeles County. But I, like my friends, have been and are cushioned from this violence by living in well policed, low crime — wealthy communities where intact families reside. Even though I sang “No Man is an Island” in grade school, with the line “each man’s grief is my own”, I’ve since learned that such a noble idea is at best aspirational. Most often grief has to touch close in order to consider it “our own”. With all the violence and horror within a 24 hour news cycle the inundation of tragedy is non-stop and our empathy self-protectively shuts down.
Yet, while we can do little if anything about the slaughter in many parts of the world, shouldn’t the goal of a community be the expansion of its “grief zone” — if not to Syria, at least as far as South Los Angeles? At least far enough to touch the Chambers and Roseboro families?
What would we feel if our children were gunned down before they turned 24 in front of our home? Their murders would explode our lives and everyone who touched those precious lives. Wouldn’t we try to keep their memories alive? So what about the memory of Aaron and Shakere? Sadly, these two young African-Americans will become nameless homicide statistics. The pantheon of the “martyred” is apparently reserved for the likes of Michael Brown, someone who defied lawful commands and attacked a police officer.
We won’t hear their names chanted during marches because organizing against generic community violence appears to have no political payoff and because lethal violence gets little press unless there is a terrorist, mass murderer, or cop involved. There are a number of reasons that Aaron and Shakere are no longer with us. In their case, their family’s inability to reside in a “safe” community. Secondly, the fixation on police malpractice at the expense of preventive, protective policing in high crime areas. Finally, they died because violence has become part of the life of too many young people who lack parental support and a cohesive community.
Lest we delude ourselves into believing that only gang-bangers are being slaughtered in our County we should think of Shakere and Aaron when we read of inner city homicides. These two with so much potential could be our children and yes, their family’s grief should be our own. It is time that we demand that our elected officials create a sanctuary for young men and women like Aaron and Shakere so no matter their economic situation they can live long productive and fulfilled lives without the threat of violence.