On October 19, 1999, my life changed forever. At approximately 11:30 pm Destani Ron’nae Stone was born. She was and has always been the most beautiful baby I have ever seen. Not only was she beautiful, she also had the most beautiful spirit. Then the tween years came. Overnight, my soft- spoken, sweet natured daughter turned into a bundle of hormones. She was screaming at her little sister one moment, and crying the next.

On the day she became a woman biologically, I cried real tears. I cried for all of the memories of the sweet, innocent child that I would cherish. I cried because she had no idea what being a woman meant. I cried because she would always be viewed as a Black woman first, images filtered through the lens of the media that seeks to portray us negatively. I cried because I knew that the teenage years would come and threaten our relationship. I cried because I wasn’t ready.

Most days there is a battle of wills in my home. Between my 11 year- old, I- want- to -grow- up -right- now daughter and my 16 year old why- are- you talking -to- me, I- don’t- want- you -to- talk- to- me daughter I have learned to choose my battles wisely. I am determined that my children will grow up healthy, happy and whole.

daughter

photo cred: K. Bryant of Kokoa Media

April 21, 2016 started off as any other Thursday. After pressing the snooze button twice, I arose from my bed and slipped on my Hello Kitty slippers. I shrugged on my robe and trudged into the kitchen where I began to prepare the bacon that would be used to make the girls’ breakfast sandwich. Still in the throes of sleep, I gazed out of the kitchen window.  I longed for a cup of coffee. That wouldn’t happen though, because just last week Destani had broken my coffee maker when she brushed it off of the counter as she washed dishes. I had yet to replace it.

At 7:00 am, I stumbled into Destani’s room. There she was, my sleeping beauty, a vision of loveliness beneath a hot pink Hello Kitty comforter. She lay there with her face pressed into the fan that she needed to sleep. The whir of that fan lulled her to sleep through each season. My gaze fell upon the stack of magazines that made a nest beside her bed.

” Destani”, I said. ” It’s time to wake up.” I switched on the light and left the room.

It would take two more trips to her room before she actually got out of bed. It doesn’t matter what time she went to bed, she never wanted to get up in the morning.

My mind was in a blur as I made her breakfast sandwich. She prefers strawberry jelly, Lynn likes grape. I spread grape jelly on both sandwiches. She grabbed her sandwich in her rush to get to the bus stop. She was so busy mumbling that she liked strawberry jelly, and she couldn’t believe I made her sandwich with grape  that she almost walked out of the house without telling me goodbye.

“I’m leaving”, she announced.

“Have a good day. Be brilliant. Learn stuff”, I replied.

A slammed door was her response.

daughter

photo cred: K. Bryant of Kokoa Media

 

Miles away in Wilmington, Delaware the day started the same way it always does in the Francis household. Maybe the mother sipped a cup of coffee, as she read the morning newspaper. Maybe the mother worked early so the father was there to see the children off to school. Maybe Amy Inita Joyner- Francis was as hard to wake up as Destani. Maybe not. Maybe she was in such a hurry to get to the bus stop that she forgot to give her mom a hug. Maybe she rushed back to plant a quick kiss on her cheek. Maybe not.

Here is what we know. At around 8:15 am, Amy went to the bathroom at Howard High School of Technology. Soon after a fight broke out. Initially there were only two girls involved- Amy and one other student. As many as two other students joined the fight against Amy. That is a total of three students fighting one girl. At some point, Amy struck her head on the bathroom sink. Some reports claim that one of the students slammed her head into the sink. That claim hasn’t been confirmed. Amy fell unconscious. She was life flighted to the local children’s hospital. She later died.

At 8:15 am, Destani call to tell me that she had forgotten plates for her Spanish party. I dropped the plates off in the front office after my morning workout. I didn’t stay to see her because I was dressed in workout gear, complete with my hot pink workout scarf.  I would never want to embarrass my sixteen year old fashionista.

At 3:30 pm, Destani returned home with her earphones plugged into her ears insulating her from the world.

I said, “Hello”.

A slammed bedroom door was her response.

At 3:30 pm, Amy was dead. The three students involved in the fight were probably being questioned by police.

Two similar beginnings to what seemed to be an ordinary day. Two very different outcomes.

On April 21, 2016 four families’ lives changed forever.

Amy could have been my daughter.

Amy could have been your daughter.

I have questions. So many questions.

What have we done as a community of people when our children are no longer safe in a school bathroom?

Am I empowering my daughters to speak up when they witness something that they aren’t comfortable seeing or hearing?

Am I raising a bully?

What about their friends, do my daughters have bullies as friends?

Amy could have been my daughter.

Amy could have been your daughter.

It takes a village to raise a child. What will we do to ensure this never happens again?

What was the fight about, you ask?

The MCM post posted to Amy’s social media account. MCM is an acronym for Man Crush Monday.

She lost her life because like all teenagers, she had a crush.

That is a conversation for another day.