I taught for almost a decade at MLK Middle School, and in doing do so became connected to the East End in a way that would have been likely impossible to me otherwise. I met thousands of students who lived in the area’s public housing, in Fulton, in Blackwell, in Church Hill North, and it completely changed how I saw the world.
Some former students I know have prospered, going on to UVA, ODU, VCU, or building careers and their own families. One of my favorites is set for the Marines later this year. Too god damn many others, though, have made their mark here by being shot or shooting someone else.
Brandon Minns was in my first class at MLK. I taught Alex Jackson, Jermaine Noble, a kid nicknamed Toast whose real name is lost to me. There are too many others. I had students lose uncles and fathers to the violence.
I was peripheral to the area’s violence for but a stretch of years, and it left a mark on me. God help the kids growing up into this.
Take the time to read Ned Oliver’s Why do teens keep getting murdered in Richmond?, it’s by far the best writing I’ve read on this mess.