A Moving Story that Touches on Black Lives Matter

We tend to focus on the topic of Black Lives Matter when violence erupts.

Here is a story well told that speaks volumes on the topic of Black Lives Matter. Russel Omar-Shareef’s story is more powerful than guns.


This writer/artist was a street kid in our own city. He doesn’t mention our neighborhood but he mentions neighborhoods that border ours. He walked our streets and we failed to see him. We were not prepared to make a difference in his life. The schools, the social services system, the justice system, the faith communities — society’s designated solution-providers failed this obviously gifted man. His insignificance was the seed of a life viewed as a problem. We failed to see problem as opportunity—to borrow the words of a common business mantra.


Maybe there can still be a happy ending. If the Black Lives Matter movement does nothing else, it can tell these stories. Separating foundational issues from hot button gun control issues might lead progress.


His first encounter with the law was when he took action as a five-year-old to save the lives of his older sisters threatened by their abusive mother. He became a foster child. He spent some of his most formative years in jail. Jail—the solution for truancy? No wonder his first adult years were spent looking for an escape!


Note how this young man’s struggle in society began with a sense that he didn’t matter. He was the youngest child, inspired to copy the artwork of his big sister. He was just learning to use the tools. He wanted to be noticed. But he was brushed aside. This reminds me of the story of the Beatles. A leading educator points out in a TED talk that one middle school music teacher in Liverpool once had 50% of the Beatles in her class. Paul was discouraged from joining the choir. Sometimes we can’t see for looking! The critics that counter with “All Lives Matter have a point!


After years of dealing with institutional oversight in one form or another, Russel could be reentering society fueled with resentment and hate. His words do not reflect bitterness—just raw reality.


How many youngsters do we pass on our sidewalks that are like him? How many never dig deep within themselves to develop skills as Russel has?


And as for the Church connection—if we abandon the neighborhoods that are home to so many struggling young people (the continuing mainline trend), then we are abandoning the Russel’s that live in these neighborhoods.


Read his moving story written in his own words and illustrated with his own art.

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