You and I met three times. First, at Barringer High School where we served on the School Leadership Council. You were a Community Representative and I was a teacher there. We didn’t get to know each other well, but I had a positive impression of you as a young guy who advocated for the students. You say you remember me from then, but I don’t believe you.
We met again at New Jersey Communities United some six or seven years later. There, you were one of the Lead Organizers and I was working under your direction on the campaign for organizing the in-home childcare providers. We became work friends and comrades around the education struggle. You were supporting NSU and I was an active member of NEW Caucus.
Aside from the job, I got to know “Mr C,” which is what the Dynamic Dynasty dancers who would stop by the office called you. I was impressed you had a-whole-nother life as a manager of a dance team. You were a true mentor for young people.
Our friendship grew over those four years, but we didn’t get close until after I left NJCU. I wanted to start a new iteration of millennials organizing for political change, to move the spotlight on our leadership and interests. You were the first one I called, the only one I could have thought to call first, and you were down. That was the third time we met–and when you became my brother.
This past weekend I felt zapped. I nearly slept the day away, chalking it up to my cycle. Monday, I got back on the ball and Tuesday was even more productive. I drove downtown to pick up flyers for my new business. It happened to be on Clinton Street with the old NJCU office. It had been a very long time since I’d been on that narrow, one-way. I parked in front of the old building. It is now condos. The new downtown. On my way back to the car, I snapped a picture and sent it to you: “You’ve probably seen this already but this is my first time. So weird 😲”
I head over to a school to flyer the parking lot. I remember being on the campaign trail together. You were committed to me. Like so committed. Back in the car, I head up the Parkway to drop off some flyers at a friend’s house. I receive a call and then another and another. They say you are gone. I don’t–won’t accept it. It’s the worst joke you could ever play and I can’t wait to cuss you out. I don’t know what’s happened and I don’t know where you are. I get home. I get more details. It was this weekend. This weekend. I believe you were here. I believe you were fighting. I wish I could have given you all my energy. But I didn’t know.
You accepted me for who I was, let me be me, and listened to me talk about who I wanted to be. We would talk for hours from the personal to the political, seek advice, bounce ideas, figure shit out.
You protected and cared for me. And now I feel less safe with you gone.
You constantly told me you loved me and trusted me. Maybe you did it more as a reminder for yourself that you had people who genuinely cared for you; I did my best to let you know I felt the same exact way. How much your friendship meant to me. That you were truly my brother. I have a fear that expressing difference will divide me from others. But I never felt that with you. Even in our differences, we still loved each other.
My commitment is to carry your spirit with me everywhere I go. To hear your laughter, see your smile, and feel your hugs. To be present, to live in my truth to the fullest extent. To be everything you saw in me.