Friday, January 30, 2009

Boom! We Got This Kid, A Mother's Son

The Story ...
From The Times Picayune: Late on the night of Jan. 18, just 24 hours after the murder of Wendy Byrne in the French Quarter, New Orleans police released a pair of computerized composite sketches of two teenagers suspected in the crime.

In one, a doe-eyed youth with a buzz cut and pointy ears peers out from the page. The other features a teen with twists in his hair that fall to the tops of his ears.

When the teens' mothers turned their sons over to New Orleans police detectives days later, police leaders heralded the "incredible" accuracy of the composites, saying one mother recognized her son from the publicized sketch and called police.

... "We release the composites (to the media), then, boom," Bouyelas said. "We got this kid."

... (Reggie) Douglas' mother saw the sketch, recognized her son and called police. In a news conference last week, Riley said: "The composite of the first subject with the dreadlocks was so close and so accurate, it's incredible."

With Douglas, 15, in custody, the mother of 15-year-old Drey Lewis -- a friend of Douglas' who was never sketched by police -- turned in her son. Police said the teens confessed to their roles in the fatal shooting and attempted armed robbery. A third suspect, Ernest Cloud, 14, who was the subject of a second sketch released by police, surrendered to authorities Thursday night.

It's not clear what role, if any, the sketch played in Cloud's arrest. By the time he turned himself in, police knew his name, thanks to his friends' confessions. (, Wednesday, January 28, 2009)
The Thoughts ...

The first mother who turned her son in to New Orleans police has been on my mind. Even as I watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama, she stood at the edges of my thoughts, a specter whispering, "Rejoice now and see the silver lining, but remember dark clouds remain. We've got work to do."

Imagine being the mother who saw your child's face on the late news marked as the face of a murderer.

Two of the black teens, age 15, will be prosecuted as adults. It has not yet been determined whether the 14-year-old who has been arrested shall be prosecuted as an adult as well, and WWL TV reports his family is perplexed that the boy's been connected to a murder.

His parents turned him in just as the other two mothers turned in their sons.

The victim, Wendy Byrne, a white female, was popular in the French Quarter, and her death has sparked more protests that NOLA police aren't doing enough to protect citizens. Yet, shortly before her murder, marchers walked the city's streets, taking a stand against city violence, much of which impacts the African-American community directly, too often the home of both victim and perpetrator.

Still, I keep wondering about these mothers, what went through their minds, why did they turn in their sons? What we usually see are parents denying that their children could ever commit murder, such as William Balfour's mother. Balfour is the young man accused of murdering the mother, brother and nephew of actress and singer Jennifer Hudson. His mother appeared on CNN's Nancy Grace show defending him, and isn't that the more common, expected reaction of a mother.

I have found no interviews with the mothers who turned in their sons in the Byrne case. Perhaps they've refused to be interviewed, and I can understand if they have because turning in your son does not mean acceptance that your son committed a murder, while acceptance that your son committed a murder is not a time to be on camera. It's a time to mourn.

As the Apostle Paul asked in Romans 8, "What shall we say then to these things?"

Frequently we have a lot to say about crime committed by black youth and other minorities -- books and dissertations on solutions, a push for social justice programs, more parent training, and a cacophony of judgmental rants on the failure of urban mothers, single mothers, African-American mothers, Latina mothers to nurture children "properly." More often, however, we have nothing to say. We shake our heads having no strength left to wag our tongues.

What we could say is a prayer, which is what I will try to do.

Urban Mother's Prayer #1

God, we look to the heavens but do not see your face.
We look at the city and suspect you have abandoned us.
What in your universe tells us you remain?

You made the heavens.
As your word says, You knew me
before I was formed in my mother's womb.
You spoke and made our sun, these mountains,
each riotous river, the Redwood tree, and jeweled night sky. ...

We've made our cities.

On this one day, if no other, I choose to believe
You are there, you are here with me and with us,
with every father who cherishes children,
with each mother who weeps nightly
then awakens daily to nourish her babies,
with each mother who does neither.

God, bless the mother who reached for her son and found him gone.
Bless the father who looked for his daughter and found her missing.
Bless the woman who took her son to the gallows, loving him still,
Bless the womb of every woman bearing children.

Bless each child.

Give every official the ears of the sage
and a heart of grace to judge as you judge,
to sentence as you would.

Wisdom, we seek. Justice, we pray.
Forgiveness, we seed. Your mercy, we plead.
Forever in your name, in love. Amen.

(c) 2009 Nordette Adams


  1. This is heartbreaking on so many levels. And then your poem just sent me over the edge.

    The words "Forgiveness, we seed" are filled with hope and beauty. I did initially wonder if "seed" was a typo and meant to be "seek", but even if that were the case, I will keep "Forgiveness, we seed" in my heart. :)

  2. Hey, Susan. I'm late, but thank you. It is "seed." Not a typo. :-)