Mariha Smith, others deserved to grow healthy, wealthy and wise in Detroit
I recently attended the funeral of Mariha Treance Smith at Triumph Church to pay my last respects to a child that I had never met, but a child who, like all children brought into this world, deserved the right to life. The dignified funeral she received could not mitigate the shameful death that abruptly ended her life. Mariha is the beautiful, adorable five-year-old little girl who went missing from her home and was later found strangled and burned beyond recognition in a vacant building 15 blocks away from where she lived. Detroit police announced earlier that they are questioning a person in connection with the crime. Hundreds of people showed up to pay their respects to an innocent little girl who was removed from her home and slaughtered as if her life meant nothing to her parents, the community, the world and God. As I sat on the back pew in the church observing every sorrowful moment of the service, it dawned on me that what I was witnessing was not only the homegoing of a sweet little girl who was denied a chance to grow up, but also yet another painful reminder of the community’s failure to take back our neighborhoods. Because of that failure, we have become desensitized to violence to the point that it has become a ritual for living in our community. That is unacceptable. While this cycle of violent crime continues to eat at the heart of our community and take our children from us, we have accepted another damaging rule: Don’t tell on individuals like the one who killed Mariha because snitching is “wrong.” Some of us have concluded that snitching is only wrong until we find that we or someone we love has become the latest victim in the ongoing, senseless violence that is stealing the future of our children. We can’t have two standards for snitching. When a crime of this sort happens we should as a community speak out — loudly and clearly. Yes, I understand the long and sometimes contentious relationship between law enforcement and the Black community, but we cannot sit back and say the “no snitching rule” cannot be applied when looking for child killers or culprits of other heinous crimes. We are only hurting ourselves and the future of Detroit. Mariha’s killer should face the letter of the law before another child’s name is written in the soil in letters of blood. Have we thought for even a moment what Mariha’s last cry was? What was her last wish when those monster hands took her into the vacant building to bring an end to a life that was just starting to blossom? Did Mariha feel that we as a community failed to protect her from the cruel hands of her murderer? Did she leave this world feeling uncared for? How did Mariha feel about police-community relationships in ensuring a safe environment for her? What was her future ambition? How long did she cry before she took her last breath? Her death and the deaths of other children that have taken place in Detroit tell us that something is wrong in our community. It it time to make some drastic changes. If the most vulnerable in our community don’t feel protected, then our talk about a vibrant future is in vain. Thankfully, Detroit 300, a group of concerned people who want to put a stop to the senseless violence in Detroit are making a statement by patrolling crime scenes and looking for the culprits. To change and build our community will require groups like Detroit 300 whereby committed individuals volunteer their time, disregard the “no snitching rule” and move to ensure that our neighborhoods do not become war zones. Individuals and organizations with resources need to support Detroit 300 because change has to come from the ground up, not top bottom. If we support efforts that may not be directly tied to our safety as a community, we can surely put some muscle behind a community organization like Detroit 300 and help them do what law enforcement cannot typically do because they understand the language of the streets. Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee has commended the group and is working in partnership with the organization. Because this partnership is the sort that is needed between the community and law enforcement to create an environment conducive to all children living happily, safely. Anything less is unacceptable. Bankole Thompson is the author of the new book, “Obama and Black Loyalty, Vol. 1,” a trilogy on President Obama. His new book, “Obama and Christian Loyalty,” will be released soon. Listen to his weekly analyses Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. on “The Craig Fahle Show,” WDET-101.9FM-NPR affiliate. He is a member of the “Obama Watch” roundtable program Sunday evenings on WLIB-1190AM-New York which is simulcast in New Jersey and Connecticut. E-mail him at email@example.com.