It was a deadly time to be 18, black and male. All across the country, these young outlaws were being killed. They yanked them from their cars and lynched them in Texas, stormed their homes and gassed them in Philadelphia and lay in wait for them outside of barber shops in Chicago and Los Angeles.
Lamar Martin was blessed with a baby face that belied his 17 years. He was short with plump cheeks and big ears, and his soft black eyes that witnessed daily carnage still bore a hopeful sheen. His friends, the two or three who remained, called him Junior even though his father’s name was Carl.
Lamar huddled beneath his hoodie as he hurried to the apartment he and his mother shared. It was almost time for dinner, and she was probably standing by the living room window, scanning the street until he returned. His eyes stung as he thought of the man he barely remembered. Lamar was a toddler when his father was killed. Carl had been holed up in a Methodist church on Manchester with twenty other teens when he was gunned down. Lamar didn’t think of his father often, but his looming execution date made him realize how stark indeed was the absence of maleness in his life.
One less person to mourn me, Lamar thought, running a hand over the scar on his forehead. There were no grandfathers, uncles or older male cousins for him to look up to. Most of the teens in his community became fathers at a young age. It wasn’t uncommon to see 13-year-old boys cradling wailing infants, even though they could ill afford babies and were still children themselves. But they wanted to leave some fleshy footprint before they were killed, some reminder that they had once rough-housed and loved and dreamed in this world.
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