Dear PoP – ‘Ashley McRea – shooting at the funeral’

“Dear PoP,

Meet Amanda and Alexis. They and their little sister Ashley and their mom Deborah lived down the hall in my building in Columbia Heights for several years in the early 90s. We were friends. They used to come over and bake cookies, dress up in my junk jewelry and scarves, play games and hang out. We carved Halloween pumpkins, I took them to the library. Alexis once wrote a story on my computer it started – “Once a pond of time.”

I wasn’t a mentor or big sister or anything like that – I was just a neighbor and they were fun kids – bright, sweet, goofy, but thanks to their mother Deborah, also considerate and well-mannered – good kids. I called them the “Triple A’s.” Over the years as they grew into young women I saw less of them, but we would run into each other in the neighborhood and catch up.

On Sep. 18, the youngest sister, Ashley, was murdered. Today at her funeral, there was a shooting. Now – there are the usual postings on the usual blogs – gangs, crews, section 8, drive-bys, hoodlums – end of the world etc. etc. But perhaps people might want to know a little about the real people in the center of this tragedy.

This is a family from our own neighborhood – even if, for most of you, that part of the neighborhood is a different world. Please let yourselves think past all the sensationalism – she was killed after leaving a nightclub! She was friends with gang members! She lived in Section 8 housing! Please think of all the possible ways of life beyond the stereotypes, because Ashley and her family lived far beyond the stereotypes. Every 21 year old woman goes out dancing, and most of us have gotten in some trouble because of it. Every young person growing up in DC knows someone in a gang. That doesn’t mean much. For many years Deborah was indeed a “welfare mom” living in Section 8 housing. And within that system she worked hard to raise strong girls who are doing well with their lives. I thank goodness – and pay my taxes gladly – that those precious little girls weren’t living on the street or in some crap hotel.

There will be plenty of time to debate what “should be done” and to hopefully examine the pathology – for it is a pathology as deadly as plague – that is infecting an element of our society, but this is not the time.

(Photos are used with the permission of the family)”

37 Comment

  • Great letter. Thanks to the writer for sending it in (with pictures), and I loved the “once a pond” anecdote…Thanks posting this, PoP.

  • Thanks. Until we start looking at these kids as human beings with lives and hopes and dreams, we will never begin to know how to help them. I am always hearing people say, “they don’t have any value of human life”. We need to value their lives first.

  • That is very sad. Why can’t people just learn how to respect each other. All of this violence is pointless.

  • Thanks for posting this, PoP.

  • Thank you for posting this, POP and thanks to the writer for giving us a real look at this family. My heart goes out to Ashley’s mother and sisters.

  • Thank you for the loving tribute.

  • Seriously, thank you to the sender and thanks to PoP for posting…this is why neighborhood blogs are important. I hope more than a few people pause and consider this.

  • it was a nice letter which humanizes the senseless killings. But prior to preaching about “pathology” and how you are glad to pay taxes so they didn’t live in a crap hotel, why not question the “pathology” of proper family planning? if you are poor and on gov’t assistance then WHY IN THE WORLD are you having 4 kids.

    (…queue the attacks on my posting)

    • Troll.

    • gup, i think most folks would agree that better education on family planning is key to helping alleviate problems of poverty. i don’t think they’d agree that you have the necessary information, perspective, or insight to make a judgment on this particular family. i also think that most, as you’ve anticipated, would say that it’s in poor taste to respond to a profile of woman who has been murdered by insinuating that she should never have been born in the first place. i would say something much harsher to you and think it would make an impression.

      pop, thank you for posting this profile. and thank you to the op for writing.

      • @ 11th – i think you missed the point of the letter and my post. The author who informed us about the girls and also humanized them for us, was also attempting to give us a sociology lesson, which was my point. yes you are right the actual real world impact of my statement is that the girl shouldn’t not be born. But it certainly was not the intention. The intention was how we as a society help those less fortunate to prioritize so they don’t repeat the cycle of poverty..i.e. family planning.

        (now, crossing my finger i don’t get the “posting too fast” msg and this will actually post)

    • Empowering and educating women is step #1 of family planning, and in case you ain’t noticed women ain’t got much of either in many DC communities.

      • It’s interesting that you say that because most women at every economic level in DC have better education than their associated men. I also note that I rarely ever see anyone stand up to a woman in DC in public over any issue.

        • yea, DC is the one place in all of America (and much of the rest of the world) in which the patriarchy is non-existant and women are equally valued and empowered by society as a whole. It’s proven, because of ONE indicator (education level) and because this one guy doesn’t “see anyone stand up to a woman in DC in public over any issue.” whatever that means.

        • I know what you’re saying, after decades in the DC federal/nonprofit workforce I’ve also seen many of the extremely strong, amazing, ass-kicking black women working there who came from crappy backgrounds and often have a kid or two. Many of the “neighborhood” women (esp. grandmas!) are similar in attitude and bearing. These are not the oppressed women I refer to above, or at least not all of them. These are the women that have IMHO saved the entirety of DC-region black civilization, but sadly they are a distinct minority in their own communities, IMHO. And note many moved to PG county ASAP. Anyways, condolences to the McRea family and prayers for an end to all this.

  • So unfair…Gangs act like nothing is sacred
    “Nihil sanctum est”
    We know that her life…everyone’s life…is.

  • I feel for the family and have profound empathy. I realize it’s a human tragedy more than many and the whole thing breaks my heart. But I think it’s unnecessary to scold people who worry about the neighborhood when things like this happen. We can be understanding and still discuss consequences for our neighborhood.

    I think the passive-aggression in the letter isn’t right, and someone ought to point it out.

    • congrats on your above-average empathy.

      i don’t understand your criticism of the letter. the writer is not scolding anyone for worrying about the neighborhood. she is sharing information and trying to humanize the victim of a terrible crime. what you sense as “passive aggressive” is i think a not unreasonable defensive posture against those who would cast the victim as partly culpable in own death because they jumped to stereotype her. and she asks for time for herself and the family (not the police, mind you) to mourn this woman’s death before jumping into thoughts about what needs to be done.

      if you’re going to call out the writer, do it like a grown-up. please tell us how this letter is passive-aggressive and what the consequences for our neighborhood are that you feel she is scolding you not to spell out.

      • Having a family member die in a homicide will afford someone above average empathy. I wasn’t looking for praise.

        Accusing readers of stereotyping, thinking of this family in a different world, and condemning discussions of murderous pathology are, indeed, passive-aggressive, as is your accusation that my comment isn’t grown-up. I feel for this family and wasn’t expecting an attack. I didn’t expect to be scolded when I began reading this letter, but when I finished I felt like I’d done something wrong for thinking and discussing how to rid my neighborhood of sociopaths.

        I can mourn and consider this pathology simultaneously.

        • i apologize for the snark at the start. i thought it seemed like you were making an emotional claim to cover for the criticism below. i read that wrong and am sorry, but still don’t understand how you find this letter scolding. i don’t see anywhere in the letter discouraging you from discussing “how to rid the neighborhood of sociopaths.” i think the point of the letter is to base that conversation on informed knowledge of the folks living in the city and the challenges they face instead of stereotypes and assumptions. i’m just having a hard time understanding your reaction.

  • Quite touching, wish I could jump into the photo and play with those girls, I can hear the laughter and joy now!

    Hopefully you folks can let us know when we can proceed with expressing our concerns about the extreme level of gun violence that continues to plague our city, particularly with our children and our struggling communities of color. It’ll be very tough to find a time when some mom or sister or brother isn’t grieving though!

  • Life is so precious, why can’t killers see that.

  • Thank you so much for posting this. So often we don’t know the people/situation behind the story. I am so very sorry for your loss.

  • “i don’t think they’d agree that you have the necessary information, perspective, or insight to make a judgment on this particular family.”

    The commentariat certainly can make a judgement in the general sense- if you don’t have the financial means to support yourself, they you shouldn’t be having children you can’t afford. I don’t need insight on the family to do simple financial math.

    • Again, you’re speaking from a position of education and empowerment, which the mother may have known nothing of. Local culture in DC is extremely mysognistic, and thus the mother may have not thought of herself as anything but a “bitch” or “ho” until she got older. She may also have believed that her best hope was to make a man happy so he’d protect and provide for her, and popping out kids was a simple consequence of that and fact of life. From the photos you’ll note the kids are relatively close in age, so perhaps she wised up at some point in her later years. Most young girls having babies are not exactly doing it according to a life plan, much less in the inner city.

      What you think of as common sense is not all that common, and all your smarts wouldn’t have done you a lick of good in the environment this lady grew up in. Not everyone is the same, and not everything is easy.

  • I’m not particularly concerned about the letter being too harsh or whether the writer should be reflecting on birth control instead of the friend she has just lost, but I am concerned that there aren’t more people like this. How many neighbors are this knowledgeable about the children of the people who live on the same floor? How many would hang out with them willingly, not out of a feeling of responsibility. Not nearly enough, I fear. I know precious few like that in the building where I used to live. Regardless, I’m sorry for her loss.

  • When I heard about the shooting and car accident yesterday, my first thought was for this girl’s family, and how their grief for such an awful loss was interrupted by more violence and heartache.

    Thanks for giving some background–I certainly am thinking of the family.

    • I agree. Here is a family already suffering the violent death of a child and trying to grieve the way most Americans do through a funeral only to have it compounded by more violence and death. My heart breaks for Ms. McCrea’s mother and sisters. Regardless of their socioeconomic status they deserved the dignity to bury their daughter and sister in grace and peace and had that robbed from them.

    • amen.
      so sad.

  • Thank you for posting.

  • Thanks for posting PoP.

  • Thanks, we really needed this

  • Yes, this family has a story just like many of us. And yes often times, mothers don’t think of having a baby, become pregnant and do the best to raise them, with or without government assistance. Never in these neighborhoods do we raise children in the hopes that they will grow up to be unwed mothers or “crew” or “gang members”. We do however deal with them as these circumstances do occur. We want the best of our children and for our children. Whether we have the foresight to realize the 100 of thousands of dollars it may take to raise a child, whether or not we may need the assistance of tax paying citizens to help us raise our children, we do not wish for any of them to become just another DC statistic, (early pregnancy, welfare receipients, drug dealers, etc). Whether we are educated, gainfully employed, or reliant on the generosity of our government (most of us would rather work, earn our own money, be eligible for health insurance from our employer or that we buy, and paying for our food with money we earn) – we work with our children so that they will not do what we did or lived like we’ve lived. That they will get the proper education for sustainable employment. So that they will be contributing members of their society. And so that they will not take away from what others have achieved, within their race and in the human race in general. As you pass judgement because you made the “right decision” and did the “right things” don’t assume that we are not trying to raise our children well. And realize that there are many people who still believe that only certain people deserve and should have a good life. Neither the McCrae family nor the Coates family are just statistics. They are people, families, with the same needs, desires and wants of any of us. To live happy and whole.

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