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)”