My youngest brother was a close friend of Kristian Marche, the two-sport star from Imhotep who was shot in the head before he could attend Penn State on a track scholarship.
The friendship made sense. Both Marche and my brother, Ade Jones, were track stars who played for Imhotep’s championship football team. Both had dreams of going to college. Both had bright futures ahead of them.
There was one major difference. My brother made it to college, having graduated from high school a year before. Kristian Marche did not because, last week, just days before he was to leave for Penn State, Marche was shot in the head.
His is a story that matters to me. Not just because my father would frequently drive him home from football practice. Not even because my brother shed tears when Marche was killed. Kristian Marche’s story matters to me because his is a story we seldom hear.
He is the exception behind the assumption. He is the young black man whose life was centered on achievement. He is the student who was headed for something more. He is the sympathetic victim whose story would be national news were it not for his skin color.
As it stands, though, Kristian’s story is most important to those who loved him. This includes his mother, Iona Bryan-Burrell, who declined to be interviewed for this column because she is mourning her son. A track star in her own right, Bryant-Burrell emigrated here from Jamaica in search of a better life. She saw early on that her son inherited her talent. And she nurtured that talent. She drove him to succeed. She pushed him to the edge of success, and her dreams for him were shattered in an instant by a gunshot.
I grew up in the West Oak Lane community where the shooting happened. I live not far from there now. That’s how I know there must be someone who’s aware of what happened. I know there must be someone who can bring this killer to justice.
But solving this murder is only the beginning. We must solve what’s wrong in our society.
Something is wrong when our brightest stars are snuffed out before they can shine. Something is wrong when witnesses cannot get the protection they need to come forward. Something is wrong when we don’t value ourselves enough to value our brothers. Something is wrong when killing is the only way to settle a dispute.
I mourn for Kristian Marche’s mother, who now must bury her son, along with the dreams she had for him. I mourn for my brother and father, who knew Kristian Marche personally. I mourn for the track athletes from other schools who saw Kristian Marche as a role model.
Most of all I mourn for our community, because, if the killing doesn’t stop, we will lose the very future our ancestors fought and died for. And that will be the biggest loss of all.
You can hear Solomon Jones weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon on Praise 107.9 FM.