Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I thought about Prince today...


..my friend, Prince Jones, who was murdered by an undercover PG County police officer on September 1, 2000, at the age of 25. He doesn't cross my mind quite as often as he used to, but certainly when new tragedies like Sean Bell arise, Prince is foremost in my mind. And even still, when i think of my time at HU, Prince is in the mix of memories, and again I am reminded that he just isn't here anymore. He was followed out of Maryland, through DC, into VA where he was eventually shot after trying to protect himself by ramming his Jeep Cherokee into the black Monterro SUV that had blocked him. HIT Eight times out of 16 shots fired. Five shots in the back. Standing well over 6' tall, he was allegedly mistaken by the officer for a man of 5'6" and stocky build who apparently had stolen a police firearm. From what I remember, Prince was trying to reach the house where his fiance and daughter were sleeping at the time he was killed. Unimaginable to hear of someone you've never met, let alone someone who you sat with and called Friend. If it weren't for the media coverage and court documents that I've uncovered on the internet in recent years, I still would not believe it. It's been a while since I've tried to put together the current pieces of what's been going on in his case, but from what I read (I gather) things have become a bit contentious in the wake of the $3.7 million that's been awarded/revoked/appealed/settled between his mother, his fiance/the mother of his daughter- who was an infant at the time of his murder, and his father (which hopefully will be resolved). There are so many details of which I basically know nothing (in the grand scheme of things), and certainly I'm not in the slightest position to make some type of judgment of who would deserve what between whom... I'm just a person far removed from the situation but remembers a wonderful brotha who once stood with us.

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To a friend I love with all of God’s agape, to whom I am grateful for showing me the essence of thoughtfulness, joy, smiles, & humanity, and who, almost twelve years later, is still as cherished as the day we met.

Charming Prince Carmen

At a time when Howard University's main campus was still a foreign sea of unknown, I realized the power of a smiling face and outstretched hand the day I met Prince Carmen Jones: Freshman year, August 1996. I first met Prince one evening while waiting for the shuttle to Meridian Hill Hall. I noticed this tall brother coming towards the shuttle stop on 4th street
across from the Quad on the back side of campus. When he reached the stop, with one of those classic broad- Prince Jones- smiles, he introduced himself. "Wow!” I said. “Prince? That's you're name?!" We made small talk, me finding out that he was an old head around the HU community, but it was all good. “As long as you're taking care of business, take as long as you need, right!?” we laughed. Eventually, the shuttle came and we continued to chit chat until we reached our Meridian Hall destination and went our separate ways.

Imagine my surprise that Saturday when walking onto campus from Georgia Ave I ran into my new friend in front of Cramton Auditorium amongst a bus load of school-aged children. "HEY! What's going on over here?" I asked. "This organization I volunteer with is taking these kids to the skating rink... What are you doing?" Before, "Ooh nothing much…" came out of my mouth, Prince was already convincing me to come with them. "Right NOW!?!?!? Don't I have time to go change?" "NO!” he said, “Come on! If you're going you have to get on the bus right now! COME ON!!!" I was convinced. "Okay, I guess…!" I mean, I didn't have any plans and when was the last time I went skating anyway!? Needless to say, my spur of the moment skating adventure was a complete blast! Especially since being a new student there were limited off campus activities I participated in, and I had Prince to thank for the invitation.

Over the next four years, being that I developed a major yard-chill-mode of operation, I ran into Prince wearing his black cowboy hat quite often as I chilled on the steps of Fine Arts, or anywhere else on campus I saw fit. There aren’t too many folks whom I can say this about, but EVERYTIME I ran into Prince I was received with a RADIANT SMILE and ENCOURAGING WORD. By my senior year, it wasn't uncommon for Prince to express how proud he was to see that I’d “developed into such a respectable young woman taking care of business!” People are often so quick to voice their displeasure or problems with you that it's really substantial to receive genuine encouragement from our brethren. Maybe it was Prince's example that led me to become such a gregarious sunflower during my four years Howard. There is a thin line between confidence and arrogance, the latter which I have zero tolerance for. And Prince honestly knew the measure of a confident and spirited existence.

And he also knew the measure of a helping hand, because there were times when I needed a ride to or from somewhere and if I saw Prince and asked, he happily obliged. One such episode was last fall when I had taken the metro to Dave & Buster's for a friend's birthday party. It was, as always, a pleasant surprise to run into Prince and he ended up joining us for the party! When it was over we were trying to decide how everyone was going to squeeze in the cars to go back to campus (since there were more people riding back than had come to D&B's). Prince was quick with his offer, "You know I'll give you a ride, sis!" When we got into his black Jeep Cherokee, one of my favorite songs, Fred Hammond's "Blessed" came blaring through the speakers. "Let me find out you're into Fred" I smiled. "Yeah" Prince answered, "I listen to this song every morning. The Lord has really blessed me." He told me that he was not in school that semester because there were some things in his life that he was getting together. It did then and still gives me comfort to know that he truly found his joy in the Lord when he was here.

And even though in this human reality we can't comprehend why our friend was taken from us in such a detestable manner, we can find our peace and confidence in knowing as Prince has departed his earthly body, absence from the flesh is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthian 5: 6-8). And so I don't try to figure out why or how this happened, because I’ll NEVER know in this lifetime. BUT I now smile brighter than ever knowing that I WILL see him again.

September 11, 2000

2 comments:

arthvr said...

mai,
as always i am impressed by your writing, and your way with words.
i feel the humanity and compassion you put forth.
arthvr

aisha said...

i remember that incident...it was so sad.