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  • Writer's picture@ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

How Many Names Can’t We Say

A native of Caye Caulker, Belize, talked about losing his son in Brooklyn, New York. (Photo by Betsy Steel)


My son and I had found a “take-out” on Caye (pronounced “key”) Caulker, a coral island near the Belize Barrier Reef.

After soaking, sitting and swimming for hours at the Split, the Caribbean body of water that separates the island, we were famished, and we returned to the street outside of a house, where the cook’s daughter would come out to take orders and return with bags of food.

A small knot of us had ordered empanadas, enchiladas and guarnaches. The food was mouthwatering, but I doubt that it was cooked on any more than four burners. So, we had time to talk with each other.

My son and I were Belizean from Portugal. I said that it was his first trip to Belize at age 13. Four women retirees from Belize City had ordered before us. They wore colorful dresses and wide smiles, ready to make the most of their weekend away. A solitary man in his 40s had ordered after us. He did not say much at first.

Then, his story unfolded, without any prodding from us, in a monotone delivery.

He said that he had lived in New York for years and had come back, recently, to his native Caye Caulker.

He told us that he had taught high school in Brooklyn. His son, who was 17, had been returning home late from school after an activity. At a subway station, the police shot and killed him, he said.

His son had matched the description of someone who was wanted for a nearby robbery. He wore a hoodie and carried a backpack. He was young, and he was Black.

All of us offered our condolences. Now, we were in as much shock as he still seemed to be.

That conversation happened five years ago.

On April 11, when I saw the news of the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright, 20, in Minnesota, I thought, “Again?”

Yet, what frightens me most are the many Black people whose deaths at the hands of police were not videotaped or publicized in the media.

Imagine . . .

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