There is an understanding among all humans that they will most likely not make it out of this world alive; the only uncertainty in that process is the how, when, and why. Among African-American males who have often lived lives littered with senseless violence that they have served as both the perpetrator and victim, there is generally an absence of an expectation for longevity.
I can remember when news reports detailed during the nineties that if an African-American male lived to twenty-one, he was now out of the danger zone for being murdered in an American street. Then the number raised to twenty-five, a number that frustrated me because I had yet to reach that milestone. Truthfully, it was not until I was well into my thirties that I no longer felt the daunting shadow of the grim reaper.
Unfortunately, Will Smith, age 34, did not escape what seems to be an ever-present shadow of death that continually hovers over African-American males in today’s shadow. And I must relate that I am heartbroken over Will’s death in New Orleans, Louisiana, in what appears to be a road rage incident that left his beloved wife shot twice in the leg.
Our paths crossed in September of 2000 when he arrived at The Ohio State University as an 18-year-old freshman man-child. During my tenure working with the office of Student Athlete Support Services it was rare for the football coaches to come into our area to drive home how important a kid was to the future of the football program, their way of emphasizing that there was no room for a classroom misstep because we needed this kid on the field immediately. Will Smith was one of the three kids that I received such a message about, LeCharles Bentley and Ryan Pickett being the others.
In my role with the Student Athlete Support Services Office, I had the privilege to see Will on a daily basis and got to know him as a hard-working young man who literally handled his business on not only the gridiron, but also the classroom. Surprisingly friendly and affable in his demeanor, there was never a moment away from the gridiron that Will’s face was not adorned with a smile. Put simply, he was way past being a decent human being; he was in actuality a phenomenal person that it was an honor to know.
The story is all too common, African-American male senselessly shot down in an American street, leaving a wife and children behind. Unfortunately for all who knew him, they realize that Will Smith was somebody important to everyone who had the privilege to cross paths with him. Rest-in-Peace Will, you will never be forgotten by those who loved you and that is quite possibly the only ‘silver lining’ one could find at such a moment as this.
See you later and never forget that you are loved, man!!!!!!
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016.