Jaymire Rustin, 16, shot once in the chest at 12:31 a.m. New Year’s Day in what community members say was a dispute over a cell phone, was Philly’s first murder victim of 2013. The funeral was Monday, and mourners packed Abiding Truth Ministries, one block west of the 5600 block of Carpenter Street, where Rustin was slain. Friends wore tributes to “J-Money” on hoodies and jackets: “Rest in paradise Jeezy, My lil bro forever. Sunrise: 02/20/96 Sunset: 01/01/13” and “Jaymire: The good die young.”
Memorials poured onto Facebook and Twitter. On Jan. 4, Rev. Michael White of Good Samaritan Baptist Church convened a vigil at 57th Street and Baltimore Avenue. “You can be out here tonight with Jaymire tatted on your arm and pasted on the back of your jacket, but if your mind-set does not change about how you live … you put yourself into a predicament to fall as a victim to the same kind of crime,” White told the crowd that night. “Young black men — there’s too many of us in the ground and not enough of us in college. There’s too many of us in the ground and in prison.”
Kamonne Jordan, 18, was charged with the murder. His house, two doors from the site of the crime, caught fire on Jan. 3 and now sits blackened, windows and door boarded up with plywood.
At the vigil, I asked a young woman who grew up with Rustin what she thought was behind such shootings. “I guess rage. People not thinking … not knowing that it’s not worth it. And it’s stupid. Because of one emotion — you rode off of one single emotion and shoot … and then did something permanent to somebody’s family.” When asked what fueled the rage, she sobbed too hard to answer.
I won’t speculate as to the mind-set of Rustin’s killer, but it’s not hard to guess at what’s wrong with this city: The black unemployment rate is 14.6 percent, 31 percent of black Philadelphians live in poverty and only 44 percent of students graduate in four years at Rustin’s underfunded West Philadelphia High School, an essentially segregated school at which 96.5 percent of students are black. Our state prisons, where Rustin’s alleged killer may soon reside, boast 51,184 inmates, who are disproportionately non-white and from Philadelphia.
In 2012, 331 Philadelphians were murdered, the most since 2008. And there are stories — and grieving mothers, girlfriends and communities — behind each data point. Take a moment to remember Jaymire, a beloved young man whom his West Philadelphia community will not soon forget.
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