Tragedy reminder to keep kids close

Published 12:28 pm Thursday, October 24, 2019

The saga revolving around Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney, which began with an amber alert issued for the Birmingham three-year-old more than a week ago and ended when her remains were found in a dumpster Tuesday, has come to a tragic and horrifying end.

While this little girl, who was snatched from a birthday party never to be seen again alive by those who loved her and knew her, is not a local youngster, she is in so many ways representative of our young people and the fraught reality they face right outside the doors of their homes.

Surely, anyone who has children at home can empathize with the agony that McKinney’s parents are currently facing – I have two children at home, my son is four and my daughter is six, and even losing track of them on a playground for a handful of seconds is enough to send me into an anxiety-ridden panic attack until I’ve seen their little faces bounding past my line of vision again – but, more so, any person with a functioning heart can appreciate the horrific irony in the fact that the most innocent among us are the most susceptible to the worst wrongs plagued upon our civilization.

There will inevitably be finger pointing as this despicable crime is played out in headlines and court rooms over the coming weeks and months, but the greatest lesson that we, as a people, can take away from this terrifying scene is that there is a never-ending need for each of us to watch over the younger generation and protect them diligently while they are still too young to protect themselves.

The people who committed this crime are obviously suffering from some chronic illness of the soul, one that compromises a person’s sense of humanity and makes a frothing beast of any that comes near its range of contamination, and we should not think for a moment that a failure of responsibility caused this epic tragedy.

Instead, we should recommit ourselves to doing all that is in our power to ensure that the youngest among us are afforded the opportunity to live full and happy lives – we don’t only do this by keeping a watchful eye over the young people riding bikes or playing ball in our communities, we do it also by providing them with opportunities for enrichment, investing in their schools, ridding their streets of drug dealers and violent criminals and ensuring that their parents have access to quality healthcare and decent-paying jobs.

The city’s “Monster March” seems like a strange connecting point to this catastrophic injury, but attempts by the mayor to slap a parade fee on the annual event, which multiple people stated has never happened before, at the last minute, is indicative of the kind of indifference toward our youth that causes them to suffer in varying degrees – surely, there is no logical reason to try to impede an event designed to give children something fun to do.

Thankfully, the Selma City Council roundly rejected that effort and, beyond that, there are signs large and small that Selma is doing its due diligence for our children – the improved scores in both the county and city school systems are indicative of that; the work by the MJ 93-90 Foundation, the Blackbelt Benefit Group (BBG), the Black Belt Community Foundation and so many others are indicative of that; the ongoing efforts by local law enforcement to clean our streets through the “Weed and Seed” program are indicative of that; the multitude of arts programs, learning opportunities and so much more are all indicative of that commitment to the next generation.

What happened to McKinney and her family should not have to be endured by any family anywhere and it is my sincere hope that those who committed these atrocities will be crushed beneath the full weight of the justice system, but let it be a reminder to all of us that our children – not only the ones in our homes, but the ones that populate our neighborhoods and school yards – are the most valuable resource we have as a people and nothing should stand between us and our most profound responsibility of ensuring that they have the opportunity to grow and thrive wherever they may be.