Death of 'Hungry' another statistic, another tragedy

I didn't really know Jermaine Birch, the 22-year-old man shot multiple times and killed in Lexington on Tuesday.

I knew "Hungry," a man full of life and humanity. Hungry was Birch's nickname.

When people told me he had died, I shook my head, saddened that another young man's life had ended foolishly. Another family would have to grieve. Another mother would have to remind herself to breathe.

Hungry could bring a smile to your face whenever you saw him. One of his big hugs could squeeze the dampness out of a soggy day.

I first met Hungry when he was a child, just starting to play in the Police Athletic League's Youth Football program, as was my older son.

Hungry had problems controlling his anger if he believed he had been wronged, and he was impulsive, but so were most of the other players then. Hungry was just much bigger.

The coaches learned to deal with it and to channel that anger and immaturity into outstanding plays on the field. He could barrel through smaller opponents or stop their forward progress without flinching. Having Hungry on your side almost assured a win.

By middle school, he was a part of the opposition as he and my older son attended different schools. When I looked out on the field and saw Hungry, I would mentally give up any chance we had of winning.

Although my son gave up on football, Hungry continued finding success on the field. I was glad to see he was still garnering praise as a senior at Henry Clay High School.

After that, I lost track of Hungry. I had to focus my attention on my two teenage boys, both of whom were still immature and behaving that way.

According to Hungry's mother, Cheryl Birch, on the day he was killed, he went to a home where his girlfriend was staying after receiving a phone call from her. He may have been angry and probably was seeking answers.

What he found should not have been death. But it was, and the same is true for more and more young men, black and white.

According to recent FBI figures, submitted by local police agencies, a black man was six times more likely than a white man to be the victim of a homicide in 2008. And, more than likely, that deceased black man knew his killer, who was also black.

In fact, the report showed, white and black men, ages 17 to 30, were likely to be both the victims and killers.

Our young men are killing each another.

We can continue to attend funerals and trials. We can continue to visit the cemetery or a prison. Or we can demand more.

Some people who read of Hungry's death felt no grief. They have become desensitized to our youth dying. They assume that because the death didn't affect their family, it doesn't matter.

I recall folks saying the same thing about illegal drug use several decades ago, when it was the scourge of the ghetto but only a news report in rural areas. Now, drugs are everywhere.

Maybe we can glean something from that history and keep our young people alive.

For Hungry's sake, let's take action before violence spills into any more of our back yards.

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