It is an awful sound. Guttural and raw. A teenaged boy sobbing. It is the worst sound and it twists my insides and I am fighting back tears. Not for the boy these boys are weeping for. I did not know Zac Olumegbon. Or more correctly, I do not remember him. He was the little brother of my little sister’s best friend. She had the most serious face, I remember. I always wondered why children here always looked so serious. Like they had the world of worries. Perhaps they do, living in this corner of Babylondon.
And if I have run away from Trinidad hoping to escape the endless statistics of little black boys killing each other for honour, to regain their misplaced manhood, I have run to the wrong place.
Brixton, despite the gentrification and the nice gastro pubs and the belligerent foxes, is one of those London places where crime happens. I don’t see the Eastern European whores in the park anymore and outside the Library they’ve made it all shiny and new. But there are still old homeless people and young drugged up people and sad drunk people of all ages. They do not go away despite the shiny new surfaces.
The sight of crying children is unbearable. I guess because I take such a pragmatic view of death. It happens. It is natural. Zac’s life as one of the speaker’s says, has been stolen. Like a chain from someone’s neck. Like the childhood of all these young people who have to say goodbye to a boy who has not yet lived.
They stabbed him. Children stabbed him. Children like him. What can they possibly know of life to warrant killing a 15 year old. What could they possibly be so sure of that they can take another life?
I look at the faces of my sisters’ friends. They are young and old at the same time. Too much living too soon. I cherish my own sheltered childhood. That I got to doubt myself and make believe and wish and dream and never once wonder if someone was going to deny me the chance to make mistakes.
My fought back tears are not for Zac. They are rather for his friends and family. Hundreds of them. Gathered in grief on this bleakest of summer days. There are long silences punctuated only by half stifled sobs and sniffles.
The police stay a respectable distance. No profiling now. No microwaving of leftover sus laws.
A young man read/raps Psalm 37 in the rhythm and truth of his Sath Landin twang. The cheeky boys from the bus hold each other and cry silently, and then wipe the tears away as if they are angry with their leaking eyes.
My fought back tears are for them. For their anger and grief. For his mother and his sister and my sisters and all the young women here who will have to find a way to keep loving these men who are at war with themselves.
What war the Pastor asks. What war can they fight when they own nothing? What post code, what block belongs to them? What property do they own when they live in state provided housing, are second generation immigrants? Where do they belong? Not even to themselves.
These children cry and my mother instinct moans helplessly. There is no consoling for this kind of grief. You can’t stick a dummy in the mouth of a generation that is becoming accustomed to burying their own.
I leave before it is finished. Leave his mother reading the mountain of tributes. Leave behind Zac Olumegbon, who was the little brother of my little sisters friend. They hope he has not died in vain. All these people who have come to weep for him. They hope no more will have to shed tears like this again. Still, sirens wail in the distance, louder than Zac’s mother, louder than the thud of a boy fainting from grief, louder than the shaky voices of his school friends crying out to Christ for mercy. On this bleak summer day.