This Little Light

 

A Small Charlotte Boy Teaches a Big Lesson

by Kimberly Lawson

 

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Credit: Darling Media Group. One Charlotte held a unity march in November in Uptown

In late September, a shroud of darkness appeared to fall over Charlotte. Another black man was killed by police, and people responded with anger and distrust. One kindergartener, though, chose to share a little light.

Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was shot and killed in northeast Charlotte on a Tuesday by police after they reported he exited his vehicle holding a gun. Witnesses said Scott, a father, didn’t have a weapon. Later that evening, people outraged over what appeared to be another shooting of an unarmed black man took to the streets to protest.

But 5-year-old Jayden Hooker, who lives with his family just a few miles away from where the incident took place, wanted to do something positive for police. He’d heard that a few officers had gotten hurt during demonstrations the night of Scott’s death, and asked his mom if he could visit the police station.

“I want to give them hugs so they’re not scared,” Jayden reportedly told his mom. She agreed, and the little boy drew a sign with the words “Free Hugs,” which he wore around his neck. He also brought glazed doughnuts with him; officers at the University City Division were thrilled.

Jayden’s small gesture of kindness spoke volumes, but for a city marred by racial tensions and socioeconomic disparities, it was just that—a small gesture.

It’s no secret that Charlotte has some big problems. To understand the fire fueling the protests earlier this year, one only needs to look at the results of a 2014 study on economic mobility. Research out of Harvard University and University of California-Berkeley found that among the nation’s 50 largest cities, Charlotte was dead last in upward mobility—meaning children have a harder time climbing out of poverty here than in any other major metropolitan area.

For their part, business leaders are seeking out solutions. In February, a group of public, private and nonprofit organizations (including AT&T, the Charlotte Knights, PNC Bank, Central Piedmont Community College, and more) came together to form a coalition called Charlotte Will, with the goal of raising awareness of Charlotte’s economic mobility problem.

Another initiative called One Charlotte formed shortly after the protests caught national attention, this time organized by executives from Bank of America, Carolinas HealthCare System and Novant Health. Jesse Cureton, a Novant Health executive and one of the co-founders, said during an announcement in October that the initiative was started to “acknowledge the pain and to put into action a plan that would address core, systemic issues that create inequities in the Charlotte community.”

“We must create a new narrative about Charlotte,” Cureton emphasized.

But in order for real change to begin to take place, it’s going to take more than a handful of coalitions and task forces. Every single person who calls Charlotte home needs to do his or her part and simply show up when it’d be easier not to. One way is by donating time, money or goods to one of the city’s many nonprofits working to better the community.

All of this is especially important now as one of the most divisive presidential elections of this generation is finally over. New leadership can bring uncertainty. One of the best ways to deal with that kind of apprehension is to look ahead and focus on what we do have power over, and that’s our own actions.

Jayden Hooker’s mother told media that she was proud of her son the day he visited the police station and offered free hugs. “I think it honestly shows you that a 5-year-old can teach us a lot about how we should treat each other during times like these,” she said, according to CBS News.

If more people were like little Jayden, eager to do something, anything, to bring a little light into the world, the impact could be phenomenal.

To find out how to begin supporting local nonprofits, visit ShareCharlotte.org.

 

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