I met a great kid earlier this week. His name is Lincoln Plair, a twenty year old from Richmond.
He’s the same age as my son. He works at Pogo Park, a non-profit in Richmond dedicated to rebuilding and restoring playgrounds for children. He’s real popular and his personality attracts friends young, old, white, Latino, Filipinos and any type of human you can think of. He was recently hired at Pogo Park after a year of volunteer service at the Elm Park play lot in Richmond’s Iron Triangle neighborhood.
This is the perfect job for Lincoln because he loves working in his community. He loves the people of Richmond and it gives him the flexibility to be nearby to help his ailing father. This is good news in a place and time where good news doesn’t come easy. Growing up he mostly remembers the good times with family and friends and the look back and laugh memories. Like the times his cousin would tattle to his Mom just to see him get a whupping, or the playful flirtations with real and would be girl friends, some more serious than others. While courting one of his paramours he helped her fall in love with the Lord and she now dedicates her life to making the community more peaceful through music and community activism. One cousin always thought he was too soft for Richmond, a tough town where non-violence seems like the road less traveled. She begged him to toughen up, take a harder line even with his own family if necessary. Lincoln would stand his ground saying, “I’m not trying to fight my own family.”
You don’t hear a lot about the 99% like Lincoln in Richmond’s Iron Triangle – the toughest hood in one of the toughest cities in our country. Young people like Lincoln who graduate high school, say no to the drug industrial complex and simultaneously avoid police and gangs while trying to climb up the ladder one rung at a time.
Regretfully I met Lincoln through the stories of family and friends at his funeral. He’s the grandson of one of the deacons in my church. On a Monday afternoon this March Lincoln was shot and killed while washing a car. Witnesses at the scene say he saved two little children from the spray of gunfire. The community was shocked by this senseless murder.
One of his friends said when you hear about something like this it’s often expected and not a surprise. But this one was a shocker. Lincoln was not involved with the wrong crowd, not someone with known “affiliations”. He was not a usual suspect. At the funeral his family called for peace in the streets, for an end to the killing. His sister pleaded for no retaliation because Lincoln wouldn’t want that.
There was coverage of his murder because of the senseless nature of the crime and the quality of the victim. Documentary filmmaker Mariel Waloff took footage during the funeral. The film will tell of the struggle to make positive change in Richmond. Lincoln’s positive life spread love and hope in twenty short years. One can only wonder how much better off we all would be if he’d have just another twenty.
On Sunday after church Lincoln’s grandfather walked up and handed me a thank you card. A feeling of unease came over me. It felt all backwards. I should have had a thank you card for him for the opportunity to meet Lincoln Plair.
Norm Weekes lives in the East Bay and volunteers with non-profits working in social justice and digital literacy. He is a volunteer at The Mentoring Center and Oakland Digital.