On my morning drive to work, it’s extremely rare for me to venture from my routine route – 580 West towards Berkeley, then to the exit that takes me to Martin Luther King Jr. Way (i.e. MLK) – the bridge between North Oakland and South Berkeley. Along this trek, I see the usual markers along my path – Children’s Hospital to my right. Upon approaching the intersection of 51st Street and MLK, I have to be cautious of the numerous jaywalkers – the majority of which seem to be hospital staff. I continue on, approaching the corner of 54th Street and MLK – as I glance to the right, I have fond memories of the beauty salon I used to get my hair styled at when I was a high schooler – now the property is a tax preparation center. The light changes, and I move on. I approach the corner of 59th Street and MLK, which on the surface, seems like your usual intersection. A four-way stop with traffic signals perched upon cold, steel posts. Throughout the year, these posts all look the same. Except for the month of January – in which one of these posts stand out from the rest.
For the past 6 years, the post on the northeastern corner of the intersection is decorated with flowers, cards, balloons, and a picture. For years, I would past by this scene and reflect – recognizing this all too common image that we see in my city. It was a shrine for someone that lost their life at this scene. A few years ago, I finally stopped to get a glance at the picture. In some way, wanting to get to know this person that was so affectionately appreciated by her loved ones, and not forgotten. Upon approaching the post, I felt a sense of guilt and shame – I didn’t know this person. What gave me the right to approach such a sacred place. But there I stood, staring at the picture. She was young. She was beautiful. She was no longer here. When I got home, I hoped on Yahoo! – hoping to get more of a sense of who this young lady was: Up popped this article:
Her name was Kikhiesha Brooks. On July 21, 2007, the 21 year-old single mother was in the passenger seat, when the car she was riding in was riddled with bullets at the intersection of 59th Street and MLK in North Oakland. The shooting happened at 1 pm. She died 30 minutes later. She was on her way to a family reunion. To this date, her killers have not been identified or caught. At the time of her death, Kikhiesha’s daughter was 2 years-old. I can only imagine the pain and anguish this child probably feels to this day.
So the next time you come across a similar scene – decorated with flowers, cards, balloons, and candles – please send healing thoughts to that person’s loved ones. My hope is that with the advent of these scenes in the city of Oakland, that we do not become so numb and unaffected by the pain that the loss of human life presents.