Community Voices

These days, even wakes for the dead can be dangerous places to be

In the black community, wakes — where the memory of a loved one is celebrated in a party-like setting usually the night before the funeral — are a tradition. Neighbors and friends come, bringing with them covered dishes and baked goods and familiar and often funny stories about the deceased. Such gatherings are held not only to honor the deceased, but also to offer comfort to the families.

On a good evening, the gathering is usually held outside. Nowadays, however, a gathering — indoors or outdoors — seems to be a deadly mistake in Miami’s black community, especially if the deceased has died a violent death. It is almost a given that there will be some kind of random gun violence, usually a drive-by shooting, disrupting the wake.

Just past midnight Aug. 26, someone drove past Marla West’s home in West Little River and shot into the crowd of family and friends at a wake for West’s son Devonair “Deb” Blake, who was killed two weeks prior. Two people sitting in a car in front of the house were hit, as well as four others in front of the home. Killed were Isaiah “Zay” Solomon, 15, West’s cousin, and a family friend Tafari “Fari” Dorsett, 22.

But wait. Barely had the gunsmoke cleared, when on Sunday there was another shooting, this time of Jada Page, an 8-year-old girl. Her dad, James, was shot too. He’s expected to survive, but as of Tuesday, Jada was brain dead and on life support, family members said.


I wonder how her 1st day at a new school is going? I miss her! #4thgrader #mybiggirl

A photo posted by Rosalind Brown (@selfienista_ro) on

My heart feels the pain of the the family, just as it has in the past when someone — especially a child, any child — dies because of violence.

Right now, it seems that the killing spree, in which blacks gun down other blacks, goes on. It’s almost like playing a game of “shoot’em up.” Only in this game the stakes are high: Somebody will lose his or her life and no one wins. There is no starting over. Death is for real in this game. In the movies, the “shoot ’em up” bad guys always get caught. Not so in real life. Somewhere out there, scores of shooters are roaming around free, leaving a trail of blood.

A few years before he died in 1984, I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Benjamin Mays, who served as president of Morehouse College in Atlanta, and was a mentor to the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

While I can’t remember Mays’ exact words, I remember that his quote went something like this: “I am afraid that in the year 2025, someone will write about this great race of people who survived slavery and segregation, but who no longer exists ... because they didn’t love themselves enough.”

I don’t know, but it seems that Mays’ quote was a prophecy for this day and time. I, too, am feeling a vast lack of love among we blacks. I believe, like Mays, that the rampant disrespect for life is because we don’t love ourselves.

Although the disrespect seems to be spreading, I believe it can be reversed.

First, we must go back to the basics, when parents taught their children the importance of self-respect, as well as respect for others — their neighbors, teachers, and the elderly. Of treating others like they want to be treated.

Then, we must work to put in place better gun laws. I believe this is the only way to keep guns out of the hands of irresponsible people — especially the young.

When this happens, I believe people won’t be able to reach for a gun first, to settle a simple argument, which will also bring to a halt the so-called road rage communities everywhere are experiencing. But that’s another column.


The Afterlife Discussion Group will meet from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sept. 10 at the West Dade Regional Library, 9445 Coral Way.

The topic will be “Reincarnation” and there will be an open discussion to explore the subject. The meeting is open to believers, those who are not sure and the just curious, and it’s free.

For more information. contact Donna Mello at


First Church of North Miami, United Church of Christ will host a free, back-to-school concert at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 9. The concert is a part of the church’s “Dynamic Praise Experience and After Party’ a contemporary church service and concert that is held on the second Friday of each month. The service is geared to teenagers and young adults, ages 20-32.

The event features a live band playing Christian hip hop and Christian contemporary music. The Sept. 9 concert will feature several artists performing live. They include recording artist J-Bez; Vaughn Keys; Perfection Mime Group from First Baptist Church of Piney Grove; Lil Miami, and Jallen Musiq.

For more information call 305-354-2236.


Auditions for the holiday production of “No Easy Miracle,” to be performed in December at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, 6161 NW 22nd Ave. in Liberty City, will be from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 8.

Actors, singers, musicians to fill the multiple roles of four men, four women, two children and tree extras are needed. Interested persons should contact Gail Willingham 305-633-3583 or email


A warm welcome to the Rev. Kit C. Robison, who on Sunday was installed as the pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, at 254 Curtiss Pky. in Miami Springs.


Families from throughout the country will join Tom Joyner at the 2016 Tom Joyner Family Reunion from Thursday through Monday at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, for the annual event called “Family Party with a Purpose.”

Since 2003, Joyner has hosted the event, along with Allstate Insurance Co., which features an all-star lineup to include inspirational music and speakers, comedians, and popular entertainers such as Jill Scott, El DeBarge and lots more.

There may still be tickets available for you and your family. Go to, for more information.

Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Religion Notes, c/o Neighbors, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172 or email Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.