The Newtown School Massacre: A Black and Latino Child Died Too
This is a photograph passed to my Facebook feed of the Jimmy Greene family of Newtown, Connecticut. Jimmy Greene, I have found, is a working jazz musician who was once named one of Down Beat”s 25 “young rising stars.” He has also taught music as a visiting professor at a college in Ottawa, Canada. Yesterday, the Ottawa Citizen newspaper conveyed its deepest condolences to the Greenes on the loss of their daughter.
Tenor saxophonist Jimmy Greene, who until recently taught in the University of Manitoba’s jazz program, suffered an unimaginable loss today — his daughter was one of the 20 children killed in the Connecticut school shooting.
This CBC story notes that Greene moved from Winnipeg to Newtown, Connecticut, in July, after teaching at the university for three years. Greene, who is 37, was born and raised in Connecticut. The story states that both of Greene’s children attended Sandy Hook Elementary School. A member of Greene’s family told CBC that Greene’s son was “fine” but would not speak of his daughter.
Peers of Greene, such as guitarist Peter Bernstein, pianist David Berkman and saxophonist Chad Eby, to name a few, expressed their outrage at what happened and their sympathy for Greene on Facebook last night.
Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, along with her brother Isaiah, were also the grandchildren, through their mother Nelba, of Jorge Marquez, the mayor of Manaubo, Puerto Rico, according to the Herald Sun in Australia.
Marquez-Greene and her older brother had attended Linden Christian School nearby, before moving with their parents to Newtown in July and enrolling at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Both she and her brother were inside the school when the shooter opened fire, Sun News in Canada reported. [,,,]
“We spent all day waiting for news, hoping that she was just wounded,” [Mayor] Marquez told the El Nuevo Dia newspaper.
“But her parents warned us she might not make it. They just gave us the sad news.”
Ana Marquez-Greene, one of the 20 Sandy Hook Elementary School students gunned down Friday, “was an incredibly loving and spunky kid” who loved to sing and dance, a close family friend said Saturday.
Ana, 6, was “really vivacious and affectionate,” said Noah Baerman, a Connecticut jazz pianist who has known Jimmy Greene, Ana’s father, since both men were in high school.
Baerman said Jimmy Greene and Nelba Marquez-Greene, Ana’s mother, are “two of the most loving parents I’ve ever seen.”
Baerman, who grew up Greater New Haven, now lives in Durham and teaches music at several institutions, including Charter Oak State College and Wesleyan University.
He was with Jimmy Greene and Nelba Marquez-Green as he spoke on the phone with a New Haven Register reporter Saturday, he said.
Greene and Marquez-Greene were not interested in talking about their loss, Baerman said.
Baerman declined to discuss how the family was coping with the loss. But “this is one of the most loving and caring families I’ve ever known, and it’s incomprehensive that this could happen,” he said.
The Greene-Marquez family just moved to Newtown earlier this year so Jimmy Greene, a Hartford native who grew up in Bloomfield, could take a job as a music professor and assistant coordinator of the Jazz Program at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury. He previously had spent three years teaching at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.
From what I understand, there may be a couple of other children of color who died. Yes, Ana Grace was biracial, black and Latino, but to me and for the purpose of this article, she is also a black child.
In 2009, Greene released an album called “Mission Statement.” The ninth track is a song driven by a clear, lilting saxophone and supported by light, harmonizing notes from a piano.
It starts quiet and careful, then explodes into a joyous melody. The song is named “Ana Grace.”
Because I work temp, I don’t have access to TV, much less cable during the day. I listen to 92.1, The Mic, the Clear Channel- owned progressive radio station here in Madison, while I am shuffling and organizing papers. The news broke in during Stephanie Miller. Thereafter, all sorts of rumors and speculations flew across the airwaves yesterday regarding what really happened because the media were not given anything definite from the authorities and were filling it all in with something, around and around in circles, around the clock.
Radio is still a powerful medium. In the days before TV, radio shows and news spoke to the imaginations of many. They could “see” scenes with their minds. And so it was yesterday. I could imagine the lifeless, bloodied bodies of babies. I could imagine those of my nieces and nephew at that particular age, and those of my grandniece and grandnephews. Finally, I saw myself as a little girl, fifty-two years earlier, in New Orleans, those bits and pieces that are left of how I once was. Defenseless, trusting, looking to my mother and grandparents and other grown-ups to help me negotiate the world. And the horror and the helplessness and the anger at such senseless carnage that I felt was nearly overwhelming. I took lunch outside to a little place I know on the way to work called Nettie’s Cafe. And when the day was over, I pointedly went to Willy Street Coop, a natural food store here in Madison, rather than going directly home and being a part of the helplessness once more watching TV.
Black folks have been saying this forever: the guns need to get off the streets. So much so that I feel that we’re being heard in an echo chamber or a long tunnel rather than to our politicians, our cops, and to our country. All we want is for our children not to be criminalized or stigmatized as if they are naturally prison feed or murdered by cops like rabid dogs. Many only get a decent education when they are in jail. A lot of underage shooters buy a gat in the underground illegal firearms market or they steal an uncle’s/older brother’s/daddy’s gun. Just to feel powerful. Just to feel grown. Just to feel like a gangsta. There are other ways in which to reflect manhood, but this is not one of them.
And the guns need to get out of the houses as well as ultimate weapons of control and oppression against women in domestic violence. The recent Jovan Belcher-Kassandra Perkins murder-suicide is a case in point.
Buying a gun for protection against robbers or worse, home invaders, is one thing. Possessing a rifle or two to hunt duck or geese or to shoot deer or elk for meat or sport with other like-minded individuals is yet another. But Jovan Belcher had eight legally bought guns in his possession. I’ll bet that he’d already visualized killing Kassandra in earlier confrontations. The Arizona shooter who nearly killed Gabby Giffords, and the Aurora killer also planned their murder sprees. The Columbine shooters practiced their bloody foray for at least a year. When the cops arrived at their houses to investigate, the boys left quite an array of guns for them to take away. It was all under the noses of the incredulous parents, who from news reports, saw nothing wrong with their sons’ interests or with their avid collecting.
Having a gun collection is one thing, but an arsenal is yet another. A personal arsenal is indicative of a mentality that is not in keeping with the expectations of a modern society. It makes me think of how lethal living in Western frontier towns and settlements was before civil order finally arrived to stay. Even then, gun culture still flourishes even after the gunslingers and the Native Americans have either died off or have been consigned to the reservations. Even after there are no more slave uprisings and no more Nat Turners or John Browns, many Southern whites hold onto their guns like a second limb. And now there are states, Wisconsin and Michigan come to mind, that are going to allow individuals to carry concealed weaponry? Why?
And it’s not only the amount of guns, but how powerful they are. How many times can one kill another? I’m not talking about stopping the Terminator here. The Sandy Hook first graders sustained wounds made by 3-11 bullets each. Fully-automatic and semi-automatic and assault weapons are used in the military during war to mow down dozens. They don’t belong on the streets of this country. This country is nominally at peace. How is it possible that individual Americans can buy such firepower as if we are already in a war on our own soil? And with whom are we at war then? It’s not necessary.
Increasingly, these are American gun owners who also have psychological problems, marital problems, problems with the neighbor next door, problems distinguishing prowlers from residents or guests of residents, or problems with loud music coming from SUVs full of kids at a gas station. Remember, guns are sometimes called “equalizers,” because the weapons make the shooters more right than wrong in a confrontation where the victim(s) are perceived to be winning the argument or the fight or resisting control.
I can understand why the Greenes were there in small town Newtown. Jimmy Greene was born in Hartford and raised in Connecticut. He wanted to raise his children in an area where there was quiet, safety and civility, and where his kids would grow up learning in good schools, and with all the good times and good things of living middle-class. Don’t even think that blacks (or Latinos) living in certain areas wouldn’t want to bring themselves and their children to a place where they don’t have to hear sirens, or worry about the state of the schools, or have turn around to see who is behind them. But the great evil did not come from outside this community, it came from within. As the saying goes, there’s no hiding place down here.
I’m sure that Greene and his family enjoyed living in relative peace in Canada; the family lived there for three years. From what I have been able to pick up, the family, or at least Jimmy, are devout Christians. Now this. I have no children of my own, but I know that it is ghastly to bury your own child in your lifetime. This family, like many others involved in this tragedy, has been altered for all time.
I know that this sounds like a conspiracy theory, but I think that I can understand why President Obama is reluctant to provide leadership against those involved in the gun lobby, because this is more than just going against the NRA and the weapons industry. For one thing, the constitutional scholar does believe that Americans have a right to own guns, a fact which has been lost on his detractors. The gun industry funds a lot of right-wing organizations and Republican endeavors. And the craziest of some of these citizens have openly advocated that our first black president be assassinated if he even tries to abrogate their right to own guns, or attempt to take their guns. This goes back to one of the oldest white fears in this country, that blacks would massacre all whites if they were disarmed. Even after slavery ended, whites believed that blacks would all obtain vengeance for centuries of abuse and lawlessness would reign. (Imagine the fear when the Black Panthers came to national attention during the 1960s.) Nothing of the kind has ever happened, but of course, the opposite occurred to blacks because they were free.
Our president may not wish to delve into crazyland out of a sense of fastidiousness or self-preservation or not. But in order for Obama to stand up, we have to stand up with him to put a stop of such carnage. The deaths of these babies—of innocents like Ana Grace Greene—cannot be just a postscript to this year’s bad news. Instead, it has to be the beginning of something that will save more of our lives and those of our children.
- Girl killed in Connecticut shooting lived in Winnipeg (cbc.ca)
- ‘Always smiling': Portraits of Conn. victims (sfgate.com)
- Sandy Hook shooting tragedy hits Puerto Rico mayor’s family (nbclatino.com)
- Child of former Winnipeg professor killed in Connecticut massacre: reports (ctvnews.ca)
- Jazz Saxophonist Jimmy Greene Mourns Daughter Lost in Newtown Shooting (atlantablackstar.com)
- Vigil held for Ana Marquez-Greene, Winnipeg girl killed in Newtown school shooting (metronews.ca)