“No Snitching” Is Not Giving Murdered Children Like Jonylah Watkins Any Justice

The by now famous photo of six-month-old Jonylah Watkins in a recent political cartoon imploring gangbangers to stop shooting innocents; but that won't happen until "No Snitching" goes down in flames (Courtesy: Chicago Tribune)

The by-now famous photo of six-month-old Jonylah Watkins recreated as a recent political cartoon imploring gangbangers to stop killing innocents like her; but that won’t happen until “No Snitching” as a tactic against the inequities in the American justice system goes down in flames (Courtesy: Chicago Tribune)

I think black folks are reaching the tipping point regarding senseless black-on-black, gang-related killings in the neighborhoods where many of us still live. At least, I hope so.  Chicago seems to be reaching that point, with the recent deaths of Hadiya Pendleton and now, Jonylah Watkins.  However, as one observer put it, there seems to be people who are genuinely upset about what has happened lately with gun violence on the streets, but are paralyzed as to what radical, positive steps to do about it; those who are pretty much numbed, discouraged and alienated from their neighbors and surroundings; and still others, those out in the relatively tranquil suburbs outside Chicago who look at it all like the live version of a reality show.

The spotlight on Chicago is even more blinding because this is Barack and Michelle Obama’s hometown. And perhaps, for some, they should have done something more for the city. Fact is, they did in their own way while they were there. But Barack and Michelle were strivers. Their parents instilled and reinforced values, and they strove not to be like the segment of the lower classes who are killing themselves not only with drugs but with guns.

Me, I’ve always thought that the “No Snitching” movement was wrong. Initially, it came about as a protest by local drug dealers about residents and neighbors who cooperated with law enforcement, which was also corrupt, riddled with accusations of  misconduct and worse,  of killing blacks. I remember when I was in Harlem in the early 2000s, several young black men were hawking “no snitching” tee-shirts, passing out leaflets, free stickers and DVDs on street corners on 125th Street, next to the ubiquitous black soap and shea butter sellers, and the shadowy bootleg DVD merchants. The movement may not exist as an organization, but it got around as a cultural phenomenon, it permeated black neighborhoods and by extension, black generational values.

No matter how much I distrusted the cops, I didn’t like what these people were demanding, which essentially meant that witnesses to shooting crimes would go silent in the face of police interrogation, and that meant that there would be no prosecution. Witnesses also feared for their lives if their testimony sent some thug to jail, because there would be retaliation. What I also knew was that “no snitching” would eventually bite all of us in the ass because time and again the wrong people would get hurt, while the thugs, thus emboldened, would keep walking the streets and would continue to kill and maim those near and dear. And it has held up in black communities for more than a decade.

It’s not like Jesse Jackson or other Old School (as well as New School) black activists haven’t spoken out about “no snitching,” but the younger generations think that the criminal activities of drug dealers and street assassins are none of our business and that they are heroes that deserve hands-off treatment. They’d rather fink on a Klansman sooner than they would turn in these killers. They have no idea that these thuglies are not who they claim to be.  In effect, I think they are the equivalent of  a hate group in our own neighborhoods, but it is self-hate.  They murder and terrorize in black skin.

It seems like a millenia since school majorette Hadiya Pendleton was killed, shot for being in the wrong place at the wrong time in a neighborhood park, just after she and her band strutted down Pennsylvania Avenue to entertain President Obama, his family and close friends before his reviewing stand. However, it was just a month ago, and the wounds simply have not yet healed from that shock.  Now this: the murder of a six-month old baby named for her father, Jonylah Watkins.  I have never had children, but I know how babies can be.  At that moment in their young lives, they leave off being newborns and start exhibiting a wordless personality all their own.  This was a  lovely, happy baby.

Jonathan Watkins with his late daughter, Jonylah.  In this case, love was definitely not enough (Courtesy: DNAInfo)

Jonathan Watkins with his late daughter, Jonylah. In this case, love was definitely not enough (Courtesy: DNAInfo)

The same cannot be said of Jonylah’s surviving parents.

From jump, the cops have maintained that the real target was Jonathan Watkins, Jonylah’s father, who may have unwittingly instigated the shooting when he argued with someone about an alleged drug robbery and shooting.  A rumor persists that the argument started on a Facebook page.   Jonathan had already spent time in jail and was reputedly a member of the Gangster Disciples.  He had been arrested 39 times—some for weapons violations—and the record includes an arrest for trying to steal his car back from being impounded by the police.  And despite their pastor’s claims that Jonathan had not been in trouble with the cops since 2007, Jonathan nevertheless still did business dealing weed, and got busted.

In what appears to be his most recent arrest, police stopped him in the 8400 block of South Cottage Grove on June 11 (2012) when he allegedly failed to use his turn signal. Police said they saw him reach toward the driver-side door as if to hide something. When they opened the door, they allegedly found numerous baggies containing “a green leafy substance.”

Watkins, who the report said goes by the nickname “Toe,” allegedly told cops: “‘I sell each bag for $5. I was going to buy some shoes. My birthday is coming up,'” according to the report.

He was convicted of the manufacture and delivery of cannabis and served two days in jail, court records show.

And what was he doing near this Woodlawn area, where the cops allege that there are “a lot of active gang conflicts.”

Those conflicts were why Judy and Jonathan Watkins moved about 2½ miles south of Woodlawn about a year ago, according to a friend of the family.

“They thought it would be safer here” than at Jonathan Watkins’ old apartment near State and 68th streets, said Markos Zoretic, 71, who owns the building where the couple lives now.

Zoretic said he was friends with Watkins’ grandfather. He said he saw the father and child recently, and “He was carrying the little baby — he was always carrying her.

“He was so quiet — no drinking, no drugs ever,” Zoretic said.

Additionally, despite news reports that Jonathan was cooperating with the cops, another report claims that he is refusing to name the name of the person or persons who may be responsible for the shooting of his own daughter.  In other words, he refuses to snitch on the perpetrator of this enormous crime.  It could be that he refuses to do so because he would have to admit to either being a dope dealer once more, or having something to do with that previous robbery, and thereby he might have to face jail again, especially if he did use a firearm.

Setting the record straight:

The story of the murder of Jonylah Watkins, a 6-month-old baby caught in the crosshairs of an unspeakable crime while her father, Jonathan Watkins, 29, was changing her diapers in a minivan, is changing.

Sneed is told that Watkins, a street gang member who has been arrested 39 times — and was the intended victim of the shooting — is “unwilling to cooperate” with the police despite news reports, according to a top police source.

“Watkins is giving the police just enough to seem to be cooperating,” the source said.

◆ Translation: “Watkins was unwilling to give police pass codes for two cellphones found at the scene of the shooting,” the source said. The pass codes might have led police to see who called Watkins before the shooting.

◆ The shocker: As a result, police had to send the cellphones to the FBI in Quantico, Va., to open them up — and have been unable to reach a Watkins family member who had earlier told reporters that Watkins “knew who shot him.”

“This person has been ducking the police for three days,” said the source.

In addition, contrary to earlier news reports — which garnered national headlines — the baby was not shot while Watkins changed her diaper, the source added.

“The baby was sitting in Watkins’ lap in the driver’s seat when she was hit by one bullet — not five — which wound up in her diaper,” the source said. “Tragically, one bullet caused a lot of damage and claimed the gift of her life.”

Watson was released Thursday evening from Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where he was treated for injuries from the shooting.

A short time later — in response to reports that he was not cooperating with police — Watkins made a very public show of walking into the Area South police department late Thursday under the glare of television lights to talk to detectives investigating the case.

Watkins stood silently as the Rev. Corey Brooks, acting as the Watkins family spokesman, talked to reporters.

“Whatever the police need to know that he may know, we want to make sure that he fully committed himself to letting them know that,” Brooks said.

Judy Watkins at a March 12 vigil for her murdered daughter, mourning alone while her husband was still in the hospital  (Courtesy: DNAInfo)

Mother Judy Watkins at a March 12 vigil for her murdered infant daughter, mourning alone while her husband was still in the hospital (Courtesy: DNAInfo)

Meanwhile, Jonylah’s mother, Judy, has attended and spoken at a vigil, but has denied the impact of drug dealing and gangs in the killing of her baby,  and she has even denied that she was shot or grazed in the leg while pregnant as some friends and relatives have said.  Denying these realities, though, does not mean that they were never present in her life with Jonathan and Jonylah.  We’ve seen that movie too, because denial is also part of the “no snitching” arsenal.  However, saying that she alone is going to smoke out the killer and turn him in sounds a lot like a revenge threat.

Asked about the police assertion Tuesday that the shooting may have been gang-related, she said she didn’t know which gangs police were referring to.

Judy Watkins, 19, said she wants justice for her daughter.

“I’m looking for him,” she said of Jonylah’s killer. “When I find him, he’s going to jail.”

Judy Watkins’ mom, Mary Young, had a message for her granddaughter’s killer: “Turn yourself in.”

Judy Watkins was among the 200 people at a Tuesday evening vigil at the site of the shooting.

“You can imagine how difficult it is just for [Judy Watkins] to be out here,” said the Rev. Corey Brooks, acting as a spokesman for the family of Jonylah Watkins. “Everyone in Woodlawn is not bad. We want everyone to see all of us here together.”

Said Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), who attended the vigil: “There is no place for this person to hide — we will not tolerate it. We will insist on accountability.”

Earlier Tuesday, Judy Watkins denied reports from her family members that she had been shot while pregnant with Jonylah last year.

She said she is going to miss the girl, who seemed to know how her mother was feeling even though she was only 6 months old.

“She always knew what was going on with me,” said Judy Watkins, who family members say married Jonathan Watkins, 29, last month. Jonylah “was a happy baby. I’m going to miss my baby.”

I am not going to say that this couple was not trying.  Several weeks ago, Jonathan married Judy, thus legitimizing his child.  This is a rarity these days, because  most families are female-headed and the children may have different surnames.  Judy worked at a local McDonald’s for minimum wage. No doubt, Jonathan was probably pulling babysitting duty while Judy was at work.  Sitting outside in a van listening to some sounds with Jonylah is not necessarily dangerous or anti-social behavior within itself.  It is quite evident that he loved his daughter, and I do not believe the awful rumor going around that Jonathan used his baby as a shield against the bullets that killed her and wounded him.

Nevertheless, it is not known whether Jonathan was moving in any direction towards getting out of dealing dope or hustling the streets by getting his G.E.D. or getting into a training program, even visualizing or planning on leaving Chicago with his little family and trying to go straight elsewhere.  Recidivism—or reverting back to old habits after prison—is a revolving door for certain Chicago residents if they don’t have skills, experience, and gainful employment.  Even so, one cannot claim any more that this was all that he had.  He could have had more.   Because businesses, large and small, are fleeing the Chicago area because of the disruption caused by crime in certain neighborhoods.  And with them go jobs and the chance to experience and build something beyond what they had before.

Something else I’d like to ask: whoever heard of a 30- or a 40-year-old gangster or a drug dealer on the streets, no matter how small-time?  I don’t mean the kind that are in tree-lined suburbia.  For some of them, it’s a quiet-as-it-is-kept business or as they’re as bad as the characters in Breaking Bad.  But you know what I mean: the kind that are really out running in the streets?  People like these—if they are not in jail—are dead or maimed by the time they really hit middle age, or they’ve gotten some sense and found something else to do, or left town, or found Christianity or some other philosophy.  Or worse, they’re alive, trying to make it, but some are homeless.  Better to be all the way out and gone than continue to be in this kind of twilight life, half straight, and half-criminal.

I think that the clock ran out for this couple, just like others who seem to deal in denial about crime not touching the lives of their dear ones.  This kind of denial:

Last year, Heaven Sutton, 7, was killed when a gunman opened fire on the street where her mother was operating a late-night candy store. The mother claimed the shooting was a retaliation that did not involve her or her family.

But, according to police sources, both of Sutton’s parents have gang affiliations and criminal backgrounds.

In 2011, Arianna Gibson, 6, was shot while sleeping on her grandmother’s sofa. The alleged shooter fired through a window and injured two other teens in what police said was a gang dispute.

In 2006, Siretha White, 10, was killed in a gang-related shooting when a gunman fired at two men sitting on a porch and one of the bullets struck Siretha in the living room.

And in 2000, 12-year-old Tsarina Powell was gunned down while running from her bed. The shooter had a drug dispute with the girl’s relative and shot up the home.

Jonylah Watkins’ funeral is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19:

Rev. Corey Brooks, who is acting as the Watkins’ family spokesman, told the Associated Press and other outlets the wake is planned for 10 a.m. Tuesday, followed by the baby’s funeral at 11 a.m. at his New Beginnings Church in Woodlawn.

The burial arrangements for the 6-month-old have been predictably grim.

Wednesday night, Watkins’ mother Judy, 19, had to endure what the Chicago Sun-Times called the “painful but necessary formality” of identifying her daughter’s “bullet-torn” body at the Cook County medical examiner’s office via closed-circuit TV.

Spencer Leak, funeral director at Leak and Sons, told DNAinfo Chicago Jonylah’s situation is “the worst case he’s seen in his 20 years in the business.” Leak had to reportedly special-order a three-foot casket for the baby, whose body will also require special preparation for the open casket viewing due to her gunshot injuries.

Reverend Brooks claimed in one story that Chicago Bulls star baller Derrick Rose had not come across with paying for the funeral as he said that he would.  However,  The Huffington Post said that the offer was made through his agent to the funeral home and not directly to the Watkins family.  Leak and Sons would not confirm one way or another whether Rose had paid up.

I know that Jonylah is being mourned within her family privately, but along with tears, some time, somewhere there has to come some plain speaking and with it, someone speaking truth.  Jonathan, or someone else who knows, has got to come clean with who murdered Jonylah, whatever the consequences.   Otherwise,  Jonylah will not only join the line-up of murdered children from Chicago, but the list of sweet little babies and children who definitely did not deserve their own parents.

~ by blksista on March 17, 2013.

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