R.I.P. Jimmy Ridley


Damn. I was reminded today of the jungle I left behind when I moved away from DC in 1995. Last week, one of my schoolmates from high school, Jimmy Ridley, was shot and killed in the parking lot of a Virginia mall. He was 25 years old.

Jimmy was two years younger than me, so we weren't as close as I was with some other students. However, it was a small school (400 kids across 9th through 12th grades) and as one of the few black students at Sidwell Friends, Jimmy naturally stood out.

I actually have thought about Jimmy almost weekly since I last saw him 9 years ago. Every time a driver stops in the crosswalk, it reminds me of something he said. He told a story once of how a woman had stopped for her red light in the crosswalk. Instead of walking around the car, he claimed to have walked through her rear passenger doors, climbing over her seats with a, "'scuse me, pardon me."

I've always fantasized about pulling that off. Maybe now I will.

Living in Cambridge these past years, I had gotten a bit distant from how horrible DC can be. It's easier to do that when you don't watch the local news, which in any city, has its nightly quota of dead black men. At the time I left DC, I remember a study had come out claiming over 40% of black men aged 18-35 were in the criminal justice system. I saw a lot of this first hand, being forced to move neighborhoods because of an out-of-control drug trade and violence.

But it wasn't just a 90s thing. In the early 80s, my own father was shot and killed when I was much to young to understand the seemingly inescapable spiral of violence affecting black America.

Even with the statistics and my own personal experience, Jimmy's is a hard loss to accept. I never admitted it out loud, but I thought of Sidwell as a magic escape pod, not just for me but for any black person who made it there. For god sakes, Clinton sent his kid there!

Given the academic rigor and added racial ignorance, I always thought of the black kids that survived Sidwell as soldiers making it through boot camp. We had been through a lot together, and forged a kind of bond through common trials and triumphs.

It kills me to see a fellow soldier fall.

My heart goes out to Jimmy's family, and for those reading this, I ask you to send a quick thought or prayer.