Less than a mile from my residential college, Maurice Richardson, 19, was shot and killed. On campus, his death was reported quite literally as a number: the 13th murder in what has already been a long year for New Haven law enforcement. At a time when hundreds of students will file into an auditorium to hear an activist remind them about the many threats to black life, it’s a tragedy that a death so close to our campus is so far from our consciousness. The event in question, featuring DeRay McKesson at the Af-Am House, shows how much we as a campus value racial equality.
But we shouldn’t consider our efforts to be a zero-sum game. We must not allow those all too common cases that do not involve police brutality to go unnoticed and unremembered. We cannot fall victim to the “simultaneous invisibility and hyper-visibility” of black life, as Dean Jonathan Holloway described in his introduction to “The Souls of Black Folk.”
I want to write a little about who Maurice was, both to better serve his memory and to empower this community not to take the “Yale Bubble” as an excuse for apathy. We should feel this loss acutely.
Maurice’s brother Nathan was also shot in the Hill neighborhood three and a half years ago. Nathan was 29 years old. In quick retaliation, Nathan and Maurice’s cousin Trelaine Shaw shot the assailant Robert Cirino, fatally wounding him. At a sentencing hearing for Shaw, a family member asked, “When does it end?” Fear and frustration come as the inevitable consequences of such a senseless string of losses. While we should push for reform in policing and criminal justice where necessary, we cannot treat a life lost to urban gun violence as a casual occurrence, easily forgotten amidst the world-weariness of this town.
At least once a week, I run past the School of Medicine, along Davenport Avenue to Ella T. Grasso, making a long loop along the West River towards the grid of downtown. This path takes me past the parking lot at 210 Davenport, where Maurice died. Near 210 there is a little convenience store, where I stopped in to ask about the incident. Alternating between English and Spanish, the workers behind the counter seemed unfazed by the incident. Kids were playing near the parking lot, just outside a compact apartment building, in front of a bus stop.
As more comes to light about Maurice, I encourage the News to make this story a priority. The problem is that so little information exists about those who fall victim to gun violence. It’s a gap that college newspapers, better equipped in certain ways to cover these events, can fill. And few college papers can match the resources of the News. Or, the students whose passion brought McKesson to the podium could band together to create a community archive, better, at least, than the one that can be found on the New Haven Register’s Homicides Report blog.
I don’t plan to change my route because of Maurice’s passing. Perhaps this makes me naïve. But I’d prefer to think of myself as hopeful: hopeful that our work in the community, whether we silently play witness or charge forward with activism, will make death on Davenport Avenue less likely.
Josh Clapper is a senior in Davenport College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .