I have many visions of my life. I sometimes wish it could always be a good life. I, too, wish to be rich and successful. But when I look beyond the material things and at the world the way it is, I say to myself, “Why am I so selfish? I love feeling good about myself, but I feel so much better when I do a good deed.”21
A second assembly, in memory of Daryl Sharpe, was held on December 9, 1991. At that assembly, senior Shawn Cameron was reported to remark, “It could have been anybody on the floor, but it was one of my closest friends. This crime could have been prevented. If the city would have listened to our cry for help, the gun that the person possesses should have never entered the school.”22
Members of the clergy spoke, as did Chancellor Joseph Fernandez and president of the Board of Education, Carl McCall. The appearance of rap star Doug E. Fresh introduced a note of pandemonium, as girls’ squeals filled the auditorium and undermined the solemnity of the event.23
Jason and his family received little attention in the press, except for an article in The New York Times.24 That story described Jason’s parents, Rudolph and Sally, as hard-working people who lived in an “oasis of neatly tended private homes with red and white aluminum awnings.” They were members of St. Michael’s Catholic Church. Reverend Brendan P. Buckley was quoted as saying, “If I knew Jason came from a family that wasn’t a support structure like his is, then I would say, ‘Ah.’ But that’s not the case. What is the lesson here? I don’t know. I would hope that the pain itself would be part of the process of learning. We must pray for an end to the violence.”
Buckley’s question was echoed by many. The incident, though shocking and curious, quickly slid into obscurity.
Like Jason Bentley, Khalil Sumpter grew up in the violent atmosphere of East New York.25 Like Jason, Khalil was bright and did well in school, falling off at approximately the same age. Donaldson described Khalil’s behavior at Thomas Jefferson High School, noting, “His records show that he is a very smart kid who has decided that academic achievement is counterproductive to his goal of gaining and holding props.”26 Instead, he was described as playing the role of a class clown. In addition to his ambivalence about schoolwork, Khalil had emotional problems, probably beginning with his parents’ separation, which occurred when he was 5. More recently, the stabbing of a friend had affected him deeply. Finally, Khalil, like other youths in East New York, lived cheek-by-jowl with vio