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Lions Roar : January 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2007 83 THE DETECTIVES WHO CAME to my office that cold rainy afternoon eight years ago told me they’d found the body of my eighteen-year-old son, Jamil, naked, riddled with bullets, wrapped in a blanket, and dumped near a pond on a farm in a county not far from where we live. Even through the fog of my pain and disbelief I could tell that these men were themselves shaken by the horrific details of the murder of such a young person. Seven months later I was sitting in a courtroom behind the young man accused of murdering Jamil, awaiting his trial. My husband, my eleven-year-old daughter, and I had spent the time between Jamil’s murder and the trial in almost perpetual anguish and confusion. We were subject not only to the devastating pain of Jamil’s loss, but also to the trou- bling unreality of the accounts of Jamil’s life and death. The media peddled vivid stories about drugs and guns and gangs to make real and solidify for the public the spectacle of the African- American criminal “other.” Very little in newspaper and televi- sion portrayals of Jamil bore any resemblance to the talented, po- etic, kind—and, yes, sometimes confused and troubled—young man who was our son, brother, and friend. Sitting in the courtroom during the trial I found it difficult to sense what I actually felt about the young man accused of mur- dering my son. I knew what I was supposed to feel. I knew what the prosecuting attorneys, other family members, and friends expressed through their anger and rage: he was a cold-blooded, ruthless, heartless, young man with an extensive criminal record who had brutally murdered Jamil for an insignificant reason. But I wasn’t feeling that way. Oddly, there were even moments when I imagined that he could be my son. As the fight between him and Jamil was described during the trial, I could imagine it turn- ing out differently, with their positions reversed. I wondered who he was, where he came from, what circumstances in his life had brought him to this moment? As the stories unfolded at trial, I moved more deeply into myself. I found myself angry and enraged—not at the young man, but at a society that rests easily while violent dramas between young people play out over and over again, resulting in thousands of deaths and imprisonments each year. I just kept saying to myself that this was a deeply sad story, and now it was my deeply sad story. My son was dead, and another woman’s son would most likely go to prison for the rest of his life. In the end, he received a sentence of twenty-five years to life. Jamil’s Heart Through the practice of compassion meditation, Rosalind Harris transformed the grief of her son’s murder into solidarity and friendship with all young African-Americans, whose lives, marked by violence and oppression, are a national tragedy and shame. Above: Jamil and Rosalind in 1992. Left: Jamil at 16.