One of the most distressing stories to come out of South Florida in recent months was the tragic shooting in September of Antonio Hinds, 17, of Riviera Beach and Andy Joseph, 16, of Palm Beach Gardens at a Sweet 16 party in Riviera Beach by another youth, Rijkard Jean-Baptiste, 20, who has been charged with murder.
It is an unfortunate fact of life in some communities that black-on-black violence is a regular occurrence but this incident was especially heart-wrenching because, from all accounts, it stemmed from tensions between youth who see themselves as being African American or as Haitian American.
There is absolutely no reason why such tensions or distinctions should exist. We are all black folk, belonging to the same African Diaspora, coming out of the same crucible of bondage of centuries past and weighed down with both its legacy and blessing. Indeed, the term “African American” really applies to all of us who trace our ancestry to Africa and live in America.
To borrow a phrase from what President Barack Obama said in another context, there are no Haitian Americans, there are no Jamaican Americans, there are no Afro-Cuban Americans, and so on. There are only African Americans. The cultural “differences” should be a source of strength, a shining example of our diversity in unity, not a cause for killing one another.
The Black Educators Caucus of Palm Beach County is to be commended for hosting a Town Hall meeting on Dec. 6 in West Palm Beach to explore this subject and hopefully begin the process of healing and reunification.
The shootings at the Newcomb Banquet Hall at the Riviera Beach Marina may have been an isolated incident, as some observers insist. But it is evident that feelings have been running high for some time. The alleged shooter is reported to have told police he armed himself when he set out for the party because he was expecting trouble.
It is regrettable that the matter was not addressed in time so that the tragedy would have been avoided. A lot of work lies ahead, not just for youth but also for adults because the young people must have gotten their “prejudices” from somewhere.
Everything must be done now to bring a stop to this senseless violence.