Elinor Tatum (28139)

In the early 1970s, I went to a small Montessori program on Avenue D in the middle of the Lillian Wald housing project. I remember being all of 3-and-half years old and marching with my classmates in our graduation ceremony that was held in the park in the middle of Lillian Wald Houses.

I guess it didn’t cross my mind back then why I would have a graduation from preschool. It was just what we do, or did back then. But now I reflect and think about the significance of the graduation, and it really hurts me at the core.

This weekend, we mourned the loss of little 6-year-old Prince Joshua Avitto, who was stabbed to death in the elevator of his apartment building. Tanaya Grant-Copeland, 18, was also stabbed to death in the past few weeks. Ten years ago, it was Dasean Hill, who was 8 years old when he was killed in crossfire in East New York. The list goes on and on: Kimani Gray, Lloyd Morgan, Raphael Ward, Tayshana Murphy…Will it ever end?

For many of these families, that graduation from preschool will be one of the only milestones they will have in their children’s lives, because they were cut down so early, without the opportunity to fulfill their potential.We should not have to use graduations from preschool as the only milestones in our children’s lives. There is no reason that we should be losing our babies before they lose us.

This killing has to stop. This violence has to stop.

We understand that there are issues on all sides, but come on people, let’s be real. If we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem. I know it is scary to get involved, but in the long run, it is scarier if we don’t. We need to be part of the change in our communities.

If it means calling 911 10 times in a night, so be it. If it means talking to your neighbors about how to support each other, then do it. If it means keeping your kids inside when trouble is outside, then do it. If it means getting ineffective politicians out of office, then campaign and vote for someone who will make a change. We have to keep our kids safe. We must change the paradigm and look to our children’s college graduations as the norm and not the exceptions.

We cannot continue to bury our babies. We need to make the killing stop, and it starts with us saying we are not going to take it anymore.

I didn’t understand why a graduation from preschool was so important, now I see that it may be the only one some of our young people ever get.