On Tuesday I attended the funeral of Abubakar Abdi. He was shot and killed last Sunday night at the corner of Rainier Avenue South and South Garden Street in the Brighton neighborhood.
Abubakar was yet another victim of youth homicide in Seattle — just off the top of my head I can think of four other cases within the last two months.
I drove in silent contemplation to the burial site in Snohomish County, where I met up with a group of youth who were accompanying the body of the deceased. I have never met Abubakar, but I make a point of attending every funeral I hear about especially when it is an East African youth involved.
In passing, it looked like any other funeral I’d been to. But then I was shocked to notice that there was no sheikh or imam present. Nor was there any elderly person to perform the final rights on the deceased. It was just these young men.
By the time the burial was over, I had a sick feeling in my stomach. Everything that could possibly go wrong did, because none of the youth present knew how to properly perform the burial rights. I prayed that no one, regardless of their past life, should ever be buried that haphazardly.
Leaving the cemetery I was wondering, where were the imams? Where were the so called community leaders who were supposed to be there for that young man? Where was the recently appointed East African Community Liaison, who in fact owns a business right where this young man was shot at and killed? Why not make an effort to reach out to the family or show up to the funeral? How do you intend to bridge the gap and build trust with a community and youth if not to be there for them at a moment like this?
We are always complaining about our youth getting out of hand and doing things they shouldn’t. It has long been said that community leaders, the city and Seattle Police need to do more to engage with the youth. The appointment of an East African Liaison with Seattle Police was meant to bridge the divide between the community and the authorities.
My question is, who are those leaders representing exactly? What are your goals for our community? And don’t even get me started on the imams and community centers.
The youth I met today did everything they could to give their friend the best burial they knew — including washing the body. Islamic burial is complicated and has its intricacies that have to be adhered to. For instance, the body has to face a specific direction with the head unshrouded.
I asked one of the guys I met at the funeral, Abdulrahman Hussein, why things were so haphazard:
“We ran up and down today to find somebody to clean the body and take charge of the funeral but we were met with red tape and nonsense like the imam is on vacation. I had to wash the body myself by going to YouTube and figuring out what needs to be done. We out here all by ourselves man… it ain’t right but it’s all we got.”
That’s all I heard during the burial: “We are all we got.” “Nobody has our back but the person standing next to you.”
If those words are anything to go by, we are definitely in a bad place as a community.
It wasn’t surprising that, with tensions were running so high, two of the youth present ended up pulling guns on each other just as the burial was winding down. If you ask me, that escalation could have easily been avoided by the presence of a few leaders to show the youth that they care about them.
We need to stop demonizing our young people. Because regardless of what they are into, it’s just prudent that we leave a door open for them whenever they want to come home.
To the “community leaders,” The City of Seattle, The SPD: I don’t know what you think you’re doing to reach out to the youth and engage them, but you just lost a whole lot of respect and missed a perfect opportunity to get started.
Editors Note: 34-year-old Michael David Henderson, aka “Big Evil” was charged Friday for Abubakar Abdi’s murder. More info here.