The LA Times would like you to think this is A ‘Community Tragedy’. I say nay-nay.
BERKELEY — Until she died of a gunshot wound in front of her apartment, Meleia Willis-Starbuck was the perfect Berkeley success story — an African American Ivy League scholarship recipient who was on a strong social mission to change the world.
The more astute of you will have heard warning bells when you saw “BERKELEY”.
That she would die on the street after an ugly argument has made the pain even greater here, in a city that takes pride in its racial, ethnic and gender tolerance.
At the Berkeley High School gym Friday, more than 400 relatives, friends and schoolmates mourned the loss of the popular Dartmouth College student, believed to have been shot to death in her hometown by a close friend she may have called for help.
“A close friend she may have called for help.” Remember that. See, when I call a friend for help, it is because I am moving. Or because I’m installing a ceiling fan and I need someone to hold it.
“The city lost a wonderful hero. Someone who strived, succeeded and came back to the community,” Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said in praise of Willis-Starbuck.
The 19-year-old was killed early Sunday morning outside the apartment where she lived while working for the summer at a center for homeless women and children. Her death struck a familiar chord for San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson, an African American who writes often about East Bay black communities.
“A wonderful hero.”
“For those who question why an Ivy League student would maintain a friendship with a gun-toting man,” Johnson wrote in his Friday column, “the answers may lie in the consciousness of many African Americans who climbed the social ladder to achieve middle-class status but feel a strong sense of duty, loyalty and responsibility to the rough-cut neighborhoods they come from.”
Some of you may have just recognized the theme here. See, Meleia was “keeping it real.” Sure, she had an Ivy-league scholarship, but she was still ready to prove that she was really black by hanging out with gangsters. Perhaps she kept it really real, embodying the realest of black qualities, like drinking malt liquor, pulling trains and smoking crack.
She was keeping it real dumb.
The tragic nature of the killing near the University of California campus became apparent later Friday afternoon, when some of the same mourners gathered in an Alameda County courtroom to show support for Christopher Larry Wilson, 20, one of the two men charged with murder. The other man accused in the killing, Christopher Lester Hollis, 21, is at large.
Wilson, Hollis and Willis-Starbuck were close friends from school days at Berkeley High, which all three attended. Ivy leaguer Willis-Starbuck encouraged Wilson in his studies. After completing community college, Wilson planned to enter UC Santa Cruz this fall. Hollis and Willis-Starbuck were so close they called each other brother and sister, friends said.
According to police reports and accounts of others present at the shooting, Willis-Starbuck and five female friends had stopped at her College Avenue apartment after 1 a.m. on Sunday when they were approached by a group of men who asked them to party. Willis-Starbuck objected to the language allegedly used by some of the men, including the term “bitches.”
Oh, my! Meleia has been disrespected!!! Meleia, you see, keeps it real. And by keeping it real, I mean that she eschews alternative dispute resolutions preferred by her Anglo friends at Berkeley and instead opts for violent retribution. You see, she is entitled to do so, because she is black, and therefore has a duty to Keep It Real.
Police allege that about 1:45 a.m., a car driven by Wilson approached on an adjacent street and that Hollis got out of the car and fired several shots, one of which fatally wounded Willis-Starbuck. No one else was struck. Police are investigating the possibility that Willis-Starbuck called Wilson and Hollis on her cellphone minutes before the shooting.
In other words, the police know that her number called his number, and they are just looking for a way to prove with absolute certainty that she was on her end and he was on his.
Friends and family speculated that Hollis might have been attempting to frighten the men and accidentally shot his friend.
Phelps, on the other hand, speculates that he more likely was trying to shoot the men, and instead shot her. Either way, he is an idiot and a murderer.
“They were kids out doing what they should not be doing. They were all friends,” said Michael Jamison, a Wilson family friend who attended the hearing. “It was senseless and crazy.”
Oh really? Yeah, I can see that. Boy, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shot at my friends for kicks. Boys will be boys, after all. I remember all those summers, out at the swimming hole. I would see one of the Johnson boys, and I would say to Bobby, “Bobby, ain’t that the Johnson boys?” He would say, “I recon!” and then I would lick off a couple of shots at them. Oh, those were good times.
You fucking moron, they are thugs and murderers and I hope they burn in hell! And that includes Meleia!
Shortly after police obtained arrest warrants for the two men on Wednesday, Wilson, accompanied by Berkeley attorney Elizabeth Grossman, turned himself in at the Berkeley Police Department. Grossman and others have urged Hollis, a resident of Hayward, to turn himself in.
In the days after the slaying, a small shrine was built in front of Willis-Starbuck’s apartment. Friends attached favorite photos and poems to the trunk of a large mulberry tree and circled the tree with votive candles.
One friend wrote: “Friday night I was relaxing on your couch. Saturday morning we talked on the phone. And in between then and when I woke up to start my day someone decided to display the fragility of existence.”
If you have a thug gangster boyfriend who likes to shoot at people, then yes, your existence is fragile. If your boyfriend, on the other hand, is sober, plays soccer on the weekends and works at the Coffee Barn, then your existence is considerably less fragile.
Another writer vowed: “We will not let your death [be] in vain. Stop the violence!”
She wasn’t stopping shit — she was starting shit.
“I know all of them. They are all good kids. Chris Wilson was like another son to me,” said Arnold Perkins, Alameda County Health Care Services director and Berkeley resident, who attended both events Friday. “This is a community tragedy, one of those terrible situations where friends ended up hurting friends.
They were not good kids. Good kids don’t shoot at each other. If Wilson was like a son to you, then you failed in raising him. You think it takes a village? This village failed.
I can’t buy this “friends hurting friends” crap. Friends don’t shoot at each other. If one of my “friends” was to shoot at me, I don’t think we would make up. I don’t see us going out for ice cream and discussing the root causes of “the incident” over banana splits. I’m pretty sure I would hate his ass, and we would never be friends again.
“No one blames anyone in this,” said Perkins, who spoke at the memorial service and was prepared to speak on Wilson’s behalf in the courtroom. “We are all caught in this matrix created by too many handguns.”
Oh really, ass hole? I’ve got half a dozen handguns at my house. None of them have ever shot at my “friends.” In fact, none of them have ever shot at anyone. This was a matrix of too many thugs keeping it real.
Through a friend, the family has issued only one brief statement: “This has become a tragedy for the whole community. What the family wants most is for the violence to end and for healing for everyone to begin.”
As a nervous Wilson appeared Friday before Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith, his attorney, Grossman, asked that friends and family in the courtroom stand to show community support for the prisoner. About 30 people stood. At the request of counsel, the arraignment was postponed until Wednesday.
Those who attended the memorial were asked to wear purple wristbands symbolizing the effort to end domestic violence, one of Willis-Starbuck’s causes.
BUWAHAHAHAHA!!! Don’t beat up your girl, but pop a cap at someone who says something rude to her? Add in that he ended up shooting her instead, and, well, I’m overcome by the irony if not schadenfruede.
As her parents, Kimberly Willis-Starbuck and John Starbuck, sat in the front row at the service, speaker after speaker, a rainbow of races and ethnicities, spoke of Willis-Starbuck’s intelligence, compassion and capacity for good works.
So you can measure the quality of a person by playing complexion bingo? I’m glad that we live in a world where people are judged not the by the content of their character, but the color of their friends.
Pregnant friend Mercedes Hong tearfully told of how Willis-Starbuck gave her “the strength to bring a new life into this world.”
That and a couple of ounces of jizz.
High school classmate Dana Johnston talked of how Willis-Starbuck comforted her after her mother died.
One friend read a moving rap poem he composed in her honor. Another played a cello piece she wrote. Another played a trumpet solo. Popular singer Goapole sang a soaring version of her song “Closer.”
Toward the end of the service, 20 students from Dartmouth delivered their own praise for their schoolmate. Close friend Jay Lesene read a poem he had written to the friend he called “The Woman.”
“We stand here with you,” said Dartmouth Associate Provost Stuart C. Lord. “We grieve and we ask ourselves why this happened.”
I am not moved.