As a supporter of the City of Orlando – Parramore Kidz Zone, I attended funeral services this Saturday, April 30th, for Gino Nicolas, Coordinator, My Brother’s Keeper initiative.
As I sat through the services, I would glance over at Gino’s father and I would take in the inconsolable grief and despair that he was experiencing for his only son. At the same time, I would ask myself how I would feel if that was my only son, or one of my nephews, that was senselessly murdered in the prime of their life…laying in a casket at the age of twenty-four? I think it is one of life’s greatest tragedies for a parent to have to bury their child.
I was able to keep it together for a while until a young lady sang the song, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” She sang the song in both English and Creole.
Although, I did not fully understand what she was singing in Creole, the spirit of the words continued to resonate within me. As she sang, the spirit of God descended upon me and moved me to tears.
Gino’s influence was demonstrated with more than 700 people in attendance along with notable officials, such as: Michael Smith, Special Assistant to the President of the United States and Manager of the national My Brother’s Keeper organization; Buddy Dyer, Mayor, City of Orlando; John Mina, City of Orlando, Police Chief; Regina Hill, City Commissioner, City of Orlando; Lisa Early, Director of Families, Parks and Recreations; Brenda March, Children and Education Manager and Suzanne Richards, State Program Director, Corporation for National & Community Service, and many others.
After the funeral service, Michael Smith, Commissioner Hill, Lisa Early, and Brenda March facilitated an intergenerational discussion with about twenty-five men. I had the honor of leading the group in prayer before we got started.
One of the many topics of discussion was: What would you say to the President if he were seated here today to express your concern about the issues facing the black community? All of my peers had great thoughts to convey. My humble response addressed the influence of hip-hop artists, which included three major takeaways: 1) hip-hop is the next great American art form; 2) hip-hop has changed the culture of the world; and 3) we have to change the message in hip-hop so that our youth and the world are more positively influenced by the art form.
After the discussion, Mr. Smith, who had already heard about my book from Mrs. Early and Mrs. March from the City of Orlando – Parramore Kidz Zone, asked that I autograph a copy of my book, “STAND,” for him and that I autograph a copy for him to give to the President. As Mr. Smith noted, he couldn’t guarantee that the President would get it, but he promised to make sure that it gets into the right hands. Needless to say, I was lost for words and truly humbled by this.
As I made my way home on Saturday, I noticed that I was unusually tired. I thought that maybe it had just been a long day. However, as I write this post on Monday morning, I am just getting over the feeling of being exhausted and saddened. I realize now that I was still grieving for Gino, his family, and the community.
Although my heart is heavy for Gino’s loss and the many senseless lives cut short throughout the nation, I am encouraged by the work of the people that I shared with this weekend, that the end of the story has not been written. The story will end in triumph…The story will end in love – because love conquers ALL.