I would like to share my story about Tarriq in the hope that you'll join me in helping his family give him a proper funeral and burial.
Twenty-eight years ago, when I lived in Washington DC, I signed up to be a tutor at the Sasha Bruce house for teen moms. I was assigned to work with a young woman named Lashawn Lewis. She was 16 and had a 6 month old son named Tarriq Childs.
Lashawn, Tarriq and I bonded quickly. Once Lashawn graduated from the group home, I took on the informal role of Tarriq’s mentor. Some weekends, I’d drive to their housing project in N.E. DC to pick up Tarriq and take him to my part of town, where there were lush green parks, museums, swimming pools, ice skating rinks, Shakespeare festivals, and much more.
I was confounded by the enormous disparities between the two worlds we inhabited just a few miles a part in our nation’s capital.
Tarriq's boundless energy, insatiable curiosity, and infectious smile were truly inspiring.
LaShawn subsequently gave birth to two daughters who joined us on some outings.
When Tarriq was 8, I took a job in California and moved out West. We stayed in touch for a while with phone calls, post cards, birthday and Christmas gifts. And I visited whenever my work brought me to DC, but in reality, a distance grew between us. For his 12th birthday, I sent Tarriq a plane ticket to come visit California. I was 8 months pregnant with my first son, but with the help of some friends, Tarriq managed to go to an A’s game, surfing, mountain biking, and skateboarding. We watched "Escape from Alcatraz" and then got on a boat the next morning to visit "the Rock." Tarriq soaked up every minute of that week. I sent him home with a photo album of his adventures, which he later told me he treasured. I cannot find any of those pictures now.
As time passed, and I was working full time and raising two kids, my communication with Tarriq lapsed. He eventually succumbed to the lure of the streets and landed himself in prison a few months before he was to graduate high school.
Fast forward to 2016. LaShawn and I reconnected on Facebook and she told me how hard Tarriq's prison experience had been, including more than a year spent in solitary confinement. I began to correspond with Tarriq while he was in prison. We reminisced about fun times we had together and he told me about his aspirations for the future. He developed a passion for physical fitness and dreamed of becoming a personal trainer like Coss Marte.
On November 6, 2018, Tarriq was released from prison and placed into a halfway house where I visited him. The conditions were horrible and there was little support to help the men prepare to re-enter society. Nonetheless, Tarriq worked tirelessly to come up with a plan that would keep him as far as possible from the streets that swallowed him up years before. He found himself a job working on a construction site and saved as much money as he could so he could move into an apartment when he was released from the halfway house.
Once released, he was determined to find more steady work and landed a job with a reputable plumbing company. It was commission work, so the income was not always steady, but he had full benefits including health insurance and retirement savings. Tarriq's supervisor told me he was a reliable and well-liked employee.
When Tarriq wasn't working, he tried to make up for lost time, visiting family and friends. Here he is in the kitchen with his mother as they were preparing Thanksgiving dinner a month before he was killed. His trademark sense of humor is on full display.
He frequently visited his great-grandmother. She suffers from dementia, but always remembered Tarriq, who communicated with her lovingly as he showed her videos and photos that stimulated her memory.
Earlier this fall, when my husband was in DC on business, he met up with Tarriq for dinner. All seemed well. He had just gotten off a long shift of work, had his loving girlfriend by his side, and the Nationals were on the verge of clinching a World Series title.
Fast forward to Saturday morning, December 28. I woke up to a text from LaShawn to please call. She received a cryptic call saying that Tarriq had been shot, but no other info. After an hour of frantic phone calls, we learned that Tarriq was shot in the leg and left in a car to die. When police and paramedics found him, they took him to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. He had no ID on him, so it took a bit to connect the dots. Police have ruled it a homicide and the investigation is ongoing.
I'm trying to channel my grief into inspiring more people to engage in what Bryan Stevenson calls the "power of proximity." I cannot underscore enough how much my life has been enriched by my proximity to Tarriq and his family. This is not a one way street.
Please join me in helping Tarriq's family honor his life with a proper funeral and burial next to his uncle Mark Anthony Lewis, who was also the victim of homicide two years ago (the case remains unsolved).
WHAT THE FUNDS ARE NEEDED FOR:
Funeral and burial costs will total upwards of $16,000.
This covers a grave site, a vault, transport of his body from the coroner's office to the funeral home, embalming, burial, a Saturday service (cost is an additional $450, but the family wants people to be able to come without worrying about taking off of work), and church rental. It does not include flowers, food, programs, or a location for the family to eat after the burial. We believe that friends and family will be able to provide those items. It also does not include a gravestone. If we surpass our fundraising goal, we will buy one for Tarriq and for his uncle who still lacks one.
The family will receive a grant of $6,000 from DC's victim services fund. Our goal is to raise an additional $10,500 via GoFundMe. LaShawn and Tarriq's sisters believe they can pool together some money to make up for the difference.
I will manage all the funds raised via GoFundMe and will make direct payments to the funeral home and cemetery.
I will donate any remaining funds to theBeacon House, which serves nearly 500 children in the N.E. Washington DC neighborhood where Tarriq grew up and was killed. Tarriq spent many hours of his youth playing football and receiving invaluable mentorship from athletic director Rodney Cephas. Less than a month after getting out of prison, Tarriq returned to Beacon House to volunteer his time when he could get leave passes from the halfway house. He wanted to encourage the children to engage in positive activities that would keep them off the streets.
Tarriq was loved deeply. In addition to his mother, LaShawn Lewis, Tarriq is survived by his father, four sisters, three brothers, daughter, girlfriend, great grandmother, numerous uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends. In an effort to respect their privacy, I will not name them here or post their photos, as I defer to them to tell their stories. This is merely my perspective on Tarriq's life.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.