A quiet, well-known student, committed to his education
A young man filled with promise
A renaissance man of sorts
A warm and helpful spirit
The peacemaker of the family
He always had a smile on his face
It was impossible not to like him
Allen University grad, Business Administration; poet, musician,
skateboarder; hair stylist. “Ambition over adversity,” you said.
“I want to go to grad school,” you said. Humble but driven,
you always told your mother you’d be famous. At twenty-six,
the youngest of those gathered to pray,
you faced the white man who’d pulled a gun
in the midst of your loved ones
and said calmly, “You don’t have to do this.”
He insisted that he did. You asked that he shoot you instead
of your eighty-seven-year-old grandmother.
He replied that it did not matter. He was
going to shoot you all. You dove to save her. You were
the first to fall. Your mother and niece survived
by playing dead, and there is no doubt
some part of them did indeed
die that day. There are so many things you could have been
famous for. No one imagined
it would be this.
The massacre of nine people on Wednesday, June 17th at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, is a tragedy of national proportions. I feel strongly that this is a time for all Americans to act in whatever way we can to address the racial hatred that lives on in our country in ways both great and small. This is the fourth of a series of poems honoring the victims of the Charleston shooting.
The words that open this poem are those of people who knew TyWanza Sanders, including college administrators, family members, and close friends. The moving story of his heroism on the night of the tragedy are related in a story by the New York Times. Detailed reminiscences on his life from his four close friends, his “band of brothers,” appear in a recent article from Vibe.