I read this in the Sunday New York Times (December 14, 2014), and it seems to me a good story for this season.
Twenty-four years ago, Debbie Maigrie was a stay-at-home mom who had gone out with friends for the first time since the birth of her second child, and was shot during a gang initiation in Tampa. Florida. Ian Manuel was a 13- -year-old boy when he fired wildly and repeatedly, and one bullet entered Debbie’s mouth ripping through her jaw and teeth.
Ian Manuel fits all the racial stereotypes of the black predator. He was born to a drug addicted mother and an absent father, and had been arrested 16 times by the time he was 13. Ian confessed to the shooting, and was sentenced to life-without-parole. He was the youngest and smallest person in a men’s prison, where he did not adjust well, with multiple solitary confinements and repeated suicide attempts.
On his second Christmas in prison he placed a collect call to Debbie Baigrie who was still dealing with repeated painful surgeries. In spite of her pain and anger, Debbie accepted the charges; Ian told her he was sorry, and when she asked him why he did it, he said it was a mistake.
They kept in touch (even though her family thought she’d lost her mind), but Debbie felt that in addition to her suffering and anger, “that he was just a kid”. They have stayed in touch for decades, and when the Supreme Court threw out life-without-parole sentences for juveniles who had not committed murder, Debbie testified at his sentencing; she told them, this boy never had a chance, he did a terrible thing, but but you have to walk a mile in his shoes to see what he’s been up against his whole life. She pleaded for the Court to consider who and what this man has become, but it didn’t work and he was sentenced to 65 years.
Ian Manuel is now 37 years old, he is scheduled to be released in 2031, and Debbie is the only family he has in the world. I look at her as my Angel of Perpetual Hope, she inspires my belief that we can transcend our scars and remind ourselves of our humanity.
In this season of renewal and rebirth I say to you all my Friends and Relatives…Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New Year. My blessings in the New Year… I say this For All My Relations, Mi Takuye Oyasin,