In the early morning hours of May 25, four young men barely out of high school beat to death a neighbor of mine named Emery Kananui, age 24. Emery lived with his mom just around the corner from my home. I did not know Emery or the four young men accused in the killing. I do know that five young men have been lost to a single senseless act of violence.
As this story unfolded in the newspapers and in neighborhood gossip, I heard anecdotes and opinions about Emery and the four assailants, from those who knew them well and those who did not. The accused four have a history of aggression, some say. Many were not surprised that this tragic death happened, and that saddens me even more. If this brutal beating is not surprising, why couldn’t we have prevented it? What are we as parents, teachers, friends, and community members doing wrong? What are we not doing enough of?
At TKF, we ask these questions constantly. We don’t have all the answers, but we do have six key messages that we believe are part of the answer.
1. Violence is real and hurts everyone.
2. Actions have consequences.
3. Youth can make good and nonviolent choices.
4. Youth can work toward forgiveness as opposed to seeking revenge.
5. Everyone deserves to be loved and treated well.
6. From conflict, love and unity are possible
At TKF, we are dedicated to teaching these key messages to children and young adults. We also realize that we need to do more. We need to reach adults as well. If children learn these important lessons at school through TKF, but are bombarded with conflicting messages at home, our ability to stop violence is greatly diminished. We will never quit, but we need your help. Learn these messages. Teach these messages. Most importantly, model these messages. Together, through these actions, we can fundamentally change this world.
My thoughts and prayers are with all five families in this senseless tragedy, and with each of you. I wish you the strength, courage, and compassion to teach peace and forgiveness at home, in your community, and across the globe.