Social Issues

Friend – Faux – Foe

Our deepest condolences go out to the family of Kenneka Jenkins. 

19 year old Kenneka Jenkins was found dead in a hotel freezer last week after attending a birthday “kick-back” for one of her friends at the hotel.  Social media erupted after numerous videos surfaced revealing snippets from the night showing Kenneka’s friends unfazed by whatever was going on in the room.  Some posts allege she was being assaulted during the Facebook live video, while some allege that she was alive during the recordings. All while her besties sat around unbothered.  Citizen reporting with theories and accusations have clogged social media.  And whatever happened that night still remains unclear since no one from the party has come forward with any details.  No one saw anything. And despite all of the forensic evaluations we’ve done ourselves of that Facebook live video, no one heard anything.

At a party with her “friends.”

For her “friends” birthday. And yet her “friends” have no answers.

My heart breaks for this young lady, and her family.  My heart breaks because she trusted at least one of these “friends.”  She trusted them to have her back when/if she wasn’t able to have her own.  She trusted them to look out for her, including at parties, cause that’s what friends do.

Clearly, these weren’t her friends. Now I don’t the history with any of these girls. But so many questions are left unanswered.

How? How could this happen?

To perish in a freezer with tons of people venturing through the hotel sounds like the craziest thing.

But, it happened.

And now as we wait for the story to unfold, for someone to come forward, or for a new clue to be discovered, we have to figure out how to make sure something like this never happens again.

How?

How do we protect our children from friends or situations like this?  It’s a tragic situation with an unfortunate, despicable ending. And we’re still trying to put it all together.

So now let’s talk.

Lets be real, in this social media era, it’s very easy to meet and make a new friend online.  As adults we’re a lot more skeptical when it comes to meeting people online. Usually. It may take months or years of interacting with a person daily before they even get your contact info.  With our youth, these standards don’t apply. All you have to do is like a couple of pics, add some convo on a couple of their posts, throw in some retweets, maybe even some FaceTime or snand you now have a new bestie who you really know nothing about. The show Catfish is a prime example.

Back in the day when you went out with friends, your parent(s) had to meet them first. And, depending on your age, they also met your friend’s parents as well.  And if that friend was driving or had a car, some thorough questioning was done.

How long have you had your license?  Do you have a curfew?  

Growing up, my parents were super protective.  In the 80’s, the disappearance of Adam Walsh and other kids going missing or getting kidnapped had a lot of parents paranoid.  There was no internet to let you know a child was found within hours as we see today.  Bad news had a lasting, frightening impact. I rarely spent the night over someone’s house that wasn’t family.  My mom wanted to know who lived in the house, was there a father or brother there, who was going to be home or not home, what time did the parents get off work.  To me, it wasn’t even worth the hassle. As a teen, you don’t understand the restrictions your parent’s have in place.  You just want to be out and free, not realizing that their precautions are for your protection.  The restrictions didn’t mean I still didn’t try my own workarounds cus I did.  And I got caught up, pretty much every time.  You can’t outslick the slicksters as they say.

I went on a date one time, and my parents made the guy write his address and home phone number with his mama’s name on a piece of paper.  Wasn’t no cell phones.  Granted they already had the number on Caller ID cus he pretty much called everyday.  But it was to show him, we’re watching you sir.

But not just questioning kids is enough, cus as I said above they’ll workaround the truth if it benefits what they want to do.  We have to talk to our children about friendships and what healthy relationships, in general look like.   Also what to do when they end up in tricky situations with friends.

When we were in college, my friends rule #1 was never go anywhere alone, especially to parties and at night. Rule 1a was if you do go alone, make sure you let somebody know with who and where.  One of us was always up at 2/3am in college.  After the booty bag got packed, you called your home girl to let her know where you would be.  That was standard procedure.  When we went to parties, if everyone was ready to leave and you weren’t, either we all stayed or you left with us.  We didn’t leave anybody behind. You weren’t riding home with someone else.  If the party or club didn’t feel right or dudes were acting ignorant, we left.  Whether it was four of us or just two of us, we looked out for each other.  And when it came down to it, we rode for each other. If we got in trouble and didn’t want to involve parents, we knew what relative we could reach out to.  That ‘just in case I need bail money but can’t call my mama just yet but I know you’re going to tell her anyway'” relative.

That level of awareness came from conversations with our parents and older siblings.  Constantly being reminded  that there are people who don’t have your best interests in mind and people that will harm you if you aren’t careful.  There was so much going on in the 90s, that you had to be aware of everything. We didn’t have social media to hide behind.  You had to be conscious of your surroundings and be very in-tune with your gut instinct.

Having an open line of  communication is key.  Even if your the King or Queen of bad relationships, you know what a healthy relationship SHOULDN’T look like.  Toxic relationships aren’t just boyfriend or girlfriend exclusive, toxic friendships are real.  Just because your cool with someone doesn’t make them your friend.  Just because their nice to you, doesn’t automatically make them a good person.  A friendship shouldn’t stress you out.  Your friends shouldn’t try to embarrass you or humiliate you, one up you or try to manipulate you.  Heck, there will even be times in life, when you may not have any friends, and you’ll push through it.  The circle of life will always be spinning.  You’ll meet new people who will connect with you as if they’ve been around for years.   Those are adults lessons and experiences, but we need to let these kids know they do exist.  Even if it doesn’t register at 10 or 15 or 19 years old, one day it will click and they will understand that message you gave those years ago.

As parents and mentors, the charge is on us to make sure this next generation and  future generations are prepared to deal with the ills of life.   To acknowledge that in every situation, there is a choice that can be made.  You can choose to do what’s right or choose to do what’s wrong.

We need to bring back daily dinner table conversation. Bring back heart to heart conversations with your teen/tween/young adult.  Bring back “What’s new in your world with your friends?” dialogue. Text the friend’s parents.  Stop by their house and see what’s going on over there.

Protect your children because as you can see  …  the world won’t protect them for you.

Praying for justice for this little girl! #justiceforkenneka

 

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