USUALLY WHEN I photograph children, they smile at the camera. They light up, pose, and glam it up, because they’re thrilled that someone with a camera is focusing her attention on them, if only for a brief moment.
Well, this little boy didn’t smile at all. Now, I’ve had this happen to me before with children I’ve photographed, but something about this little boy shook me to the core.
I was determined to photograph him anyway, and so I snapped a few frames and kept it moving.
However, as I was editing the photo, I began to wonder about him, his life, his outlook. Did this pair of sad eyes looking up at me see something in me, or did he decide that there was nothing in his world worth seeing?
Where was the light, the hope, the joy? He had to be no more than four or five years old. He was way too young to look so sad.
“As I think back on that moment, I wonder if he had some kind of premonition. Was he seeing Trayvon and Jordan, and all the other black boys and girls gunned down before their prime?”As a mother, I know that children can sometimes withdraw. They can be consumed by sadness and loss. Some struggle to be accepted by their peers and others struggle to stay alive. Our children carry way too many burdens today that I don’t recall carrying as a child.
But as I think back on that moment, I wonder if he had some kind of premonition. Was he seeing Trayvon and Jordan, and all the other black boys and girls gunned down before their prime, before they had a chance to live out their dreams and make their mark on this world? Was he fearful that this was the world he was inheriting?
Was he sad because perhaps he sensed that there were forces, larger than him, conspiring to diminish (if not end) his life, and the lives of little black boys like him, before they had a chance to begin?
I’ll never know for sure. But mothers, grandmothers, aunties and all of us who love and care for little Black boys and Black girls must do what we can to keep the lines of communication open. Sometimes being a listening ear, focusing on what they have to say to us, may be the very thing that can help us pierce the veil of their sadness.