No Laughing Matter

From: so did Vida tell you about Robin?

This is how it started. A simple email asking me about a girl my brother dated years and years ago. She had a son she said was his. Turned out he wasn’t. Not long after she drifted out of my family’s life and to be honest I hadn’t thought much about her in a long time.

Robin stayed with me one summer not long after the baby was born. God he was a cute kid. Curly hair, huge dimples, always smiling. Aviante Renee Kennedy Hale. Heck of a big name for a little kid. He had a big sister, Jovanna who watched over him. Not yet five years old she had the little mommy thing down pat.

Robin and I didn’t get along all that well. My brother had gotten in some trouble and was in jail, which is why Robin was staying with me. I was nineteen, more than a little spoiled, trying to make it on next to nothing. My big brother, whom I idolized, would call collect from jail and she would yell at him, curse him out, tell him she was running around with other guys (she wasn’t) and finally I said, I am not paying for you to torture my brother! No more calls if you can’t be nice.
Not long after she moved out, taking the kids with her and heading to Vida’s house until Josh got out. A little while later they broke up and she went back home to California. I never saw her again.
I thought about little Aviante from time to time; she would occasionally update Vida and Vida would pass the news on to me. Then she asked for child support, a reasonable request. Josh asked for a paternity test, also a reasonable request. That’s when she told him; he’s not yours – and disappeared from all of our lives.

Flash forward to February of this year. I get an email from Josh, now in prison. Drugs. Always his downfall. He’s married now. To a great lady who has stood beside him. He has children. Grandchildren. They miss him.

The email read “Hey, did you hear about Robin? There’s a book out. Page 209.” And that’s how I found out what happened to her.

Robin was found dead in her apartment. She had been there three days. Her boyfriend had stabbed her to death and disappeared. I don’t know where the kids were. I don’t know if the killer was ever caught. It happened ten years ago and it is hard to find details now.

What I do know is that the kids, especially Aviante, clung to the only family they had left; Robin’s brother John. John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Yes that is his real name. By all accounts he truly loved the kids. But he had problems of his own.
A major gang player in Long Beach, California, he was playing both ends against the middle, heading up the city’s gang prevention unit as a “reformed gang-banger” while still having a little too much to do with the gang life. Whether he was simply maintaining ties to keep his street cred and lead more young men out of the gang life (as he claims) or if he was actually using his city position to get inside information to further his gangster life (as the police claim) we’ll never know.

What is known is that Aviante fell in with the gangs and was shot to death at at twenty-one years old in a drive-by shooting.

John Kennedy was there in minutes, his nephew’s body still on the ground, fighting to get through the police line. They Tasered him. When he came to he was arrested for obstruction.

Three months later he joined several other people in a plot to murder Thomas and Jackie Hawks and steal their yacht. The middle age couple were tied to an anchor and thrown alive in the ocean to drown. John Kennedy was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death. Robin’s daughter Jovanna testified at the sentencing. She said that John Kennedy was all she had left. She said he was the only person alive who loved her.

It is Jovanna who haunts me. The image of that beautiful little girl standing in my kitchen watching her mom cook her favorite dinner, pork chops and onions, and playing with her little brother. Who could have imagined twenty years later that same little girl, all grown up, would have lost her mother and that precious little baby to violence and would be sitting on a witness stand begging strangers not to put to death the only person she had left.

And it all turned on the actions of one man. An abuser who was likely abused himself. Who took it out on the woman in his life and took her away from those who needed her. Would Aviante have still fallen into gangs if she had not died? Would his uncle have killed those people if his little sister were they to see? Would Jovanna have had to beg for the life of the one man she knew loved her and spend her life wondering if she had said something different if he might still be with her?

We’ll will never know. Robin is dead. And countless lives have been downed in the aftermath.

There have been other women in my life, too many, who have also suffered from abuse. Well educated, strong, successful women. Sadly, Robin’s story is one among millions. It’s too late for her but there are others out there who need our help. The abused. And the abuser. Because even if we get her out, get her help, he will find someone else. Someone who won’t get help. Someone else who will die. By helping him stop the cycle we help us all.

Which is why when the opportunity recently presented itself to be a part of the JFP Chickball I jumped at the chance. An annual fundraiser to help break the cycle of violence; it is the worthiest of causes.
I work full time. I go to school full time. I have a family. My husband’s job keeps him gone three weeks at a time. I have a life. But this matters. So I make the time. And you can too. Please.

Normally I keep the blog light and funny, I change the names of those I write about and take a bit of comedic license. But not this time. Robin, Aviante, Jovanna and John Kennedy are all real. Those are their real names, this is their real story.

If you need help please please please try one of these links or call 911. But get out, get help. You are not alone.

Abuse Shelters in Central Mississippi …………………………………………………………………………………………………….
Catholic Charities, Inc.Serving Hinds, Issaquena, Madison, Rankin, Sharkey, Simpson, Warren and Yazoo Counties
P.O. Box 2248Jackson, MS39225-2248

Angel Wings Outreach CenterServing Hinds, Issaquena, Madison, Rankin, Simpson, Warren, and Yazoo Counties
P.O. Box 787Mendenhall, MS39114

Care LodgeServing Clarke, Kemper, Lauderdale, Leake, Neshoba, Newton, Noxubee, Scott and Winston Counties.
601-693-HOPE (4673)
P.O. Box 5331Meridian, MS39302

The Center for Violence PreventionServing Hinds, Issaquena, Madison, Rankin, Sharkey, Simpson, Warren, and Yazoo Counties
P. O. Box 6279Pearl, MS39288

Haven House Family ShelterServing Hinds, Issaquena, Madison, Rankin, Sharkey, Simpson, Warren and Yazoo Counties
P.O. Box 57Vicksburg, MS39181

For more information on how you can help with the Chickball check out these resources:

To get involved, write or check us out at any of the spots below;

Twitter: @jfpchickball
Facebook –

For more information on domestic violence intervention see:

~ by D.L. Graves on May 8, 2009.

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