A Son's Violent Death; A Father's Undying Love

Rodney White-El releases a dove at the funeral of his murdered son, Khalil White-El on the stairs of the Faith Community of St. Sabina on Chicago's South Side where services were held. (Photo: John w. Fountain)

By John W. Fountain

Rodney White-El with son Khalil and
the child's grandmother. (Photo: Provided)
Once upon a time, a father fell in love with a son. They united in love and spirit even before that late-autumn day nearly 19 years ago when the precious newborn boy squinted in the bright light, fresh from his mother’s womb as his father beamed with delight tinged with fear over the responsibility of raising the infant he cradled in his arms. Particularly in a world that can be cold, cruel and deadly to brown-skinned boys born on the other side of the tracks. 

But a good father can be a son’s compass. Even if fatherhood arrives devoid of a handbook. Even if the elements that can steal a son’s life hover sometimes like storm clouds even on some sunny days.

And a son can be the light that inspires a father to be a better man. That compels a man to be a better father than his father. To provide for, produce and protect a son with endless selfless devotion. To carry him in life, and also in death. And perhaps beyond. 

"I looked at him as my angel..."

Faith, Love & A Fragile Hope: Peace

Khalil White-EL, 18, was previously a member of The Faith Community of St. Sabina’s Brave Youth Program and most recently in the church’s Strong Futures Mentoring Program, where he was a mentee. He had recently landed a new job and was sharing his excitement about it with mentors Friday (August 19, at St. Sabina’s back-to-school Block Party held at Renaissance Park, at 1300 W. 79th Street, near the church. According to police, Khalil was fatally shot four days later on August 23, in an alley in the 8700 block of South Wabash Avenue, about three miles from St. Sabina.  (Photo: Provided)
By John W. Fountain

Peace. Into the night, the children smile. Their voices rise above the steady whir of bouncy house fans and the deep incurable pain that is not as easily detectable here, though its presence too is undeniable. Like the water that ripples in soft waves at a nearby park fountain. 

Like the mothers of murdered sons and daughters who don “Purpose Over Pain” T-shirts--decades of grief shared between them. Like the enthusiasm of Khalil White-EL, 18, who bubbles with excitement over his new job--his future as bright as his infectious smile. 

Peace. It flows here, on an August Friday night at Renaissance Park on West 79th Street. Drifting upon a premature autumn wind is a sense of the way life is supposed to be, even on this side of Chicago, where gunfire and murder confiscate childhood.

"Don’t we all bleed the same? Doesn’t every human soul carry the same worth?"