I, like most of us was stunned this weekend by the news of comedian Bernie Mac’s early death at age 50 and that of music icon Issac Hayes the very next day at age 65. I recalled the 2006 passings, one day apart, of revered journalist Ed Bradley, age 65 and singer Gerald Levert, age 40. I thought of the tragic, successive loss of Sean Levert, Gerald’s younger brother at age 39 just this past spring and the July passing of 52-year-old jazz guitarist Hiram Bullock. Rest in peace, brothers.
In a time when the average life expectancy of Americans is at an all-time high, 77.8 years, African-American men swim in the shallow end of the statistical pool at 68.9 years.* None of these men, nor my own father, reached the age of the lowest national statistic, yet none of them fall among the staggering number of Black men who meet violent ends. So while violence within and against the African-American community must be addressed with urgency, so too, must we examine and ameliorate the factors that shape the health of the community–from systemic disparities to shifting long-held cultural notions which no longer serve our common good. I have borne witness within my own large family to the acceptance of hypertension and diabetes as a given, a natural consequence of the process of living and aging. No, folks, having “Sugar” and its attendant complications is not our birthright.
Whilst I pour mental libation in honor of the “brothers who ain’t here,” I pray for the mental, spiritual and physical well-being of those who are. I wish for them the wherewithal to create individual changes which ultimately, will alter the collective numbers.
*Statistics from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention/National Center for Health Statistics www.cdc.gov/nchs