In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Search for a Different Marvin Gardens
  • Alison Condie Jaenicke (bio)

for Osaze O. Osagie,
August 2, 1989–March 20, 2019

I. Osage

His name suggests to me Osage orange, the strange green fruit I collected along the paths of Tudek Park to arrange in clear bowls for the State High girls' tennis banquet. The same high school Osaze graduated from a decade before my daughter, the same Tudek Park where the previous December a college [End Page 32] student held a gun to his head and police came with mental health professionals to talk him back. He shot himself anyway, but not to death (eye damage but no brain injuries), and a helicopter flew him to a hospital.

Where he recovered. The university sent alerts in the early morning darkness, warning us all to avoid the park. Where were the warnings this time, in the case of Osaze, when he brandished a knife in his Marvin Gardens apartment and threatened to harm himself and others, when the nearby elementary school got information quickly enough to go on lockdown?

Another name for the Osage orange is mock orange. Note that the tree—named by the French after the Osage Indians, who call themselves Wahzhaze—does not bear orange fruit. Osage orange fruits have skins the bright green of tennis balls, curved and crenellated with tight, winding ridges like brains. Note that the color of all our brains is the same. Even though my skin is a freckled and tanned color called "white," my brain is the same color Ozaze's was. Gray matter alive appears a flushed delicate pink, a mottled mix of white, black, and red.

II. "Less Than a Handful": Community Action for Osaze Osagie, March 27, 2019

A week after Osaze is shot and killed by a police officer called by the young man's father to serve a mental health warrant, we gather to grieve in a used bookstore's back room, our voices competing with live salsa music out front.

The police say Osaze was struck with "less than a handful" of bullets; we are more than a handful. Most here did not know Osaze, although some, like me, know his mother, or father, but we all know we cannot sit still. His middle school Spanish teacher is here to say he was a pleasant, gentle young [End Page 33] man. Mental health professionals, a reporter who was called to the scene, members of the county's Democratic Socialist group, friends of the family, a high school student. Mostly white, some Black. A tall white singer, locally famous as "Miss Melanie," raises her voice to say she is raising two kids of color in nearby Penn's Valley. Her short hair is dyed lavender tonight but has been many colors throughout the years. Another woman seated near her sports purple hair pulled into a loose ponytail, and I think of Prince, who sang of purple rain, who explained the song this way: "When there's blood in the sky, red and blue = purple."

At least two other gatherings have sprouted in the past week, one a vigil at the college gates in a cold rain two days after Osaze died, where people under umbrellas shouted outrage, led calls and responses, gripped candles with flames passed tip to tip to allow everyone to meet somebody new. Another gathering was held by CCU: Community and Campus in Unity.

In the bookstore, we talk of Sergeant Slayton, brought in from the two-hour distant state capital, Harrisburg. His job: to reduce tension, manage the situation. Sergeant Slayton says, Be patient, trust the process, we'll tell it like it is.

Someone chimes in: His role is to set the narrative, determine whether violence is justifiable. His role is to pacify and defend. He insults when he says the trend in our country of police shooting young black men doesn't connect with this.

Someone else says: As a seamstress, you cut a pattern, you know how it's going to turn out. Slayton controls the narrative with a pattern of civility. You know what happens with a pattern. What can we do differently to change the pattern?



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