Thursday, July 12, 2012

Memorial for Travion Lamar Cotton, 30 years old

Memorial for Travion Cotton

We have known these were strange times since a few decades ago when parents began burying their children instead of visa versa. I remember when my son said, "Dad, I'm going to preach your funeral and tell every secret thing I know about you." But he made his transition at 39, so I preached at his funeral.

Today I attended the memorial service for 30 year old Travion Cotton, a Berkeley young man I'd taken with me on my 2007 east coast book tour. Travion was into gang banging and his family asked if I could get him out of Berkeley ASAP. So he joined me on tour, traveling on a plane for the first time in his life. When the plane hit turbulence, Tre, his nickname, nearly jumped out the plane. But once we landed on the east coast, Tre took care of business as my videographer, filming my readings and book signings at the Univ. of Penn, Amiri Baraka's house in Newark, NJ, Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, WBAI radio station, Wall Street, a rally at New York City Hall where black women were protesting Don Imus and UMASS, Boston. Travion was serious at all times when we were handling business. My daughter Muhammida gave Tre a few quick lessons on the use of a video camera and he was off and running. He caused me no problems on the tour. After a few days he had to return to Cali for a court appearance. Soon after he enrolled at Contra Costa College.

At the memorial service today, person after person described Tre as a most loving person with an infectious smile. And he was. Even though his parents had a long bout with drug addiction, Tre let me know he had unconditional love for both parents. After observing me conversing with my ex-wife at my daughter's house in Brooklyn, Tre asked my daughter, "How did it feel to see you mom and dad talking together?" Apparently it was too often that he saw his mom and dad talking together in a loving manner, despite their separation.

His question to my daughter stuck with me and I've written about the incident as a model of what parents can and must do in the presence of their children: show love and respect, rather than hating on each other and passing it onto the children.

The service at Oakland's Imani Church where the Nguzo Saba hangs on the wall, was full of poetry and a wonderful praise dance by a young lady. Several cousins read poems and another cousin read a fictional letter from his mother, Paulette. His aunt Suzzette Celeste had the congregation repeat an affirmation of love for Travion. His "boys" spoke of their love and respect for Tre, wearing their RIP T-shirts with his pic on it. After the service, I went up to the "boys" and asked where I can get one of those shirts. One of the "boys" said, "Man, I'll get you one, just call me. Tre told us about his trip with you. I was calling him every day while he was on the east coast. Man, that was the biggest thing happened to him in his life."

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