top of page

This Memphis mother tried to shield her son from a violent culture. It killed him anyway|Weathersbee

When Jarvis Triplett took his all-terrain vehicle for a spin nearly two weeks ago, his mother didn’t worry that he’d wind up being killed by the clunky contraption.

“That was his extracurricular activity,” Dominique Britt, said. “He had it for about a month and knew how to ride it safely, so I didn’t worry about it…”

But the thing that killed Jarvis — gun violence — was what Britt did worry about. It was also what she struggled to shield Jarvis from by buying him that ATV, and by channeling his boyish energy into football and basketball.

But the 15-year-old was shot and killed on April 17 in a random incident while indulging in his newest pursuit; one deemed dangerous by law enforcement but comes nowhere close to the body count amassed by those channeling boredom through bullets. When that happened, his death didn't resonate as bad luck.

It resonated as a betrayal.

The betrayal being that even if parents like Britt follow the manual that’s supposed to get their children to adulthood and beyond, that manual is useless unless everyone around them is following it.

“I tried so hard, so hard, to prevent this,” Britt said. “I tried to teach my son not to hang out with the wrong kids…

“He was my firstborn, my first heartbeat. He’d been playing football since he was 4. He wasn’t a troubled child…He made A’s and B’s…

“I never, in a million years, thought I’d be burying my baby.”

That betrayal also resonates with Tosha Downey, who was reared in South Memphis and is vice president for advocacy for the Memphis Education Fund.

Jarvis was her cousin — and he was especially close to his grandmother, Downey’s first cousin.

“She had a hot-wing spot in Chicago called ‘Red’s’ which was Jarvis’ nickname,” Downey said. “He was something else…he was curious, he always wanted to see something, wanting to touch something…

“But the reason why his death is so traumatic to me is because this generation of cousins, and Dominique in particular, they were really trying to make sure their children were in things like football and basketball. They were trying to make sure that their children weren’t hanging around the streets, getting into trouble…

“When you’re trying to redirect your children into activities to keep them safe, and this happens, it’s really heartbreaking.”

Also heartbreaking is that Britt and Downey’s pain, and the pain of others who have lost loved ones to gun violence, wasn’t felt by Tennessee lawmakers, nor Gov. Bill Lee, who recently signed a bill allowing people to carry guns without a permit.

That invariably means that more guns will be lying around for those who decide to make random shooting their hobby – and interstates and roads are not only full of targets but escape routes.

Which probably means it will be next to impossible to find Jarvis’ killers.

“They passed that law, and now I’m living in fear for my younger son” said Britt, who also is the mother of a 9-year-old.

That shouldn’t be.

Parents who want to create a good life for their children shouldn’t have to worry that when their children leave the confines of football or basketball practice, or when their natural curiosity and energy calls them outside, they may come back inside in a body bag.

The fact that Jarvis was killed in a random shooting speaks to how violence continues to infest healthy, normal living spaces in Memphis. A youth like Jarvis goes to try out his ATV, only to meet someone intent on trying out a gun.

“At what point do young people get a chance to live, and not worry about being snuffed out in the prime of their life?” said Downey, who, through her work, has seen other youths claimed by gun violence.

“I feel like an undertaker sometimes. I bury more young people and their dreams than I care to think about.”

Now she must count one of her little cousins among them.

9 views0 comments


bottom of page