The Night I Died

In the summer of 1969 I was 18 and a mere week or two away from going off to college. On the night of August 8, 1969 I was shot and killed because I was running and I was black. I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was 11:30 PM on a beautiful star-studded Saturday night in Park Slope. I was with John Long, my oldest friend; we were running down President Street from 7th avenue heading down to the Pizza shop on the corner of 5th to meet up with friends. I remember we started to run, I don’t know why; we were kids and probably a little high. We were good kids. I never got in trouble I was about to become a college basketball player. Life was good.

As we ran down the dimly-lit street, laughing, I noticed a middle-aged man standing on the corner. We were about 15 feet from the corner when the man wheeled around and, as he did, he reached for his side and pulled out a revolver and aimed it at my chest. The sight of a gun froze me in my tracks. In that moment everything went to slow motion. As I looked up, my eyes connected with the bloodshot eyes of a ruddy-faced drunk. I can hear the crack of the revolver’s hammer and the explosion that followed. Fire erupted from the two-inch barrel of the detective special. The bullet exploded through my chest with frightening speed exiting well before my body hit the warm flagstone sidewalk.

I did not die that night in early August. I did not die because the man obviously realized John and I were kids as he screamed “Oh, my God!” grabbed his face with his hands, holstered his gun and ran away.

I don’t know if being white stopped the man from killing me or if he was sober enough to realize we were just kids. I will never know. What I do know is if I was black there is a good chance I would have died that night in 1969.

Trayvon Martin and other black men and boys have been stopped, and in some cases killed just because they are African-Americans running down a street or, as they say, ‘walking while black’, since they arrived in chains on American soil. The cases are well documented — the lynchings, the assaults, the cruelty and the inhumanity that African-Americans have had to endure. In Douglas A. Blackmon’s  “Slavery By Another Name“,
African-American men have been the target of racist and bigots since the reconstruction.

The indiscriminate killing of Trayvon Martin throws water on any post-racial American society. It is very clear racism and bigotry are alive and well, and in this case, in one, George Zimmerman. There is no place for such hatred and in reality, an unsupported hatred, the hatred based on the color of a person’s skin.

John and I watched the guy run away and we both lost it. As my heart started to slow down and return to normal I realized I came very close to being killed. As I look back on the events of August 8, 1969 I know deep in my heart I would have died on that warm sidewalk if I was Trayvon Martin.

Mike Scourby is pretty normal for a guy who grew up in Brooklyn. Well, it’s true, and that’s also the name of his blog. He’s a Yellow Dog Democrat currently living deep in a Red State but, as he told his kids, he’s moving back to Brooklyn at the first sign of a twang. Mike spends his time educating young minds to a Bluer state of mind.


  1. Miles to Go says:

    […] Had it been a white boy killed in a similar fashion would the shooter – black, brown, white – still be on the street? […]