Editor’s Note: Jamanni “Jay” Gibson, 21, of West Peoria died following a kayaking accident on American Lake near Tacoma, Wash., where he was stationed with the U.S. Army. Gibson graduated in the top 10 from Manual Academy in 2015 and attended University of Illinois Chicago for two years majoring in urban development and political science before enlisting in the U.S. Army.
Columnists Kamara Taylor and Sherry Cannon were both friends and mentors of Jay.How often do we think that a loss is a win?
Very often we meet people in this world of billions, and it is no surprise that we share so many commonalities as opposed to the differences that we create.
Group thinking and conformity have been the cornerstone of this country, but after writing poetic pieces (for this column space) such as “I too am America,” I wonder how much impact it would have on the reader or who’s really reading my column and understanding the pain and depth of hurt that it comes from.
I first thought of submitting a piece on how the micro aggressions of this new Jim Crow era we are living in impact me as a woman of color, as we end the month with the liberation of women. However, after receiving news of Jay Gibson’s death, I’m pondering the loss of one of Peoria’s most bright and promising young men. I begin to understand how much we lose.
I recall Jay’s drive and passion and the uniqueness of his reserved personality. We saw in him a young man waiting to flourish.
It’s no surprise he wanted to walk in footprints of giants. He pleaded with his family about serving in the military – for a country that was not equally invested in him.
This is not an attack on the government. It could not understand the magnitude and value of this young man. In his reserve and humbleness was a reservoir of greatness – a young man who would change the lives of those who had the honor of encountering him in any capacity. I can’t see the win in losing such a beautiful soul, but I’m hoping that some other young person in the city of Peoria will see the value in Jay’s life. That’s when we will know he will continue to live through the progression of other young men who possess that fire to be great, not just for themselves but for their community. Sometimes we lose to win. This time the loss feels so much greater.
I will continue to empower, encourage and motivate young men and women towards greatness as I pay homage to Jay. Let’s not forget our everyday heroes.
Food for thought. Keeping it real.