Life’s lessons can be learned in at least two distinct manners, either vicariously — that is by observing others, the choices they make and the results thereof — or through our own experiences and the roads on which we find ourselves due to the decisions we make and the actions we take.
Regretfully, one former Ballou Senior High School gridiron great, Jamal Speaks, 19, now faces years behind bars after recently being charged with the killing of his girlfriend, 18-year-old Saniyah Floyd.
Speaks, just last year, had achieved the seemingly impossible, overcoming tremendous odds, including once being homeless and denied the opportunity to represent his school due to a policy which prohibited youth without a permanent address to participate in sports.
But Speaks refused to give up and many within the community came forward on his behalf — knocking down barriers and opening new pathways to victory while berating the insensitive school policy and those who sought to enforce it.
We celebrated with Jamal after the young man received an invitation to join the Temple University football team where he could continue to pursue his dream of professional sports stardom while also earning a college degree. But now the walls have come crashing down on him and the prognosis does not look good.
Police first believed that Floyd had accidentally shot herself on April 7 — a conclusion that would be determined impossible after a medical examiner found the gunshot wound could not have been self-inflicted. Subsequent investigations showed that Speaks had illegally purchased a gun and, it’s believed, had been “playing” with the weapon when it went off, after which he put the gun in his girlfriend’s hand.
Another potentially bright future has been destroyed as Speaks now faces first- and second-degree murder and assault and weapons charges. But at least he is still alive. For Floyd, she will never have the chance to pursue her own goals, hopes or dreams.
Our sources tell us that Speaks did not intend to harm and certainly not kill his girlfriend. But the callous decision he made in his attempts to cover up his actions do not bode well for the young man, particularly when his case comes to trial and he must face a judge and jury.
It’s easy to point fingers and lay blame on environment, economics, educational shortcomings and so many other factors in efforts to justify or explain the deeds we commit or the beliefs we espouse. But in the end, it’s the choices we make that have the greatest impact on our lives — both today and tomorrow. And unlike in children’s fairy tales, some choices can only result in “unhappy endings.”