by Jeffery L. Boney
Special to the NNPA from the Houston Forward-Times
It has been nearly one year since Joshua Woods was brutally gunned down, after being followed home from a northwest Houston mall by four young African-American teenagers, seeking to rob Woods and a friend of their recently purchased Air Jordan tennis shoes.
For Dazie Williams, not a day goes by when she doesn’t think about her son and wonder why that dreadful incident on December 21st had to happen to him.
Williams has started “Life over Fashion” (www.lifeoverfashion.org), an organization with a mission to challenge people to make the necessary changes, in memory of her son and to protect future victims of senseless crimes surrounding material possessions.
According to Williams, Nike promotes their popular Air Jordan shoes as “limited” or “special edition” which leads to a culture of violence, because they refuse to manufacture enough shoes to meet the high-demand. She believes that if Nike continues to release their product as is, more lives will be lost and more crimes of this type will be committed.
She is encouraging people to sign a petition, which seeks to get the attention of Nike and Michael Jordan so that they can change the current distribution of Air Jordan shoes, as well as take Joshua’s story to the White House in order to put an end to these violent crimes. The petition does not in any way seek to ban the sale or release of Air Jordan shoes, however, they believe there needs to be a more responsible, affordable and productive way to sell and release them to the public, so that no more children are harmed while purchasing them.
Woods and his friend woke up early on December 21st to be one of the first in line to buy the latest Air Jordan tennis shoes at the mall. After purchasing the shoes, Woods and his friend were followed and confronted by several young African-American teenagers who demanded the newly purchased shoes from them. Woods was eventually shot in the head and taken to the hospital, where he later died. Authorities arrested three teenagers; Anthony Quinn Wade, 19, Neal Bland, 18, and Kegan Arrington, 19, and all three were charged with capital murder in death of Woods. A fourth suspect was later arrested and also charged with capital murder.
Since her son’s murder, Williams has been an outspoken proponent of demanding Nike change the way they release the Air Jordan shoes and has dedicated her life to making sure something is done to bring to stop the violence associated with the release of these shoes nationwide.
“I have done my own research on this product and I am amazed at the stream of violence and how many other innocent lives have been taken over a pair of Air Jordan’s,” said Williams. “It’s not only my family and I who are grieving over the loss of a loved one due to this product; there are so many more.”
In addition to her son, Williams’ research has found that the following young men were killed for their Nike Air Jordan tennis shoes: Juan Reyna, 16, (shot and killed); Paul Sampleton, Jr., 14, (shot and killed); Michael Eugene Thomas, 15, (strangled).
Just a few months ago in August, a Las Vegas man was shot multiple times while waiting in line at the mall for the new release of the latest Air Jordan tennis shoes.
Since the story, “Joshua Woods…Another Life Taken over Jordan’s,” appeared in the Houston Forward Times, Williams has been on a personal mission to share her son’s story with everyone who’ll listen, and that includes Nike and Michael Jordan himself.
Williams knows that Nike did not pull the trigger that killed her son and refuses to blame the cost of the shoe for the continued violence, but vehemently believes that Michael Jordan should say something and that Nike needs to manufacture more shoes in order to stem the violence.
This past February, during the recent NBA All-Star Weekend in Houston, Williams received a call from a Nike executive and Michael Jordan himself. Williams states that Jordan called her one evening and assured her that he would work with her to address the issue she was fighting so adamantly for; a promise she says has not been fulfilled.
“Michael Jordan called me and expressed his condolences to me and my family,” said Williams. “He told me he read the story and that he would work with me to address the issues. That was in February and now it’s October and I haven’t gotten as much as a phone call or email from him.”
Williams says that a Nike representative told her that she was the first person that has ever been as aggressive or vocal about the death of a loved one surrounding Air Jordan tennis shoes since the first murder in the late 80’s.
Williams doesn’t plan to let up anytime soon.
In the midst of the tragedy, Williams takes comfort in knowing that her son’s life was worth so much more than a pair of sneakers. Joshua was an organ donor and was able to save four lives.
“He may have passed away but his heart still beats on,” says Williams.
At 22 years of age, Williams is committed to letting the world know that Joshua was a caring, respectful, responsible, and loving young man who worked hard to earn money the right way.
Joshua was a hard-working young man who had two jobs, one in the evening and another overnight, to take care of his family and his responsibilities. He was not a thug or a gangster. On the contrary, he was a responsible young man seeking to set an example for his 6-year old son.
“I miss him terribly,” says Williams. “It still seems unreal because I had just spoken to him 12 minutes before I got the call from his friend that he’d been shot. I just wish those young men would have gotten to know my son. He (Joshua) would have just given them the shoes or some money to buy some shoes, if they wanted them that bad.”
With the launch of their Nike products, Nike released the following statement: “As the launch of all Nike products, consumer safety and security is of paramount importance. We encourage anyone wishing to purchase our product to do so in a respectful and safe manner.”
Williams has a list of things that she believes Nike should implement in order to save more lives, reduce the number of families mourning and lead to a reduction in these types of crimes.
Those things are:
- Let the shoes sell themselves
- Stop making this the only shoe where you have to get a wrist band, ticket or stand in long lines for hours to purchase
- Make the shoes available without all of the chaos and violence
- Don’t put a cap on the number of shoes each store will be receiving
- Increase the quantity provided to retailers, make Air Jordan’s more easily accessible
The Houston Forward Times will continue to follow this story and remain on the frontline to address this epidemic that has been impacting the African-American community for decades.