In memory of Markeis V. Parish

Thank you to Koren Saenz, a former teacher of Markeis V. Parish, who submitted these kind words to share with you.  Today Markeis Parish was buried while his killer is still roaming free.

By: Koren Saenz

Yesterday when I arrived home from work I became aware of some very unsettling news. I saw an image of a candelight vigil in Inglewood for a person by the name of Markeis. I examined the unique spelling and decided to Google the words “Markeis” and “Inglewood” hoping this was not the same promising, bright, precocious young man who was in my freshman English class. I was confronted by the following:


After tracking down a memorial Facebook page with information about his wake I decided to grab my keys and jump in my car hoping I could make it in time to say goodbye to my beloved former student. As I drove down the freeway I tried to make sense of what had happened. I remembered Markeis sitting in the front row of my classroom, his infectious laughter, our many conversations about the history of religion and the bible, razzing one another about our favorite basketball teams, and counseling him through many problems with peers, girls and family members. However, there was one moment that stands out in my mind. I both love and hate to assign autobiographical essays to my students. I love this exercise because it allows me to understand my students on an intimate level, connect with them, empathize with them and rationalize some of the motivation behind their behavior. However, oftentimes when you give a student a platform to express themselves I have found they will hold nothing back which has unfortunately led me to have to report multiple instances of abuse, neglect, rape, etc. to child protective services. I tasked Markeis with writing an auto-biographical narrative about a significant time in his life and what he created was one of the most heart-felt and moving pieces I have ever read in my career as an educator. What he created was a love letter for his mother. He described his feelings about being removed from her custody as a young child, the depth of his despair, his anger, his confusion and his difficulty adjusting to life with his Aunt. However, what struck me was the process by which he described coming to terms with growing up without her, his appreciation for the teaching and efforts of his aunt in raising him, and the great love and forgiveness he had achieved through his relationship with God. He ended the narrative with the lines: “I love you Lawanna”. As I drove down the freeway all I could think of was having the opportunity to look into his mother’s eyes and try to articulate even an iota of the great love and affection he felt for her.

Funerals and wakes are always surreal experiences; however, nothing could be more surreal than seeing an eighteen-year old young man who was once full of life and horsing around your classroom lying in repose in a wooden box. As I walked through the door of the mortuary and moved to sign the guest book with a trembling hand I was greeted by family members who directed me to a forlorn looking woman whom they identified as Markeis’ mother. With far less eloquence as I had envisioned in my head and choking back tears, I told her I had been Markeis’ freshman English teacher and that I was so sorry for what had happened. I also said, “I just wanted to tell you how often your son spoke of you and the love he felt for you”. She embraced me, began to sob, and then let out a quiet, “Thank you Jesus.”

It was then I realized that this moment – an opportunity to relay an important message to a grieving mother made possible by my interaction with her child – was both the gift and the great responsibility of being a teacher. Of course the process of educating a young person, the curriculum, the books and the pencils and the exams – this is all imperative. Yet, as anyone who is part of the profession will tell you, teachers are also social workers, grief counselors, psychologists, nurses, pseudo-parents, police officers, mediators, detectives, etc. What a teacher who has spent any significant amount of time teaching in an urban environment will also tell you is that teachers are advocates who attempt to prepare young people for a world where they are still not completely judged by the content of their character. I was reminded of this fact when I returned home from the wake and, unable to sleep, I began reading news stories about Markeis’ passing and the vile, racist, ignorant comments that people were making about a young man they didn’t know behind the anonymity of a keyboard.

 markeisWhat happened was a case of an innocent young man being run over by a car while trying to cross the street, plain and simple. However, here I sat reading people attempting to turn it into a vehicle for racism and bigotry which angered me. As much as I was tempted to launch into a diatribe and scold these anonymous screen names who had never spent a day of their lives conversing with this young man or understood how beloved he was in the community, the many positive goals he pursued throughout his short life, or the depth and complexity of his spirit, I understood this would be an exercise in futility. The only way to truly combat ignorance and hatred is to be an instrument of knowledge and truth which, as a teacher, is my solemn duty.

I will never forget Markeis Parish. He will serve as a constant reminder that although conventional wisdom dictates that teachers provide students an opportunity to reach their full potential, it is sometimes students that provide teachers with an opportunity to stay in contact with their humanity.

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One Response so far.

  1. Ms. Julie Bond says:

    Karen!! That was a beautiful eulogy and I am sure many who knew Markeis will share your same feelings. I was quite saddened when I read about such a horrendous incident resulting in the incomprehensible loss of one so young and with such untapped potential.
    Julie Bond

About Melissa

I am a lifelong Inglewood resident living in District 4. I serve on PTA and School Site Council as Vice-President, for the last 8 years with Inglewood Unified School District. I volunteer on the Wellness Committee for ICEF Public Schools. I am an alumni of California State University, Dominguez Hills with a degree in Political Science. You can find me on Twitter under @CreoleMommie

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