- Associated Press - Sunday, June 8, 2014

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - Larry Davis watched as his mother, Nakia Arrington, was strangled.

He was 4 at the time.

Moments later, Davis witnessed his mother’s killer, Kevin Jackson, hang himself from a beam in their home’s garage.

Eighteen years later, Davis, 22, is still haunted by the traumatic scene, which he describes as setting him on “a rocky road to normalcy.”

That road thus far has been paved with pitfalls of addiction and stained by internal anger.

But with help from city support services, Davis has acquired a resilient spirit.

“It was very rough growing up in New Haven without a mom or dad. My dad was in and out of jail and I watched my mother raped and strangled to death in front of me by my little sister’s father,” said Davis.

“We were all in the house when this happened,” Davis said. “My sister and my two cousins were in the house until someone got there; we were hungry and had no food.”

Davis said his father is serving an 80-year prison sentence on weapons violations and other crimes.

Four children, ages 13 months to 6, were in the first-floor apartment at the time of the murder. Two were the children of Arrington and Jackson, according to a Sept. 25, 1995, story in the Register.

When police responded to the scene, they discovered Arrington’s body on her bed with marks on her neck. Jackson was found hanging in the garage.

The state’s medical examiner’s office confirmed that Arrington was strangled and her death was officially ruled a homicide, the story said.

According to police, Arrington was 21 at the time of her death and was 8 months pregnant. The fetus did not survive.

Police said it was unclear if any of the children witnessed the murder.

But Davis said he did.

“They were all asleep,” he said. “I was the only one that actually saw what went down; I watched it happen.”

Shortly after the death of Arrington, Davis said he and his sister were adopted by his great-grandmother.

“She took care of us and I wanted the best for us, but I wanted to run the streets, too,” said Davis. “She wanted me to go to church, but I wanted to go into a whole different direction.”

When Davis’ grandmother became gravely ill, things went downhill.

“When my grandmother died, my sister and I moved from home to home. That’s when I really started running the streets heavy,” he said.

“I have a lot of anger inside of me,” said Davis. “I watched my mother raped and strangled to death; people don’t know, they’ll never understand.”

Davis became addicted to cocaine and is serving a probation sentence for possession of narcotics.

“I know I have an anger problem because of what I’ve been through. I felt that people and the world owed me because my mother was killed.” said Davis.

“It’s the daily stress and the anger that led me to start using powder cocaine,” he said. “Even dealing with the negative stereotype of being young and black causes built-up anger.”

New Haven Project Longevity program manager the Rev. William Mathis said he understands the frustrations of many of the those he serves.

The sometimes-controversial project, based on the work of renowned criminologist and John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor David Kennedy, works on the premise that gun violence is committed by a small number of people in a community.

Davis is identified and connected to Project Longevity.

According to Mathis, there are three major challenges in serving at-risk clients: inadequate resources (financial and nonfinancial), racism/stereotyping and unrealistic expectations.

“It has been clear: the necessary resources that one would have expected, and what we assume are with those we attempt to serve, are not there,” said Mathis, a former assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore.

“We who serve them suffer from delusions of what (resources) exist,” said Mathis. “The financial commitments that are already there (are) not sufficient for the complexity of those we serve.” he said.

Mathis said additional financial resources are needed to combat a very complex problem that is not just one of morality defined by the general society.

“It’s the street culture for them which is the norm, or getting them a job, or into a substance abuse program or housing and identification; it is so much deeper,” said Mathis.

Effective July 1, $525,000 will be allocated for Project Longevity, the state budget shows. The state budget didn’t specify a line item breakdown of how the funds would be distributed.

As far as racism/stereotyping, Mathis said clients do not know how to navigate the reality of it.

“They have just accepted it and internalized it as the norm,” Mathis said. “Those who serve them pretend as though the reality of racism and stereotyping does not exist.”

“We fool ourselves because if it is not overt, we speak and walk politically correct. When it is overt, we call it out, but do nothing to significantly change it, and sweep it under the rug, pretending that somehow it was out of the ordinary,” he said.

Mathis said racism/stereotyping occurs in housing, job discrimination and law enforcement.

“It’s not right to stereotype; at the end of the day we’re all human,” said Davis.

Some people, he said, will “never know what it is like being targeted” because of skin color.

Davis said believes some of the violence that occurs in the city is a result of youth traumatization.

“Built-up (anger) is part of the violence in the city, because when you’re angry and hold it in, you’re going to eventually explode,” he said.

“Most youth don’t think about the consequences. If they did, they wouldn’t do the crime,” he said. “Anger will get you killed out here.”

Youth living in inner cities show a higher prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder than soldiers, according to Dr. Howard Spivak, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Violence Prevention, who presented research at a 2012 Congressional briefing in Washington, D.C., showing that children are essentially “living in combat zones.”

Licensed clinical social worker the Rev. Frederick Streets said the various forms of violence in the black community may cause those who witness it or who are victims of violence to be traumatized as a result of that experience.

“A traumatic experience threatens our life; it can change our sense of self or identity and it can result in a variety of physical, psychological and neuropsychological difficulties and emotional symptoms that can lead to other health problems,” said Streets, who specializes in trauma care recovery.

According to the Council on Social Work Education, trauma results from adverse life experiences that overwhelm an individual’s capacity to cope and to adapt positively to whatever threat he or she faces.

“People who do experience trauma will react and recover differently from the traumatic experience. Grief is a normal reaction to loss and people who undergo a traumatic experience will also need to address their sense of loss,” Streets said.

Amid the skepticism and environmental circumstances, Davis said he is on the way to recovery.

He is employed and has recently secured his own place to live.

“Mathis has helped me a lot,” said Davis. “He has given me guidance, structure and is helping me with things that I couldn’t probably get on my own,” he said.

He said the process is helpful.

“I’m trying to adjust to all of this, the whole working thing and doing the right thing; it’s not easy,” he said. “I’m used to taking the easy way out.”

Mathis said trust among clients is imperative for positive turnaround.

“Once Larry trusted me, he has been an open book about his feelings, his needs and his questions of life and getting it right,” he said.

“He has learned to take life for what it is and make the best out of it (for) a positive and an upwardly mobile life,” Mathis said. “He trusts, he is persistent and is owning his stuff.”

After hitting rock bottom, Davis said he’s been in drug treatment for the past year.

“The treatment is good and going there makes you think, but it really doesn’t help you,” he said. “You are going to do what you want to do. Change has to come from within; I’ve decided that I want change.”

___

Information from: New Haven Register, https://www.nhregister.com


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