Danielle Dreilinger writes a humanizing, empathetic portrait of a New Orleans child who has been shot twice and lost two relatives to violence. It serves as a heartbreaking update to “The American Male at Age Ten.”
Ka’Nard Allen, 10, does not want to talk about what must be the longest and hardest 10th year of life in all New Orleans. He doesn’t want to talk about Mother’s Day, when he was grazed by a bullet at a second line parade in New Orleans’ 7th Ward, one of 19 people injured in a mass shooting.
He doesn’t want to talk about October, when his father, 38-year-old Bernard Washington, was fatally stabbed in eastern New Orleans by his stepmother after Washington allegedly choked and beat her. She has been charged with manslaughter.
And he really doesn’t want to talk about his 10th birthday party last May 29, when his 5-year-old cousin, Briana Allen, was fatally shot and a bullet hit Ka’Nard in the neck. The man accused of shooting Briana was arrested last month and, last week, was among 15 people indicted on gang racketeering charges in that incident and many others.
Standing on the Simon Bolivar Avenue neutral ground Monday evening, across from his grandmother’s house where Briana was killed, Ka’Nard just wants to ride his shiny black four-wheeler, a gift from his mom after his dad’s death.
He wants an adult to start peeling an orange for him because he can’t get it started himself. He wants to dunk an empty juice bottle into a garbage can and launch high, elegant roundhouse kicks at the pail. He wants to get on that black four-wheeler and drive it off the grass speckled with broken glass, watching for traffic, circling on Simon Bolivar — fast. He’ll even give you a ride on the back.