DeAndre Hopkins’ homage to Jazmine Barnes matters far more than just his game check
The Texans’ All-Pro receiver is shaken by a senseless murder
Praying for young souls to laugh at life through the stars/ Loving your kids just like you was ours … — Scarface, “This Can’t Be Life” (2000)
The as yet unsolved killing of 7-year-old Jazmine Barnes will be a somber undercurrent in Saturday’s opening round of the NFL playoffs: Houston Texans superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins takes the field in her memory.
The young girl was killed in the Harris County section of Houston in the early morning hours of Dec. 30. Her mother, LaPorsha Washington, gathered Jazmine and her three sisters for a coffee run. Before they could even arrive, a man in a maroon pickup pulled alongside them near the local Walmart. He is described by the Harris County Sheriff’s Department as a “thin white man in his 30s or 40s wearing a black hoodie, with pale skin and blue eyes … [and a] 5-o’clock shadow.”
The man opened fire. “I didn’t provoke him in any kind of way,” Washington said — as if anything she could have done should have been answered by the showering of bullets into a car packed with four young girls. The driver’s-side window was shattered. Pellets of glass, soaked in blood. To add another layer of evil, the driver then pulled in front of Washington’s car and continued to unload fire. Washington was shot in the arm. Another daughter, 6, was injured by shattered glass. Jazmine lay dead in the back seat. Her killer, at press time, remains at large.
On Saturday, the Houston Texans play host to divisional rival the Indianapolis Colts. Houston’s All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, on his way to yet another award-laden season after finishing in the top five in receptions, receiving yards, touchdowns and yards (along with no drops) carries added motivation headed into the game.
“When I see Jazmine Barnes’ face, I see my own daughter,” he shared via social media. Hopkins, who has a 5-year-old daughter, announced he’d be donating his entire game check this week to assist with funeral costs and to support the reward fund. “On Saturday, I will be playing in your honor, Jazmine.”
Violence against women is an issue that both haunts and drives Hopkins. He not only speaks out against it but also actively works toward eliminating it along with Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse (AVDA). Hopkins’ mother was blinded in a brutal domestic violence attack when he was 12. She has never seen him play. Then there comes the universal pain that comes with the tragedy. A parent losing a child — a club no parent desires to join. But it’s one in which Washington and Jazmine’s father, Christopher Cevilla, now have an involuntary lifelong membership.
Like Hopkins, Jazmine’s sudden death came with a deeply personal impact as well. My uncle died Jan. 2, 1999 — via cancer, not gun violence, although both seem to be ills with no cure in sight. Every year since then has always brought an unavoidable weight to get through Christmas and prepare for the date that forever altered your life and your family’s lives — the weight Jazmine’s family now carries, if they didn’t already. My grandmother explained, or at least tried to, what losing a child was like.
“It’s like being dead while you’re alive. You have to look at this life that you carried, that all you ever wanted to do was protect,” she said. “It’s such a scary feeling because it’s your new normal, one you never asked for. Part of you just continuously asks the question you know you’ll never get an answer that will make you feel better. ‘Why my baby? … Why not me?’ The other part feels like you wish you were the one in the casket instead. But you continue to live life. You have to. It’s the only way to keep from going crazy, even though you know it’s a part of you that’s gone forever.”
The sentiment cut like a knife to the heart watching Washington attempt to fight through tears as she recalled the moment she knew her child was gone. It’s a vantage point that we, whether we have kids or not, whether we intend to or not, can see the simultaneous power and powerlessness in. Hopkins’ gesture is the modern-day equivalent to Scarface’s agonizingly classic verse on 2000’s “This Can’t Be Life.” Scarface, Jay-Z and Jay-Z’s engineer Guru were in the studio, shooting pool and piecing together the Kanye West-produced ode. Scarface later received a call saying a close friend lost his son in a fire. What was originally slated to be a verse became an impromptu eulogy. The pain is transferable. The energy is generationally palpable. The rapper born Brad Jordan, like Hopkins now, had to carry the message.
Feel the hurt for them because, the way society unfortunately works on occasion, we’ve all felt this indescribable pain or know someone who has. Now as I walk into the studio to do this with Jig’/ I got a phone call from one of my n—-s/ Said my homeboy Reek, he just lost one of his kids, Scarface rapped, painting Hopkins’ reality nearly 20 years earlier. And when I heard that I just broke into tears. You feel the anger that can only be mistakenly quenched, however temporarily, through revenge’s haze. And see in the secondhand you don’t really know how this is/ But when it hits that close to home, you feel the pain at the crib.
Perhaps most heartbreaking, you feel the fear that comes with a million and one questions immune to any logical or heartwarming answer. Will justice be served? What does justice even look like? What do I do now? How do I move forward? Who am I now? Questions Scarface never asked directly, but the emotional baggage of which bled through his lyrics. And ain’t no bright side to losing life/ But you can view it like this/ God’s got open hands, homie, he in the midst of good company. Scarface attempted to rationalize the irrational from the same seat of consoler Hopkins now sits in. Who loves all and hates not one/ And one day you gon’ be with your son. Replace “son” with “daughter” and it’s history repeating itself with Houston’s skyline as the backdrop and Hopkins’ grief as the vessel.
Hopkins, in this case, is no different from any parent — any person with a soul, really. His heart, broken. His feelings, numb. Hopkins could’ve easily made Saturday about him, about the Texans — about the first step of a journey to the franchise’s first Super Bowl. “What I can do, that’s nothing,” Hopkins told reporters on Thursday. “That won’t bring back a person, so I’m not trying to make it all about me. [Donating my check is] the least I could do.”
Whatever pressure Hopkins faces from a hot Colts defense on Saturday pales when compared with the family of a young girl who’s still searching for answers.