Brandon Perkins, Staff Writer

Why would a kid be crying like that in public? That’s what I asked myself when I saw the picture of the sobbing back boy with the ‘free hugs’ sign hugging a law enforcement officer. I learned later that this kid’s name was Devonte Hart. At the time I thought either this kid was in danger or this was the photo-op of the decade being that he was at a Black Lives Matter protest hugging a white officer. The picture seemed too convenient based on the timing of it and now we see it was truly a cry for help coming from young Devonte.

A lot of people were proud of this picture. I even heard people in my circle commenting on how nice it was to see. I heard people say, “Nice to see a change from what we’ve been seeing lately” or similar comments regarding it. Not once did anyone whom I encountered think anything was wrong. However, I was different. I knew something wasn’t right with the kid in the picture. I said this kid is in danger. At times I get overly passionate about my beliefs, so I’ve learned to hone my passions in. Besides, this kid was in Oregon and I was in St. Louis, what could I have done.

Fast-forward several years and the incident is completely out of my mind. Then out of the blue I heard that Devonte from the picture was missing. I became aware from mainstream outlets. I learned that he was feared dead at the hands of his adopted parents. A white lesbian couple, Jenifer and Sarah Hart. The couple adopted seven black children. All the children, along with the couple, perished when the families truck plunged hundreds of feet over a California cliff into a rock-filled Pacific Ocean. There was no sign that the driver attempted to stop, as no skid marks were found in the area. They seemingly committed suicide with all those children in the vehicle with them. Devonte’s remains were never recovered from the ocean.

In the U.S., people are paid to care for adopted children. The couple were paid over $275,000 over an eight-year period by the state for adopting the children. Combined with the fact that the couple were reported to local authorities for their treatment and abuse of the children, it seems like there was a financial motive that inspired the adoption of that many children. The couple adopted as many children as they could. It seems like the couple were at a point of being in over their heads. They could no longer handle the task they signed up for and chose death for all as a solution.

In the U.S. over 435,00 children are in the foster care system. Over 23 percent of all foster children are black; black people make up 12.3 percent of the total population in the U.S. Also, over 38 percent of all black children live beneath the poverty line in America. Black children are systematically in danger. The systematic issues that impacted their parents leads to the life the child is forced to live. Celebrities like Madonna and Sandra Bullock have recently adopted black children from Africa. If you want a black child, why not adopt one from the U.S.? Society isn’t concerned with the dangers of being an American black child.

Devonte was trying to tell us something. He was reaching out to whoever would listen. He knew he was in danger. Can you imagine being in fear of your life by the very people you expect and signed up for the task of protecting you? Devonte and his adopted sibling’s story are tragic and should be the inspiration needed to ensure the protection of all children. Even the ones society looks at as throwaways. Now all we can do is think of what must have been on Devonte’s heart.