Tomas Ayala was a good man who was loved deeply by his family and friends. He had a bright future ahead of him and he followed the traditional ways of his Yaqui and Navajo family. Tragically, Tomas passed away on May 13th after being struck by a drunk driver. He was 20 years old. No family is ever prepared for this. Despite existing protocols for this type of tragedy occurring in the Town of Sahuarita, Arizona; the town failed to support the Ayala family when they needed it most. This failure caused their family to be robbed of a private and peaceful grieving; instead they were forced to be distracted by insensitive demands from the town.
The morning my mother died was cold and dark, and the snow fall outside was frenzied and piling high. I’d put my headphones on in the night to block out the loud hiss and moan of my mother’s oxygen machine. I was tired. Less than six months after founding the Youth Media Council, which would later become the organization MediaJustice, doctors told my sister and me that sickle cell anemia, a fatal genetic blood disorder, was finally and actively taking my mother’s life. For three years following the end-stage diagnosis I flew home from Oakland to Brooklyn for one week every month to relieve my sister of caregiving duties. As I stood above my mother’s deathbed, her body curved like a crescent moon, my hands a sickled semi-circle around her, a feeling of abject failure gurgled in my throat. I couldn’t swallow it. I couldn’t spit it out.