Kiante Campbell photo via First Place for Youth
By Alisen Boada
His mentors told him and he himself knew it: His future was his to build.
In the final months of Kiante Campbell's short life, he experienced many of the rights of passage of a teenager on his or her way to adulthood. He was working on his Associate’s degree through the Gateway to College program at Laney College. He had just obtained his driver’s license.
But at last month's First Friday, a moment of violence, the emblematic product of the challenges he was trying to surmount, cut him down.
Alexis Tovar met Campbell at his graduation from their Steps to Success program and was one of his counselors at First Place for Youth.
“He was trying to find the balance between being and independent young man and 18 year old, still very much innocent, teenager. He discussed goals and challenges, but also cute girls he saw walking down the street,” she said.
“There’s too many Kiantes in our community,” said Ken Porter, executive director and program administrator of Greater New Beginnings Youth Services, noting that stories like this are all too common.
Kiante lived with Porter in a residential group home for a little more than a year.
“He was a teenager, he wasn’t perfect, but he wanted to be better, he was working toward being better,” Porter said. "His life was shining bright and his future was ahead of him, and we saw big promise for him."
“I gave him his last haircut on Thursday, the day before,” said Be-Naiah Williams, an after-school program coordinator at Ralph J. Bunche Continuation school where Campbell was a student.
At a memorial service last month, he joked about Campbell coming in multiple times that day to perfect his haircut and remembers the pain of coming in to work the next day to find Kiante’s driver’s license that had been left on his desk.
“This happens a lot, and we ignore it, I get to see it regularly, because I bury a lot of them,” said Pastor Matthew Graves, executive director of Scotlan Youth & Family Center, where Kiante was enrolled in the Highway to Work Program.
He met Kiante through his parish about a year ago and described Campbell as a young man who “boldly went” wherever he was going, an active participant in their jobs program and a counselor at the Boys & Girls Club. He said Kiante had attended a fundraiser for the Scotlan Center the Thursday before the shooting.
“We lost one of ours. We lost them both: Kiante and his shooter,” Graves said. “We need to find a way to put value back into their lives.”
Donald Parks Jr., the 18-year-old man accused of killing Campbell, was also a client of Grave’s jobs program. Parks recently had a child who the Scotlan Center is helping to support.