What Does It Take?
Lawrence Fobes King 1-13-93/2-13-08
When Lawrence Fobes King was born his parents had plans
for him. When Larry was placed in foster care, his destiny
seemed tainted but still full of hope and potential. His
desire to thrive outshined his surroundings and it seemed he
would accomplish great things. As he moved into the seventh
grade he began to understand himself and express his inner
feelings. In one swift moment his hopes, his dreams, his
destiny for possibilities were extinguished because someone
just couldn’t grasp the true meaning of understanding and
On the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 12, there was an ugly and
bitter end to a courageous and beautiful life. Lawrence
Fobes King was gunned down while sitting in his classroom
because he was different. He lingered in a coma and went
the great beyond the following day. Exactly one month after
his 15th birthday his voice was silenced forever.
King’s assailant was part of a group of school children who
verbally assaulted him on a daily basis. Their mouths
spewing forth the hate that was taught to them by their
parents, or religious leaders, political leaders, some
well-intentioned teacher or the kid next door. Somewhere
somebody taught these children that it was OK to hate and to
say cruel, wicked and mean things just because Larry was
different. It’s possible and believable that some counselor
or teacher told Larry not to let these schoolmates get him
down. After all, they’re just words. He should live his life
to the fullest and just ignore those rude children.
Perhaps for years Lawrence knew he was different but was too
afraid to express what he was feeling. Perhaps he knew and
didn’t have the proper role models that could help him. But
one day he got bold and decided he would not only announce
to his friends and peers that he was gay, he would also
change his physical appearance to express his inner spirit.
He did have friends who supported him. Erin Mings, 12, was
one of those friends.
“What he did was really brave — to wear makeup and
high-heeled boots,” said Erin, who hung out with Lawrence at
the school. “Every corner he turned around, people were
saying, ‘Oh, my god, he's wearing makeup today.’”
Somehow his killer got the message that if another boy asks
you to be his valentine, it’s OK to gun that boy down. This
assailant got the idea that the way to settle the difference
between them was to end Larry’s life in a violent and public
assault — in the classroom for the entire world to see.
Perhaps Larry thought that he could defuse the ongoing
taunting by making a pass at his would-be killer. Perhaps he
envisioned having a good laugh about the days of teasing and
ridicule at a distant class reunion and how he survived by
asking his attacker to be his valentine.
Whatever the case may be, Larry will not graduate from
college and become a doctor. He will never go fishing again.
He’ll never stand on a frozen lake and feel petrified to
skate around the pond one time. He will never again hold a
caterpillar in his hand and wonder how long it will take
before it blossoms into a butterfly. Larry King’s existence
was ended and his killer will still experience the benefits
of life behind bars.
There must be some way to end the violence perpetrated
against the GLBT nation everyday. There is a need for
legislation — but legislation will not stop 14-year-old
gun-slingers in the classroom. There is a need for education
— but education cannot be limited to the classroom, it must
be carried into the legislature and the pulpit.
When Matthew Shepherd was viciously murdered, the outcry
from the public was loud and long. It seemed that his death
finally moved this progressive society into a period of
living beyond tolerance and abiding in understanding. Here
we are almost 10 years later, and hate still extinguishes
our youngest and brightest stars long before their time.
What happened to Lawrence King isn't right. His life
accomplishments should have been the brilliant point of
light that we could look to and say ‘isn’t that awesome?’
But that choice has been stolen from us and we must now face
the dawning of a new day with hopes that this sort of brutal
violence will never happen again.
There are many lessons that we must teach. We must teach our
youth how to be proud of who they are. Somewhere there is a
happy medium where they can express their inner most being
without fear of retribution or ignorant taunting. We must
teach religious leader’s that the Bible, the Koran or the
Torah do not teach hatred and to murder those who are
different. We must teach our political leaders that their
silence equals death. They make up the rules and set the
pace. America is counting on their leadership to find a way
to end the violence and make this land the democratic
society the constitution promises us it should be.
What does it take? No more hate.
Reverend Charlotte Strayhorne is an associate pastor
at Casa de Cristo Evangelical Church, and can be reached at