Yalani just wanted to cash his paycheck to help his mom with the rent

by Asale Haquekyah Davis-Chandler

On Jan. 9, 2015, at close to 10:00 p.m., my son, Yalani (Mighty Born) Chinyamurindi (of Zimbabwe Hahari, the House of Reverence), was working at BeniHana Japanese Restaurant in San Francisco’s Japantown. Yalani had a half hour lunch break. Even though the rent was paid, he was eager to contribute to the household.

Yalani Chinyamurindi and his sister, Takeyah Davis-Chandler, in about 2013
Yalani Chinyamurindi and his sister, Takeyah Davis-Chandler, in about 2013

With check in hand, he left the restaurant with a work colleague to cash it. The store was closed at Geary and Fillmore so they went on to Charlie’s Market at Golden Gate and Fillmore. It too was closed.

Walking back, and still hoping to cash his check and yet make it back to work in time, the two young men saw a friend of Yalani’s. This young man and Yalani had grown up in the Fillmore together. Unbeknownst to Yalani, the young man was sitting in a stolen car. Nobody told him. Yalani was unaware of this fact.

Still trying to be responsible, to help his mother and get back to work on time, Yalani felt by being driven he could do it. His colleague only had five minutes left and hurriedly walked away. He decided against getting into the car. Yalani got into the car as his colleague walked on. He expected to still cash his check and, at the very least, get back to work.

Only life is what’s happening as you make other plans … At that moment, a vehicle drove up and sprayed 20 bullets, killing all four occupants in the vehicle: Yalani, his friend and two others.

Yalani, then 13, beams at his Kinseyaba (kinship to truth), a rite of passage ceremony in the African Hebrew tradition, similar to a Bar Mitzvah. The boy, becoming a man, learns the responsibilities of manhood, especially that he is now accountable for his own actions.
Yalani, then 13, beams at his Kinseyaba (kinship to truth), a rite of passage ceremony in the African Hebrew tradition, similar to a Bar Mitzvah. The boy, becoming a man, learns the responsibilities of manhood, especially that he is now accountable for his own actions.

Yalani had entered the City College Gateway to College program in the fall and was chosen for a leadership program, The Star Project, with honor and recognition. He had completed nine credits and was working on 18 more this semester.

He had been chosen for a well-funded leadership program and was making good impressions wherever he went. He was a recognized leader with an excellent mind who had the potential to change the world.

This outstanding young man, who spoke three languages besides English – Swahili, Zulu and Yiddish –  and was just getting an understanding of success was cut down before this potential could be realized and his change manifested.

Only life is what’s happening as you make other plans …

Sgt. Kevin Sanders of the San Francisco Police Department at 850 Bryant said that Yalani’s death “was not gang related. He has no criminal record. He’s a good person.”

Sgt. Sanders told me that something was different about Yalani. He was dressed differently. He was wearing dress slacks, dress shirt and dress shoes.

The cake was served at Yalani’s Kinseyaba, held at the African American Art and Culture Complex in the Fillmore.
The cake was served at Yalani’s Kinseyaba, held at the African American Art and Culture Complex in the Fillmore.

He had a backpack and a cellphone, but he had no gun and when they looked deeper he had no criminal record. The police department had to use his thumb print from his California ID to identify him. He was in the wrong place, with the wrong young men, in the wrong car, at the wrong time.

Although media and the authorities desire to paint the incident with a broad brush and make the victims of the shooting gang related and then paint the crime as gang retaliation, in the case of Yalani, they could not because he was not those things.

He was a quiet leader with a deep understanding of the need for the lost culture of the people of African descent. He was a young man, who while struggling with his future, had figured out his path and had begun his journey toward his goals and his dreams.

He was a quiet leader with a deep understanding of the need for the lost culture of the people of African descent. He was a young man, who while struggling with his future, had figured out his path and had begun his journey toward his goals and his dreams.

But above all, Yalani was an African Prince…Yalani Chinyamurinndi, Mighty Born of Zimbabwe, Hare, House of Reverence. May his spirit eternally Rest In Peace.

Services for Yalani Chinyamurindi

The funeral is Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, 2:00 p.m., at Bryant Mortuary, 635 Fulton St., San Francisco. The brothers are asked to wear dress slacks, dress shirt and dress shoes. Additionally, they are being asked to wear the African colors – red, green, yellow and black. They can wear one or all four colors.

The body can be viewed on Friday night, Jan. 30, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Bryant Mortuary.

Donations in his memory can be made online at www.gofundme.com/yalani or at the Bank of America to account 325050921995 in the name of Yalani. For donation assistance, call David at 415-758-8030.

For information, to comment or to contact the family, call 415-287-7481, the phone number for the Cultural Village Tribal Council.

Asale Haquekyah Davis-Chandler, Yalani’s loving and grieving mother and a long time community advocate, can be reached at salahaqueenyah@gmail.com.

Yalani’s professor sends his freshman essay: ‘Life itself is a whole different experience in the eyes of the inner city Black youth’

Dear Ms. Chandler,

My name is Tore Langmo and as a City College English instructor I had the pleasure of meeting your son Yalani last semester. I am truly sorry for your loss, as Yalani was clearly a special person from the day I met him. He was one of my favorite students from the first week. In his letter of introduction he wrote:

Yalani is instructed in his responsibilities as a man at his Kinseyaba.
Yalani is instructed in his responsibilities as a man at his Kinseyaba.

“My name is Yalani Chinyamurindi from San Francisco, California. I am an 18-year-old male and a freshman in the San Francisco City College Gateway Program. For the last couple of years I have been focused on laying down a foundation for my future.

“I practice my talents as much as possible. I write music, dance, act and entertain. My goals and/or career aspirations are being a music artist, an actor, a proud father, a CEO of my own business and a well renowned mind.

“I don’t mind writing even though my writing skills are a bit immature, but my ability to express myself makes up for the skills that I lack. I feel that the beauty in writing is the self-expression. In some areas people can’t express themselves, so having the ability to express myself in different ways is a big experience in my life that stands out to me personally.

“As a reader, I feel that understanding the mindset of a person comes with hearing their thoughts word by word. The ability to understand a mind is a key life skill and is very useful in your day-to-day experiences.

The washing of hands is a purification ritual at Yalani’s Kinseyaba.
The washing of hands is a purification ritual at Yalani’s Kinseyaba.

“One of the main issues in life that I think we should be paying attention to is the mental destruction of Black (so-called African American) culture. Life itself is a whole different experience in the eyes of the inner city Black youth. The problem is not money, nor is the problem ‘education.’ The problem is the lack of culture.

“Now in these times the majority of Black people adapt to life, making their own culture. These cultures detract from the mental progression of Black youth, leaving them in a state of immaturity. This immature state leaves a mental blockage in Black men and females alike.

“These youth grow up in hostile areas with no fathers. These actions produce a product of the environment. Some ask how these events unfolded. Many people have different theories for how such a detrimental act could happen.

“The answer is that the ‘founding fathers’ of this country put such a harsh footprint into the African American race as a whole. For hundreds of years these acts have continued.

Yalani and his mother perform a mother-son Hebrew ceremonial thanksgiving dance at his Kinseyaba.
Yalani and his mother perform a mother-son Hebrew ceremonial thanksgiving dance at his Kinseyaba.

“Hundreds of years ago the founding fathers of this country took it upon themselves to be the oppressors of African culture – abducting Africans and taking them onto ships, collecting tribes and bringing them overseas. These humans were chained to the ship’s walls and left to sit in fear, hunger and feces.

“They then were taken to lands they had no idea about and of all things they had their language and culture stripped from them. In time they would be sold to white families around the United States of America.

“They removed mothers from daughters and fathers from sons. They brutally whooped men into a bloody pulp for using their language. This not only is the main part of the mental depression of Black culture as it is, but is a main part of white culture.

Yalani was a scholar and intellectual who spoke four languages – and he was also a normal teenager.
Yalani was a scholar and intellectual who spoke four languages – and he was also a normal teenager.

“Children would be hung, shot, stabbed and raped. If your child was beaten then raped then hung, you as a person would be mentally ‘fucked’ for being the parent of a child that was put into a position in such a manner.

“This is just one major act of several major acts that left Black people as a culture in the state of mind that they are at today. This act is one of the most – if not the most – devastating acts of mankind.”

“This is just one major act of several major acts that left Black people as a culture in the state of mind that they are at today. This act is one of the most – if not the most – devastating acts of mankind.”

I am pretty quick to open up to my students from day one, but I usually do not get that kind of passion from students the first week of class. I told him I loved discussing social justice issues and that we were going to get along great. Usually I keep these letters for a year or so, for it makes things easier when they come back to me for a letter of recommendation. Yalani’s letter is now taped to my wall, and I will be thinking about you and him.

And finally, for one of our essays, the students had to write on heroes and whether the role of police officers and firefighters has been inflated. In the conclusion, they needed to write a paragraph about their unsung heroes.

Yalani wrote about you. He talked about all the great things you have done in your community, such as your one woman performance. I said, “She sounds like an amazing woman!” many times, and he always said, “I know!”

I had asked him if you had ever been to The Marsh on Valencia Street, since they specialize in one person theater productions. On numerous times we talked about how great it would be if the three of us could go to lunch.

I returned that essay to him, so I cannot pass along that last paragraph. If at some point you find his folder and that essay, please hold on to it and read that last page sometime. It was clear Yalani looked up to you and loved you very much.

In sympathy,

Tore Langmo, English Department, City College of San Francisco

Tore Langmo can be reached at the English Department, City College of San Francisco, Ocean Campus, 50 Phelan Ave., Box R226, San Francisco, CA 94112, 415-452-5508 or tlangmo@ccsf.edu.

Video by Ray Balberan