Thursday 1 October, 2020

Loop St Lucia's Persons of the Year: The Jean Family

Allison Jean, Brandt Jean, Allisa Charles-Findley, Bertrum Jean

Allison Jean, Brandt Jean, Allisa Charles-Findley, Bertrum Jean

Loop St Lucia’s Person of the Year is actually a family.

The spotlight was put on the Jean family following an unspeakable tragedy in 2018. Their beloved son and brother Botham Shem Jean was taken away from them at a young age and they had to endure tremendous grief with an international spotlight shining on when most of us would desperately want to retreat.

With every step through a minefield on their path to receiving justice, they displayed uncommon decency, strength, humanity and grace.

On September 6, 2018, off-duty Dallas Police officer Amber Guyger entered the Dallas Texas apartment of 26-year-old Botham and fatally shot him while he ate ice cream on his sofa.

Guyger claimed she had entered the apartment believing it was her own and that she shot the young accountant believing he was a burglar.

In the wake of his murder, the Botham Jean Foundation encouraged people to take after Botham’s example with the hashtag #BeLikeBo. By all accounts, Botham was an incredible young man: caring, considerate, benevolent, loving, diligent, helpful, ambitious, warm and fun.

While we should all strive to #BeLikeBo, Loop St Lucia awards our Persons of the Year to the Jean family because they have shown repeatedly that it was not an accident that Botham was the man that he was. He came from a family that serves as an example to us all.

“I am just appreciative of the recognition given to my family; not that we did anything to look out for it or to expect it but since we have been recognized we appreciate the recognition as well as the support that has been given to our family,” matriarch Allison Jean told Loop News.

2019, she admitted, has been like a roller coaster for the family, especially leading up to the trial.

“Now that the trial is over, we are much calmer than we were before. What I would look forward to from the community is to continue supporting the Botham Jean Foundation. All last year we were able to reach out to several institutions such as the Boys Training Centre, the Transit Home, the Comfort Bay, the Carmen Rene Memorial School and even a homeless shelter for children in Dallas Texas.”

With the help and support given, Mrs Jean says the foundation will be looking to reach out to more institutions in Africa and other parts of the world, a testament again to the character of this family.

She added the incident has brought the extended family much closer together.

"Even my extended family who reside in the states, England, Canada, everybody came together and there is a stronger bond among us, so it has brought us closer together."

One of the most impactful moments this year came from the youngest Jean, Brandt.

In an unprecedented move following the two-week-long emotional murder trial, 18-year-old Brandt Jean shocked the world when he told Amber Guyger he forgave her and said he didn't want her to go to prison after she received a 10-year sentence in October for killing his brother Botham.

I want the best for you. Because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do and the best would be to give your life to Christ… I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do.

With the judge's permission, Brandt walked across a Dallas courtroom and hugged his brother’s killer tightly for nearly a minute.

The act was widely lauded as Christ-like but also was criticized heavily by many who saw it as fitting a trend of black forgiveness being put on a pedestal in a country fraught with white supremacy and racism.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King's daughter Bernice tweeted, "God bless Botham Jean's brother but don't confuse his forgiveness with absolving this nation for its gross, bitter discrimination against Black people in a myriad of its systems and policies. Racism and white supremacist ideology can't be 'hugged out.' Do #BlackLivesMatter?"

To the credit once again of this exceptional family, Brandt Jean displayed wisdom beyond his years when accepting an award from a law enforcement entity.

The Institute for Law Enforcement Administration awarded its 2019 Ethical Courage Award to the young Jean but he took the opportunity to make a powerful statement. 

"My brother was well aware of the danger posed to young black men due to the misconceptions about color that seem particularly pronounced among the law enforcement community... I want you all to know I am not a threat, that young black males are not inherently dangerous or criminal."

He continued, "I insist that you encourage diverse leadership that can model inclusion and restraint... most importantly, I ask that you remember my brother -- my example of ethical leadership, a young black male that was perceived as a threat by one of your own... I want you to remember him. I want you to ask yourself what are you doing to ensure that there will be no other families like mine, no other little brothers that have to model ethical leadership in forgiveness of a cop whose lack of training and discipline caused them to carelessly take a life of another."

Loop St Lucia congratulates and thanks our 2019 Persons of the Year: Allison Jean, Bertrum Jean, Allisa Charles-Findley and Brandt Jean.

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