I know Precious.
She looks nothing at all like Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, the powerful new actress who plays the title character and role in the stunning new film directed by Lee Daniels. Her mom looks nothing like Mo'Nique, the comedian-turned-actress who's so convincing as a neglectful, physically abusive parent that you barely recognize her.
No, my Precious is another girl. In fact, she's several girls, with different names in different neighborhoods and situations -- but all involving experiences with rape, incest, teen pregnancy and our collective failure to nurture them in loving, supportive communities.
One "Precious" is just 3-years-old. This child, I don't know. I've only read about her this week, since her 15-year-old brother was reportedly shot to death by his own dad. It happened in Highland Park, a struggling 'hood that rests right up against my hometown Detroit. HP is where I have fond memories of playing basketball and learning martial arts as a kid at the old YMCA. I still have friends there and get auto repairs at a garage not too far from where Jamar Pinkney, 15, lay nude and dead Monday after Jamar Pinkney Sr. allegedly killed him in a vacant lot. Whispers from those familiar have been made public, alleging that the teenager sexually abused the 3-year-old, sending their father into a rage. A life lost. Others changed forever.
As a "father figure" since I was barely an adult, I can relate to the protectiveness a dad has for his daughter. I've prayed for more than one Precious. I've searched the street when she ran away, confronted boys who preyed on her adolescent body. Even visited her in jail.
I've dated Precious, too, in the form of women in their 20s and 30s who survived molestation and other tragedies of their youth. Watching Precious, the film, a drama that's as close to a documentary as anything I've seen since Boyz N the 'Hood, reminded me of her sense of purpose and desire to make life better for her own children, often not knowing how. Protecting Precious' innocence is an obligation worth the sacrifice of any dad's life. A trust worth an entire community's vigilance.
But what of misguided youths who, like Jamar Jr., go undetected as threats? Their problems, too, must be addressed, particularly since it's often found that sexual abusers have once been abused. Death shouldn't be their sentence for failing to be responsible for others when they've not learned responsibility for themselves. Times can never become so hopeless.
The Black family needs healing on every level. This is urgent and vital, as the film suggests: for precious girls (and boys) everywhere.