Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Conversation With An Almost Ex-Thug About Jennifer Hudson's Nightmare

I froze to the point of having a chill sweep across my body when I first read that the mother and brother of the famous singer-actress, Jennifer Hudson, was shot dead in their home yesterday. Nor does it bode well that her seven year old nephew is still missing.

If you are unfamiliar with her, she got her start to fame on American Idol and later had an unforgettable role in the movie, Dream Girls. She sang at Barack Obama's Democratic Presidential Nominee acceptance speech this past August.

William Balfour is the "one and only" suspect of killing her 57 year old mother, Darnell Donerson, and her 29 year old brother, Jason Hudson. They were found shot dead in their home, and their car is still missing.

Did he do it?

I don't know, but possibly. He was apprehended last night, but so far has not been charged with the crime. I can say with certainty that Balfour, now only 27, has the profile of being a troubled youth.

He was paroled in 2006 at age 25. He must have been 17 or 18 when arrested and convicted on carjacking and attempted murder charges, and spent seven years in prison during a time when most American youth are working or going to college, and trying to figure out who they are and what they want in life. Balfour missed that boat.

Yesterday his mother said, "Out of no means did my son do this. This heinous crime to this family is unbelievable. It's unbearable."

I'll bet it is since she's been down this road before with him, so her statement is even more tragic. He wasn't with her when the murders occurred, thus she can't say for absolute certain that he didn't do it. It must be killing her.

My son Xavier, is a former gang banger who was also a troubled youth. It took enormous effort by me and a host of professionals, family, and friends to pull him off his own path of destruction. Last night I told him about Jennifer Hudson's nightmare. He was appalled.

"I can't believe someone would kill someone's mother and brother!"

"Here's the picture of the guy they think did it," I said.

I studied Xavier, as he studied Balfour's photo.

"That nigga's gun hard," he said.

"Whatchu mean?"

"He's past hard. He's gun hard. Looks like he'd shoot anyone without thinking about it. But underneath, he's a bitch nigga. I'd whip his azz in a fight. Lot of brothas would. That's why he lives by the gun."

"They don't know for certain he did it," I said.

"Probably did," he replied, "and if so, they gonna beat his azz when he goes to jail."

He shook his head. "Damn," he said. "Her mother..."

I explained that Balfour had been involved with Jennifer's sister, Julia, and read to him that she said on her MySpace page that "her No. 1 best friend was her mom, her second was "William" and her third was Jennifer. She also said her mom is the person she most admires while "William" was "most likely" to get arrested."

I said, "Never did Julia dream her lover would be busted for killing her mother and brother, and kidnapping and maybe murdering her seven year old son. I hope that boy is his son, or he might be dead too."

"I think I know how it happened, Ma," he said.

I listened.

"I'll bet that he came to the house, maybe wanting a visit with the kid or looking for his girl [Julia]. The mama probably told him no or to stop coming around, and he started mouthing off at her, and then the brother jumped in and told him to get the fuck out of their house. That's when that bitch nigga pulled out his gun and shot them dead, with the brother first, then panicked like the lil' bitch he is and ran, taking the kid with him."

Reading more about this today, his hypothesis makes sense. Jennifer's brother was shot in the chest, suggesting to me that the murderer aimed quickly for the largest part of his body. Jennifer's mother was shot in the head; this was an execution-style killing.

It's always interesting to get the point of view of a thug or a cop. The best cops have the ability to think like criminals, but had the opportunity - and took advantage of it - and chose the straight path. Many I've met through my dealings with Xavier were bad boyz themselves as juveniles.

These particular cops were good guys and gave both him and me inspiration that he could stop using drugs, avoid trouble friends, and live a normal life. Xavier did the first two, but until he gets a trade or GED (a high school general equivalency degree), his life won't be quite normal as we think of it. He's scheduled to take a certification class to become a personal trainer and has a $6.50 an hour job now at the gym he works out in, but that's hardly enough for him to live independently like a normal adult would live.

As a therapist, I listen to projection too. That's when someone projects their feelings onto someone else. For example, if you think black men who dress a certain way or have a little swagger in their walk are inherently dangerous, you're more likely to project your beliefs on them and be quicker to assume they're guilty, sort of like middle aged people thought all long-haired young people were LSD using, sex-crazed hippies back in the late 60s.

Likewise, if you've been a black man who was once inherently dangerous, you might also negatively project your feelings and experiences on another brotha. Maybe you're right and maybe not.

As Xavier would say, it takes one to know one. At 17, drug addicted and a member of the Bloods, he was kicked out of a girlfriend's house. They had dated seriously for a year but she was tired of his descent into the street life and broke up with him. Her mother yelled in the doorway for him to not return and slammed the door. In a fit, he stabbed himself.

Yeah, that'll teach her.

Damn but I was glad she waited until he was in the yard before she did that. I'll bet she and her daughter were too. Anyone impulsive enough in anger to stab themselves could stab you in a rage. He was crazy as shit on drugs and moody by temperament along with those awful adolescent hormones.

He wasn't all that sane this summer either, at 19, when his last girlfriend was thinking about aborting his baby. He was so in love with her and praying she'd keep it. He called her place and she cruelly played games on the phone... she was giggling in the background and some guy answered and started trash-talking to Xavier that she was his girlfriend now and the sex the were having was (you fill in the blank).

Xavier ain't never been wrapped too tight from mild prenatal alcohol and chronic poly-substance abuse, plus his early years in neglectful foster homes that left him malnourished when I adopted him.

On that night, he was clinically insane for about a two hours. Nigga had borrowed a gun I didn't know about and said he was gonna kill that son of bitch at his girl's place. Called one of his old homeboyz to pick him up and drive him over there. I was a star in diffusing that shit.

When his friend pulled up in front, I told him of Xavier's plan. This young man's jaw dropped in shock. He's a former gang banger who went straight and now has a great job, and didn't want no part of that. He was a star too, and talked sanity back into my son's head in our parking lot. That story is in my long and compelling article, Abortion Blues.

Thus, Xavier is in an exquisite position to speak of how a criminal lifestyle combined with disadvantages and loss of love can make some men go crazy and become violent.

He was still angrily staring at the photos of this man and Jennifer Hudson. Steam was practically coming out of his ears, and if looks could kill, Balfour would be dead. I had the sense that my son could see what he could have become.

"You almost lost it too, a couple months ago," I said.

He grit on me. "I'd have never shot that azzhole!"

"You were nuts that night. Anything could have happened."

"I'm not like that."

He went back to staring at the photos. He reminded me of myself, never realizing how much I admired and cared about Jennifer Hudson until something unspeakably horrid happened to her family.

I asked Xavier, "Assuming he did it, what went wrong with William Balfour?"

He sighed, then replied in soft-spoken anger:



  1. Amazing post,
    First, my condolences go out to the Hudson family. Within our community and this country, we need to start having a serious discussion about domestic violence prevention. If Xavier's hypothesis is correct, then within our community, we need to start seriously talking about crisis intervention strategies and deescalation techniques. In no way am I blaming the victims for being murdered, the sole responsibility lies with the killer. But, for the sake of survival, this is a conversation our folk need to have.

    You're a wise and gifted writer. The wisdom of your post is a gift to us all.

  2. Truth, Thank you so much.

    To make sure everyone understands, neither Xavier nor I blame the victims at all. That falls entirely on the shoulders of their killer.

    I shared this personal story with the hope that more help will be given to the walking time bombs in in our communities who haven't exploded yet, thus avoiding future tragedies like that of Jennifer Hudson's family.

  3. Your son provides an interesting perspective and I suspect he is dead on about what happened. Thank you for sharing your son's story with us, too many times a mother would hide this but by sharing his life story you can reach other families.

    As a former Chicago native whose own family didn't live too far from the Hudson's I am just stunned at this senseless tragedy and my heart goes out to Jennifer and her family.

  4. i absolutely love it when you include your son's perspective on things. It's always so fresh and things become immediately obvious when I see it through his eyes.

    Condolences to the Hudson family. I'm still so very shocked.

  5. wow...really great post. I think it's awesome you are not ashamed to speak on your son's past troubles and it displays what a fabulous mother you must be to have helped him get out of that lifestyle along with God's grace. Very very sad story about the Hudson's. Jennifer must be going through it...I can't even imagine... :(

  6. If It Walks, (sigh). I can imagine it; it was my worse fears at one time. For all those hoodlums locked up in jail, there's a mother, and not all them were bad parents. It's similar to bad parents having kids that turn out right.

    And re: shame. After I got old (old to most of my readers, lol) I realized everybody's got something stupid or bad they've done or didn't do, and we benefit from learning about their mistakes. The shame is not helping or teaching one another. That's one good lesson Xavier learned early, and I'm proud of him for that.

    Emeritus, Thanks. I liked his perspective too.

    Black Girl In Maine, Wow, that was close to home for you. This is a really F'd up case. So far they haven't that kid. Hudson and her sister must be nuts with worry. They're in my prayers he's safe.

  7. Thank you for the insightful post. Much love to Hudson's family...

    kit, I'm not naive. I worked with violent youth, including youth in gangs, here in Minneapolis for several years, and at a time (1994, 1995, and 1996)when youth violence was really high, especially homicides. Still, I'm saddened speechless by the violence we (black folks) do to each other.

    Like the song asks: When will we ever learn?

  8. Yeah MacDaddy, I know you've been around the block a few times, and the violence is mind-blowing.

    My father, who was born in 1910, observed my son's ADHD-ish behavior when he was very young. He said not a single person he knew acted like that in his generation or mine. Nor had hr known so many kids with hayfever allergies, nor did I when asthma suddenly swept the black community in the 90s.

    Evil and insanity has always existed, but sometimes I wonder if it's pollutants in the environment and prenatal substance abuse that's at least partly responsible for so many impulsive and violent kids and young adults who act brain damaged. It's like their emotional brakes are faulty, and it takes a lot resources to teach them what should come natural.

  9. Black women really need to vet the men they get involved with. I wondered if this guy was trying to get money out them as well.

  10. "Black women really need to vet the men they get involved with.

    Heh-heh, that's good, Faith, and a good idea too.

  11. Excellent Post. Thanks to you and Xavier for your honesty. I see so much anger in our young men, I just want to pull up tose sagging pants and hold them, tight. Yes we need to work on the "everything Xavier says went wrong. He has that perspective and can help. Best wishes to Xavier. Have faith and patience young brother.

    I am in Chicago and my heart breaks for Jennifer and her family.
    Love your blog.

  12. Xavier is definitely right about the term 'gun hard'...Without that piece of steel, they're powerless and cowards. I always wanted to know what could possess a person to shoot to kill?

  13. Jackie, Thanks for your well-wishes to Xavier, comment, and I'm glad you found my blog.

    Funky Black Chick, Yeah, I had never heard of the term 'gun hard' until my son used it. His perspective was really interesting to me too. As for your questions why people kill, I guess it's like he said, "they're bitch niggas."

  14. To Everyone, At this hour, Hudson's 7 year old nephew is still missing. Balfour is still in custody, and the police are very tight-lipped.

    Something has been bugging me about this case since I first read about it, and it hit me why this evening.

    One news story yesterday that said the brother's body was found in the bedroom. It did not say where the mother's body was found.

    Jason Hudson did not have a high school diploma, according to his MySpace page. He listed his location as living in "Vulturesville", and lived with his mother. Unless he was off from work on Friday, he didn't have a job. All of this suggests his lifestyle and people involved with him should be extensively investigated.

    People do a number of things in the bedroom, but these three come to mind:

    1. Sleep - which we can possibly rule out in Jason's case since he was shot in the chest - not the head - unless he awakened after hearing his mother yell or be shot first and stood up in time for the murderer(s) to come in his bedroom and shoot him.

    2. Have sex, and

    3. If they're in the street lifestyle, drug use in the bedroom is common if they live with their mother because of the privacy.

    So far there's no mention of William Balfour, the #1 suspect, being asked to give a polygraph test. He also has a MySpace page, that is currently still accessible. The view of him is less sinister than the media portrayed.

    Balfour may very well be the killer - but I hope the police are digging real deep into the past cellphone records and life of Jennifer's brother Jason, as well as a CSI style exam on his genitals to determine IF he had had sex or anyone else's pubic hairs, male or female, were present on his body, and if possible to determine IF he used drugs and what kind immediately before his death.

    Thus, my secondary hypothesis is that Jason Hudson may have been a victim of a drug deal gone bad or a vengeful lover gone nuts.

    I'm emailing the police now to consider this possibility as a lead. It's not the first time I helped with an investigation. Might come to nothing, as they may already have the killer in custody, but so far nothing seems to be all they have given that they have filed formal charges.

    ~ Kit

  15. Ooops! Typo! In the last sentence, I meant ... since they have NOT filed formal charges against Balfour.

    Later last night I read they're keeping him on ice by transferring him back to prison on a parole violation.

    Well, yesterday evening I reported my idea of where else they can dig around to the Chicago police. We'll cross our fingers and hope that kid turns up today, followed by either getting a confession or getting a break in the case.

  16. I saw this morning that the nephew was found dead. Good Lord.

    I thank you for this article. You have an amazing approach to writing about issues. Like others, I also thank you for including your son's perspective.

    As far as the increase in troubled youth... a neighbor recently called them "oodles of noodles eatin' kids."

    She blames the gunk in cheap food (as compared to the home cooked meals we ate from scratch as kids) as a major contributor to changes in physical and mental health.

    = = = = = =
    Give to classroom projects in high-poverty schools via DonorsChoose 2008: Friends of Fackin Truth Blog (Participating via the AfroSpear with Black Bloggers for Education).

  17. Thank you Hawa. I'm glad you like my work and this post. Thanks for that link, too. Prevention is so much easier than dealing with a mess later.

  18. In my early 20s I used to contemplate suicide just to get back at everyone who never saw or acknowledged or took the time out their lives to heal my pain.

    I talked myself out of it because my son would suffer the most but had nothing to do with my pain.

    Out of curiosity, what kind of syndrome would you call that?

    I know I have a touch of the Fuckemall Syndrome now.

  19. boy I'd wish I'd "met" you earlier. My sister, the other Social Worker, thinks the sister was strongly involved. She detailed a scenario in an email to me that was pretty plausible. And since all this happened, they let Balfour go...

  20. Real Hustla, I get a pop up email the minute someone leaves a comment on any post, but I did not see yours; sorry, I have two Hudson stories on this blog and my best guess is I looked on the wrong post.

    I can't give a diagnosis of what you might have had when you were younger and wouldn't have enough information to do so anyway, but that thinking pattern is not uncommon in Depression. I'm glad for you, that you were able to focus on your child's needs; this pulls a lot of sistahs through their darkest moments when their own lives feel worthless or just too damn hard.

    Your recent or current attitude of Fuck 'Em All sounds like it protects you from 'giving up' aka suicide when a relationship is disappointing or life is potentially overwhelming.

    Bear Maiden, You and your sis are in the helping profession? Cool! I rarely meet many of us in the blogosphere. I read her link; she was really close re: J Hudson's nephew.

    I really don't think Julia was in on it, however. I've wondered if she her IQ is just above the borderline intelligence range, ie, the 80s: not retarded, but also not of average smarts.

    Extreme obesity causes serious self-esteem issues, as it narrows the pool of men (or women) who would be interested in them. They often end up involved with a partner who has serious problems, as the thinking is that this is the best either of them can do.

    There is also something 'dissociative' about her expressions and the things she has said lends weight to this. I'm not saying she has MPD, but the mind-blowing stress she's gone thru recently could have caused a split in her reality where she's sleepwalking thru life as though she's another person, not a woman who just lost a child, mother, and brother to homicide. It makes her appear narcissistic, ie her strange comment that she's the pretty one now that Jason is gone.

    Also, the kind of bloggers and their readers are literate and smart, but sometimes clueless about the social structure and neighborhood politics in a huge urban SUBCULTURE of drugs. They just don't get it how a woman could date a guy fresh out of jail for a violent crime, and it infuriates them.

    The lifestyle and values of this SUBSET of the population is different from even the impoverished black underclass that does not use hard drugs. Having a bf, gf, spouse and friends who have been to jail for major crimes or prostitution is not a big deal. On average, they know more people who have died from homicide. Most have not completed high school. Unemployment is over 50%, and paying for necessities is constant struggle that throws morality out of the window. The heroes are the ones who beat the system. All of this is 'normal' and part of the 'cycle of life' for them. There is little or no escape - much like folks stuck in the mob.

    Which I think Balfour and Jason Hudson accidentally pissed off by shorting a middle man between themselves and the white mob that runs Chicago drugs. Donald Trump, being in the casino business, knows plenty about mob families and their imitators, so why else would he offer protection?

    With this much sub-cultural baggage that Julia couldn't escape even with her sister's fame, it doesn't surprise me that she has reacted the way she has - including getting a new bf so quickly, whose bloodshot eyes in some of his photos suggest he's got issues too. I'd venture a guess that for her to find a man without issues is impossible, as much so as the alternative of loneliness.


Hi, this is Kit.

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