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SmallJordansIf there was ever a cultural phenomenon that has picked up steam year after year, one need not look any further than the Nike Air Jordan brand of tennis shoes.

You would have to be hiding under a rock to have not seen or heard about it. People stand in line for hours and even camp out overnight, seeking to buy the latest release.   It is the latest release of Air Jordans that has community residents scratching their heads and asking themselves what is prompting people to rob, steal and even kill others in order to have them.

Right here in Houston, another young African-American man has lost his life over the latest pair of Air Jordans, and his death has left a family grieving and seeking justice.

WHY…WHY...WHY?

What began as a simple trip to the mall for two young men, took an unfortunate turn for the worse, when 22-year old Joshua Woods was shot in a northwest Houston subdivision. Woods was shot about 10:30 a.m. Friday, December 21, in the 1700 block of Plumwood near Hallfield in northwest Harris County.

Woods and another man got up early Friday morning, to be one of the first in line to buy the latest Air Jordan tennis shoes. Both young men bought several pairs of the newly released Air Jordans at Willowbrook Mall before jumping in their vehicle and driving straight home.

The Nike Air Jordan XI ‘Bred’ sneakers, first released 11 years ago, have a retro look dating back to 2001 and had only become available to the public in the United States the morning that Woods was shot.  

According to the sheriff’s office, the driver of the car that Woods was in, stopped at his house. Upon doing so a green four-door car pulled up in front of him. It was at that time that an armed man got out of the green car and demanded the newly purchased shoes from both men.

According to reports, the driver jumped out of the car and took off running, with the armed man shooting at him.   As the driver knocked on a neighbor’s door for help, he heard more gunfire, which turned out to be another man firing shots at Woods.

Woods, who was in the passenger seat, had been shot.   He managed to slide behind the steering wheel and drive away, just before crashing the car in between two houses and hitting a gas line, according to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

Woods, who was taken to Houston Northwest Hospital with life-threatening injuries, died Wednesday, December 26, as a result of the gunshot wounds.

The driver was not hurt and authorities have confirmed that three teenagers; Anthony Quinn Wade, 19, Neal Bland, 18, and Kegan Arrington, 19, were charged with capital murder in Wood's death. Arrington had already been behind bars on an unrelated charge, and Bland and Wade were arrested prior to the New Year.

 

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Neal Bland, 18, Anthony Quinn Wade, 19, and Kegan Arrington, 19, are all charged with capital murder. (left to right)

ANOTHER LIFE TAKEN

Woods’ parents are still grieving the loss of their son, but more importantly, they want Nike to answer some critical questions about the way they distribute and sell their shoes to the community.

It is no secret, that since inception there has been a tremendous increase in crime and a high number of murders tied to the Jordan brand of tennis shoes, but do Nike and Michael Jordan have a responsibility to address this issue?

Woods’ father vehemently believes so.

“I believe that Nike can do something to address this problem right away if they really wanted to,” says Mr. Woods. “Why can’t Nike see that when they refuse to make enough shoes to meet the demand, that somebody gets killed and a child loses his life? And the sad part is that this impacts Black kids and Hispanic kids more than anybody.”

Woods’ parents know that Nike did not pull the trigger that killed their son, but they do believe that Nike can help curtail the epidemic that is plaguing the community by taking some immediate actions.   They believe that Nike promotes their shoes and markets them as limited edition, creating a dangerous atmosphere for the community by refusing to manufacture enough shoes to meet the high-demand.

“As a father, it hurts my heart to know that I lost my son over a pair of shoes,” said Mr. Woods. “I really want to ask Nike directly and challenge them to make enough shoes to accommodate the demands that are out here for the shoes."

Woods’ father says that he knows that everyone doesn’t have the money to buy some Jordans, but will not blame the cost of the shoe for the continued violence.   He also believes that Michael Jordan should say something and challenge Nike to manufacture more shoes, in order to stem the violence.

“I can’t blame Michael Jordan directly, because Michael Jordan doesn’t make the shoes,” said Mr. Woods. “He does know what’s going on though. “

The Woods’ family plans to share their son’s story with Nike and challenge them to make the necessary changes in memory of their son and to protect future victims.

HISTORY OF AIR JORDANS

Air Jordans are a brand of shoes and athletic apparel designed and produced by Nike for the now- the Jordan Brand subsidiary of Nike.   Air Jordans were first released to the public in 1985; a year after Jordan wore the first pair himself as a rookie in the National Basketball Association.   When Nike introduced the red and black Air Jordan shoes during Michael Jordan’s rookie year in 1985, the league fined him $5,000. Nike paid the fines because of all of the exposure Jordan gave the shoes.

The shoes, which retail for about $185.00 in the U.S., have become almost a must-have item and a new design is released annually.  

The iconic status of Michael Jordan has made the shoes as popular as they have ever been. This is especially remarkable when you take into consideration the fact that most kids, who buy his shoes, never saw him play during his championship years in Chicago.

Since their debut in 1985, Air Jordans sneakers have transcended far beyond a basketball shoe in the Black community. They have become a fashion accessory for some and a status symbol for others. In the early 1990s, when hip-hop became more and more popular, the shoes became synonymous with rap music and hip-hop culture.   The shoes also became popular targets for thieves in many Metropolitan cities, where people were often robbed, and in some cases killed, over the Jordans. Fast forward to today and we see that this unfortunate trend continues.

WHO WAS JOSHUA WOODS?

Whenever most stories appear in the media concerning the release of Air Jordans, they don’t always appear the most favorable towards African-Americans. Oftentimes, you will find that a story is covered, where the individuals who are seeking to buy the shoes have become violent or irresponsible with their actions.

This could not be said of Joshua Woods.

Woods was a hard-working young Black man, who simply wanted to buy some shoes with the hard-earned money that he earned legitimately, working two jobs.

Dazie Williams, Woods’ mother, recalled how proud she was and still is of her son.

“I am so proud of my son,” says Williams. “My son was a very mannerable son. He would say ‘Yes ma’am, No ma’am – Yes sir, No sir.”

Williams emphasized how her son worked two jobs, one in the evening and another overnight, to take care of his family and his responsibilities.

“My son worked harder than anyone I know,” said Williams. “He earned his own money, so if he wanted to buy some Jordans, then that was his decision.   No one should seek to dictate what someone else should buy, when they are spending their own money.”

Williams continues to remember how responsible and caring her son was and is going to miss receiving a call from him every day to tell her that he loved her.  

Both families are helping take care of and raise Woods’ 6-year old son collectively.  

“My son was a caring, hard-working young man who tried to set an example for his son,” said Mr. Woods. “Unfortunately his life was cut short and he will be missed.”

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