By Arlene Jones
The tragic death of Kenneka Jenkins, the young West Side woman who died in a freezer, is still a hot topic a week after her death. First and foremost, it was Chicagoans who kept her story in the limelight while many tried to play detective as to what happened to her.
From the in-depth but erroneous analyzing of the Facebook live tape with the girl in the reflective glasses to our learning that the hotel room was rented by a couple using a stolen credit card, the story of her tragic death has all the makings of a really gripping made-for-TV movie.
A lot of anger has been directed toward the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont. Much of it has to do with hindsight. "If only they had …" is easy to say now that we know what happened in the end. But the hotel is the easy and most visible target. Very little is being said about the couple who rented the room and their liability because of the booze and drugs consumed therein. I think their names and faces should be blasted as a reminder and warning to others who think it is cool to use someone else's credit card so they can party in a facility they can't afford, or choose to not afford, by stealing someone else's credit.
Next are the so-called "friends" who drove to the hotel with Kenneka. If she left her phone, bag and car keys upstairs, why did all three have to go to retrieve them and leave the obviously incapacitated Kenneka in the lobby? For years, the government has told us to have a "designated driver" when a group goes out drinking. But in this case, the emphasis seems to have been less on helping out a friend who was drunk/high and more about going back to the hotel room to again be a part of that scene. We will never truly know the "how and why" of Kenneka's decision to get into that elevator and head for the basement. But we do know the outcome was deadly.
If there has been one redeeming angle in the entire debacle concerning Kenneka, it was outing Andrew Holmes as a pay-for-hire community activist. Why he chose to stand before the cameras and profess to see what the mother had yet to see is obvious. The Crowne Plaza was losing money because of the street protest and bad publicity. They needed a black face to dissuade the protests from happening. Holmes did his job of waylaying everyone and derided the protest. Yet when the videos were released, not one as of yet has shown Kenneka entering the freezer. I hope Holmes' disappearance from the "community activist" scene is one of the first outcomes that comes out of the entire story.
I also hope that black folks will now be as willing to put their energy and talents into exposing the killers who reside in our neighborhoods and wreak mayhem and carnage on a regular basis. I also hope parents will gather and begin to demand and create places and spaces where our 18- to 20-year-olds can party and socialize in a monitored and controlled environment. Going to a hotel room to drink and smoke dope should not be the norm. Also, teach your children what being a friend really means. Everyone they come in contact with is not a friend. A real friend wouldn't have left Kenneka alone in her state.
Lastly, maybe we can have a Kenneka Law that requires video surveillance be reviewed in a certain timeframe when a person is reported missing. Even if there is a fee involved, had someone spotted Kenneka in the kitchen area during the first couple of hours she was missing and locked in that freezer, she might have stood a chance of being found that much sooner.
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