Yesterday during one of the happiest & relaxing weeks of my life, I learned the tragic news of Kobe Bryant’s passing.

At first my reaction was shock, then disbelief, then numbness. Next, sadness and guilt. Did I deserve to be in such a happy place, while a person so full of life had just lost theirs? When I learned that his daughter Gianna also died in the accident, my heart ached even more for his wife Vanessa, and family.

I thought back to meeting the Black Mamba at a NYC club roughly 20 years ago, and how important it was for me to thank him for being someone my junior high school students looked up to. At the time I was teaching in Fort Greene, Brooklyn & the hoop dreams were infinite.

Kobe smiled, and accepted the acknowledgement. He was humble & gracious, even though he was at the height of his fame.

I’m sure nearly every person who ever had the slightest interaction with Kobe Bryant is thinking of those moments right now. His smile was magnetic & his talent awe-inspiring.

At this point, there have been 9 confirmed dead in the helicopter crash that killed Kobe & Gianna Bryant. 9 people whose families will mourn & try to celebrate the lives that were lost.

The city of Los Angeles is in mourning, while a short distance away, Compton is still grieving the loss of the legendary Nipsey Hussle.

For Black families, the tragic loss of our men has been a constant feature of life in America. Even if not killed in a racist attack, the racism endured by our men during their lives is an unseen killer.

No matter how rich, how famous or infamous, how righteous or broken he is, very few seem to escape early deaths. We have constantly been in a state of grief and sadness, tempering our happiness with the reserve that comes from expecting the other shoe to drop.

As the days move forward & the collective grief is heightened, let us remember that self-care is crucial to our survival & thriving.

Kobe Bryant achieved greatness at an early age, & lived out his calling.

Today we are alive to live out ours. Seize the time.