How could this happen? 17 year old makes the wrong choice in a boyfriend, and ends up in Rikers

Unfortunately Afrika Owes has learned all that glitters is not gold.

Afrika Owes is a 17 year old young lady that should be preparing for college, and not just any college, but based on her intelligence, getting ready for one of the best institutions of higher learning in the country. Perhaps an Ivy league school like Columbia, or maybe even Harvard or Yale.

But somewhere along the line, if we stop to think about it does take a village to raise a child, all of us failed her. It just seems these days, we are more interested in being friends with our children, than being their parents. Of course naturally, no one wants to get involved.

Young Afrika also wrote poetry and sang in the Abyssinian Baptist Church Choir, but just the other day, she was also arraigned in Manhattan Supreme Court as part of a 14 person bust. People allegedly affiliated with the "2 Mafia Family" and "Goons on Deck" gangs.

This young lady represents the best our communities have to offer, but there is also a dark side. According to police, young Afrika Owes had no problem carrying her boyfriend's loaded 9-mm. handgun, or listening to his chilling directions for murder: "Head shots only."

So instead of preparing for Harvard, 17 year old Afrika was on Rikers Island.

Somehow at some point, the brainy girl who wrote poetry and sang in her church choir decided it was “cooler” to abandon her prestigious college plans and believe more in her accused crack kingpin boyfriend. That means that all of us failed her.

The 17-year-old – in one of many taped phone calls with her jailed boyfriend said she actually wanted to attend NYU or Columbia while she was a student at the tony Deerfield Academy. Afrika was arrested as part of the so called street gang, “137th Street Crew.”

The 14-member crew was charged with peddling crack cocaine and recruiting young girls to tote their weapons. Ringleaders reportedly ran the drug operation from Rikers Island.

Her mother describes her as "Harlem's darling"

"She's a good girl," said Karen Owes. "This may be what's happening right now, but we're going to get through this …She's well-liked and well-loved."

Afrika grew up on 138th St., across the street from the storied Abyssinian. She sang in the church's junior choir and belonged to its youth ministry.

She was a girl with "an insatiable curiosity …a scholar. She was precocious and as a mother we nurture that," Karen Owes said.

The girl attended basketball camp and won a poetry contest before winning a scholarship to prestigious Deerfield Academy, a $43,800-a-year college prep school in Massachusetts.

But somewhere along the line, "Harlem's darling" veered wildly off course.
A 51-page indictment portrays Afrika as an urban Bonnie (as the Daily News referred to her) to boyfriend Jaquan Layne's drug-dealing Clyde, one of the gang bangers accused of terrorizing their own neighborhood.

In a December 2009 telephone conversation, Layne allegedly provided Owes with these chilling, deadly instructions: "If s— gets crazy, let it go, let it go. Make sure head shots only."

We must return to the day when the entire block looked out for the children, and via extension, raised the young ones.

We have to make the situation where for the children it is not cool to look up to drug dealers and their lifestyles, but rather much cooler to get an education, and go on to college.

We have to save our kids like Afrika Owes.