Philando Feeds the Children
Remembering Mr. Phil's life, and protesting his death. Photo by Pioneer Press
Amidst the current hellscape, a sliver of grace: In honor of Philando Castile, the much-loved school cafeteria worker in St. Paul, MN. mindlessly murdered by a cop for being a black man, a memorial fund has raised over $77,000 - way above its goal of $5,000, and enough to clear a year's worth of student lunch debt. The Philando Feeds The Children fund was begun by Pam Fergus, a local community college professor who was moved by the many stories of Castile - aka Mr. Phil to the kids - paying for students' lunches with his own money when they couldn't. "Philando's death affected every one of those kids," she says. "This fund hopes to provide the kids with a lasting connection to Mr. Phil."
Now - because we live in a society where strangers have to help feed poor kids because otherwise the government won't and when school is out they go hungry - it will also provide lunch for kids at the J.J. Hill Montessori school where Castile worked, and beyond. The money raised will reportedly wipe out the lunch debts of what could be 2,000 St. Paul students by the end of the year. And because “kids gotta eat every every semester,” notes Fergus, she hopes to keep the crowdfunding going: "Mr. Phil will feed his kids for as long as we can raise the money."
Philando's mother Valerie, who has asked that people remember her son "with honor and dignity," recently presented the funds to school officials. “We as a community have to work together in order for things to work,” she said. “This would have meant everything to him.” She has said she will match the full amount with her own donations, joining others in the community who have likewise stepped up to honor Philando's memory. A separate scholarship was established by his former high school classmates in his name for an “African American male (or) member of another underrepresented demographic." And a local auto mechanic fixes and replaces tail lights - the ostensible reason Philando was pulled over - for free because "a defective bulb should never be a reason to be murdered."
Movingly, responses to such small acts of mercy both mourn the darkness in Philando's story, and celebrate the light. "There is hate and fear in this world, but it is a pale shadow of the good in all of us," writes one hopeful soul. Another applauds the fundraising, while furiously denouncing the need for it. "It's a memorial that never should have happened. He never should have been murdered, and school children should never have to worry about whether they’ll have enough money for a goddam slice of soggy pizza," he writes. "Requiescat in pace, Philando, and may the gods have mercy on us for our many, many sins."