District boxing legend Mark Johnson lost his son this month due to the virus.
It is not the bug that destroyed all of our lives and consumed every minute of almost every newscast and almost every byte of every computer screen and almost every inch of every newspaper.
The disease that claimed the life of Markiese Johnson, 24, has no special name – neither coronavirus nor COVID-19. And while we expect life to return to normal soon for most of us, with vaccines and treatments for the new super-flu, there is no miracle cure for the armed violence pandemic that kills 15,000 Americans a year and disproportionately affects young blacks like Markiese.
Study after study shows that young black men in the United States are twice as likely to be killed by weapons as white men.
In southeastern DC, where Markiese died, it is a scary way of life.
Markiese was shot and killed on Monday night, March 9, in block 2200 of Savannah Terrace, police said. He suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at a local hospital. The police are investigating the case as a homicide and are offering a $ 25,000 reward for information leading to arrest and sentencing.
"I found out with a call from my ex-wife, his mother," said the oldest Johnson, 47, a district native and former flyweight and junior world champion.
“She said that someone called her and said that we need to hurry there because Markiese was shot. We got there and they took him to the hospital. Detectives talked to me, asking us about him. They took him to the hospital. He still had a life, but they didn't know what the ride to the hospital would do to him.
"I really don't know what happened," said the retired boxer known as "Very Sharp" at his peak.
Like many parents, Johnson envisioned something more for his son when Markiese was born 24 years ago.
"When they grow up, they are adults and life takes people through different paths," he said.
The father knows the paths that life can take.
Johnson was a celebrated world champion who did some wrong things and ended up spending a year in federal prison near the end of his career for parole violation and other charges. But the candidate for the International Boxing Hall of Fame has since tried to follow the right path and help the city's children find their way.
Often for black youth in the district, the path is pain and hopelessness.
Johnson's son was more likely than most to avoid these pitfalls.
Markiese's father was an announced champion champion, a left-hander with a 44-5-1 record and 28 knockouts, considered one of the best fighters in history in the flyweight classes. He made his name by leaving the district and fighting some of the best Latin fighters who dominated those weights in Los Angeles at The Forum.
He returned to the district as a champion and fought several times before hometown crowds at the D.C. Armory and then MCI Center, including winning the vacant International Boxing Federation Junior World Championship in 1999.
As he struggled to get to the top of his sport, Markiese was at his side.
"He went to all my fights," said Johnson. “When I fought on the forum, he was there as a child. … He loved the fights.
Markiese wanted to be like his father.
"He was a small man like me, but he had one of the biggest hearts," said Johnson. “He played football at Pop Warner and school football (Potomac High School) and was always the smallest kid on the field. He was a good athlete. He played all sports.
He went to Allegany College in Cumberland, Maryland, "but he was homesick and wanted to go back," said Johnson.
Markiese tried to follow his father's steps in boxing.
"He loved boxing," said Johnson. “I told myself that I would never leave my children in the box, but he wanted to do it. He started doing it alone, coming to the gym working with me. But he never had a fight. He was more of a gym rat.
Johnson works with young children in the Department of Recreation District. He has a gym at the Ferebee Hope Recreation Center, in wing 8 of the southeast.
Markiese helped, said Johnson.
Last week, Johnson chatted with some of the youth at his gym on a candlelight vigil for his son about the contagious and dangerous life that each one should go through.
"One of the things I said to children and young adults during the vigil is that he was shot in the southeast, where more shots are fired," he said.
“There is no trauma center there, which makes no sense. If there was a trauma center there, maybe he was still alive and so were others. I told people that this is why you voted for the mayor. That's what you have board members for. The southeast needs a trauma center.
That would be treating those affected by the violence virus, a way of life for young blacks in the city – even when things are back to normal.
Listen to Thom Loverro at 106.7 The Fan on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings and on Kevin Sheehan's podcast on Tuesdays and Thursdays.