What Would Justin Do? Election 2016

What Would Justin Do?

Everyone knows that my pattern of writing is not scheduled weekly, daily or monthly. It is intermittent. When the feeling hits me I try and put pen to paper. So, today is the day. Honestly, with the state of affairs that our country is battling, I have been on edge for a few months as I think about this pending question: “What would Justin do? I think I was also triggered to write since I attended an event at the Duarte, California Teen Center this past Saturday. It was a Unity March and rally to promote peace and unity in the community. The keynote speaker, Lois Gaston—a community leader— spoke about Justin and his vision for peace. Through the tears, this event gave me hope and reinforced the importance of ” Teaching our Children” in the right direction as they watch us.

Initially, my mind was working on me to go, but my body was telling me otherwise. I am glad that I went. After the march, I watched the kids enter the park holding their peace signs high and donning tee shirts in a rainbow of colors. Their message was the same: “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Imagine All the People Living Life in PEACE”


screenshot-2016-11-07-12-47-54 screenshot-2016-11-07-12-47-41 screenshot-2016-11-07-12-47-30
There was poetry, dance, and songs such as: Imagine, What the World Needs Now, The Greatest Love of All, Teach your Children. If you ever listen to the lyrics of these songs, they all have the same theme- love and peace. They all moved me to the core. But when they played “Man in the Mirror,” I almost hit the floor because of the meaning of that song as it relates to Justin…

Justin’s school choir did a wonderful tribute to him a few months after he died.

This Election year would have been Justin’s first time voting.

Many of Justin’s friends constantly ask me a barrage of questions and I gladly welcome them all. “What do you think Justin would be saying about this election? Where do you think Justin would be going to college? What do you think his response would be to the “ Black Lives Matters Movement? What do you think he would handle how the hatred and bullying that is at the center of this election?”

I was actually touched when one of Justin’s friends sent me a picture of her. She was wearing Justin’s black Calvin Klein sweater (that I gave her to fight off the east coast chill) to a unity rally on her campus. She said, “ Justin was with me today as we marched for peace!”

Being a part of the process- when Justin can’t –keeps me grounded and connected and as I see and watch them grow, I can only visualize what would be Justin’s thoughts and perspective on these issues that plague our society.
Ceeds of Peace is a 360º approach to raising peace-building leaders. We support and build bridges between families, community leaders and educators to share resources and develop action plans to strengthen our communities and improve our children’s lives.

Critical Thinking, Courage, Compassion, Conflict Resolution, Commitment, Collaboration, Community…
Imagine if we were to plant these “Ceeds of Peace around children and youth, and cultivate these skills in the adults who interact with them at home, in schools, and in the community, wrapping them in the practice of these skills every day?

After we spoke recently at a “Ceeds of Peace” http://www.ceedsofpeace.com/ conference in Hawaii, I realized that Darrell and I did a pretty good job of raising Justin. We taught him with all the “Ceeds” and implanted in him as we raised and nurtured him. As I think back, nothing is ever easy and we did not always have glorious days if you know what I mean. But the critical and important values transferred.

Ceeds of Peace 2016
Ceeds of Peace 2016

I will never forget the story that one of Justin’s dear friends shared with me that she wrote about for her college essay. Like a lot of Justin’s friends the aftermath of losing him, in a flash still, rocks their minds to the core. However, I honestly think that they are now living their lives with purpose, following their dreams, as they choose passion vs. prestige, or as they change their majors to Art History (their passion) vs. Finance and Economic (their parents dream) or choose to work with children, a nonprofit or for a social justice cause for their life experience.

So ,Justin’s friend  Angie (who is of a multiracial background including African American) volunteered to tutor math at the Justin Carr Wants World Peace Saturday “ Dare 2 Dream” workshops.


On this particular day, she was paired up with a young  African American girl. Before she could start the lesson, the girl looked at the Angie a bit puzzled and sideways and said innocently: “Are you from the other side? “(Meaning you are not black why are you here?) She told me that even though she was shocked at the question, she had to quickly think: “What would Justin say?” It did not take long for her to respond from the heart and she said: “ No. I’m on the same side!”

Justin and Angie
Justin and Angie

So, I just went through my picture gallery and pulled out these photos of Justin. Every picture tells a story. Throughout his life, he truly loved his life. He was

Juju and his cousins
Juju and his cousins
Wedding Bells, Fun times with Justin and his god sisters
Wedding Bells, Fun times with Justin and his god-sisters

on top of this world as he embraced his peers anywhere he went- at the Montessori School, the Episcopal School, the Charter School, Public School and the Private School he attended.


Justin's Cousins
Justin’s Cousins

He had black, white, brown and Asian friends.  He had friends who had two mothers, two dads, traditional and nontraditional families, single parents, biracial, immigrants, Jewish, Catholic, Muslims, no faith, Episcopal, Christians. It really did not matter.

Justin’s Friends from High School
Justin helping his friend Mikala in 2nd grade
Justin’s image of his world in 5th Grade
Justin's Friends from Elementary School
Justin’s Friends from Elementary School
Justin’s World as he saw it with  his 2nd grade with his friends from all walks of life
Justin’s Pride 5th Grade



Justin's friends in High School
Justin’s friends in High School
Justin’s friends  Simone and Kelly in Kindergarten
Justin's friend Kelly in High School
Justin and his same  friend Kelly in High School
Justin’s friends Berrie and Lana  in 7th Grade

He had good friends that were boys and girls. He respected his elders. He tried to resolve conflicts. He helped his friends and stranger who needed a hand. He was bullied on a few occasions and he got the courage to stand up to them too! He loved his family, which was made up of cousins with African American, Filipina, Caucasian, Brazilian, heritage. He was proud of his country who was on top of this world and thought his America was great!
I have had butterflies in my stomach for many months now and on this election eve I just woke up with thoughts on my mind. This formative election goes beyond political persuasion. The unforeseen aftermath will either piggyback on the values like the “Ceeds of Peace” or destroy the core values that we should be instilling in our children who are the future. So as I think about “ What would Justin do? And how my baby would react to this election, I am proud to say that Darrell and I taught him the same way that our parents taught us and that was to “ treat people the way you want to be treated. Don’t let other people determine how you act. And Just Do the Right Thing!

Teach the Children

You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a goodbye.
Teach your children well,
Their father’s hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you’ll know by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh
And know they love you.
And you, of tender years,
Can’t know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die.
Teach your parents well,
Their children’s hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you’ll know by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.
Songwriters: Graham Nash
Teach Your Children lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Spirit Music Group



Justin’s cousin JJ and his friend he just met



The Show Must Go On


Written 11/3/2013

I am visiting with Justin’s (Juju’s) little cousins Mia (7 yrs.) and Dashton (3.5 yrs). I keep saying to myself, “This is not how it is supposed to be. Justin has been the one to entertain and play with his cousins- not me!” However, I can’t let them know my pain, so as I watch them play attentively, my mind can’t help but wander back to the good old days when Justin was their age. I sit here and watch them play with pure joy and creativity in their hearts-I just have to smile.

Darrell and I have no regrets on how we raised and loved Justin. We noticed his affinities for the arts a long time ago. As any wise parent should do, we nourished, encouraged and applauded him every step of the way. This was in spite of some kids trying to steal his joy. Performing for boys his age only became popular for the young folks- after “Disney High School Musical” made its debut in 2006. Remember that?? The boys began to think it was cool to be multi-talented, to dance, sing etc. on and off the playing field. Parents take heed. Let your kids minds run free, there is no reason to cage up their thoughts “ to be” just because it may not be the majority rule or not gender specific.

As I sit here watching Mia and Dashton play in their house, which is consumed and invaded by toys and trinkets, I have to smile and watch in wonder as they move between their huge selection of toys and adventures. A few minutes ago, my heart skipped a beat when they pulled out their homemade puppet theater and began setting up the stage for “the show”. Dashton ran to get the puppets, and they both huddled in the small box theater ready to go. Then, all of a sudden, little Mia blurted out “Wait, I have to get the back drop scenery!” She ran and pulled a few drawings from her own personal stack of her art pictures she drew- then she said” “ THE SHOW MUST GO ON! You see, when Justin was Mia’s age, he uses to pull out his puppet theater, make sure the set was technically sound, set up the seats for us to relax, and then he would present one of his many magical shows. Mia is an exact replica of Justin, because she too loves art. When she is not in school, she does wonderful paintings and drawings, just like Juju did when he was her age. Dashton, on the other hand, is the builder. I have been watching him move from legos to blocks as he uses his imagination to build support systems for his trains, boats, and cars. Juju lives on through both of his little cousins, I have to believe.

Dashton and Mia
Dashton and Mia

After Mia and Dashton presented their 2-minute show, I had to quietly and quickly leave the room because my eyes were getting full. I then went to re-read Justin’s application that he wrote in 2011 for a Technical Theatre program. The following excerpt describes his passion for the theater. Darrell and I knew from an early age that he loved the theater.

Center for Creative Youth (CCY) Application Summer 2011
Justin Carr Autobiographic Statement

When I was in first grade, I was introduced to performing arts through my teacher and my principal when they asked me to participate in a few school performances. I was the Wolf in The Three Piggy Opera and a munchkin in The Wizard of Oz. Each year I participated in the school plays and I quickly got used to performing on stage. I also watched with a close eye how the older students designed and built the show sets. I even had my mom bring me to school on Saturdays so I could help in any way I while they prepared for the productions. Ever since I haven’t been able to get enough of the arts whether it is in visual or performing art skills.

When I was 7 years old “Santa Claus” gave me my first miniature stage. I would spend many hours preparing the stage for shows with my friends. I learned how to use various discarded items found around my house to design the sets. I even remember using flashlights for the stage lights and some burgundy fabric for the curtains to duplicate the stage at my school.”

Justin saw “The Lion King” Broadway show 5 times when he was in Kindergarten. Each time he came back home and would study the program, look at the pictures and cast and then tell us how the set design and show had changed, since the previous one. He also left behind a drawer full of playbills and ticket stubs from over 30 shows that he enjoyed throughout his short life. He was able to see “Wicked” on numerous occasions and he enjoyed the backstage tour.

He also made sure he was in every show at McKinley Elementary School when Ms. Q put on a show. He was in about 13 productions. From the Big Wolf when he in 1st grade to Rafiki when he was in 4th.

lionkingJustin_Oklahoma_011101_3_resizejujwolfI never heard him practice his lines nor songs and we were completely surprised and in awe each time when we watched him perform on the opening night. Merle saw him in Lion King and told us that he should go to Harvard-Westlake to continue with his passions. He was in productions at Church, and for outside agencies and for each performance he would master his lines posthaste. Boy oh boy, he loved it.

I remember after he played Balthasar in Romeo & Juliet when he was in 7th grade, he said he was happy with the small part he got. After the show, his friend Autumn Chiklis dad Michael came up to us and said “ Your son was great, I will enjoy watching him in the years to come! His Auntie Hester said, “ There is no small role, just small actors.” During Justin’s performance in “Grease,” as he belted out the song “ Mooning” and the actor Blair Underwood happened to be in the audience. I watched him nod his head and smile. After it was over, Blair looked over at me and gestured as if to confirm he was my son, gave thumbs up, and said, “Your son has talent!” Justin shied away from compliments and would always just respond politely “ Thank you” He did not want a lot of hooplas, he just was having fun and doing what he loved best!

Justin as Bert Healy in "Annie"
Justin as Bert Healy in “Annie”

Fast forward to the summer of 2012. I recently learned that Justin and his friends (Via Face book) were trying to figure out what school play was going to be selected. Honestly, he felt a bit mediocre about the selection of “Oklahoma” and when he got an ensemble and role of Slim, he was a slight bit upset for the moment. However, he felt that if he dropped out, he would not be able to be in the finale show during his senior year. So he realized his shortcomings and just did his best!

_Final Inside Front and Back Cover OLjustincarr_tribute_page_3
After “Oklahoma” was over, Justin’s mind went into overdrive as he tried to give hints to the heads of the Theatre Department choices for the Fall 2013 Musical. He studied the original and sequential “Hairspray” videos, and went to work on his proposed “Cast List”
Every chance he got; he tried dropping hints to all who would listen. He said to me
” Mom, I hope they do “Hairspray” next year. I don’t have to be in it, I can just build the set and help with the choreography, this way we can get a lot of diverse HW talent to be in it!” I truly believed him. However, I knew that he would be a great candidate for the lead role of Seaweed because he was a triple threat (as they say in the acting world) and he could indeed, sing, act, and dance!

So, we were thrilled last January when we learned that Pasadena Community College was doing a production of “Hairspray” Karen Benjamin, the mother of one of Justin’s friends Molly, spearheaded it. Subsequently, we made plans to see it on Friday, February 22, 2013.

Justin’s famous last words to me on this dreadful day will forever be embedded in my heart and mind. He called me from swim practice around 3:10 p.m. He happily said “ Hi Mom, this is Justin, Molly is coming home with me to see “ Hairspray”. I said, “OK Honey, I will pick you guys up and we will have dinner before”…. We all know what happened next…. That is why I made Justin’s celebration of life program around the theme of “Hairspray” We also picked songs from his favorite musicals for the solos i.e.
“ We are Family” from Dreamgirls”, I know where I have been “ Hairspray” and “ Make them hear you” from “Ragtime” as passionately sung by his friends, Channel, Taylor and Ryan and the Harvard-Westlake Chamber Singers.

Guess what? Harvard-Westlake did select “ Hairspray” as this year Fall Musical. So, as I brace myself, to watch this fabulous show on Friday, November 8, 2013, I know that the kids will do a wonderful job in the production, and I will smile in between the tears. I also got a chance to see a copy of Justin’s cast list that he put together in August 2012. He was 95 percent accurate on who should be cast in the various roles (from those who tried out). He loved Theatre from the backstage to onstage, and he could not get enough of it. I know that the H-W Cast and Crew will put their hearts into this show. And, from the heavenly distant “Justin aka “Seaweed” our butterfly will be singing, dancing,acting, directing and soaring from above saying “THE SHOW MUST GO ON!” and KEEP SMILING FOR JUSTIN” because you know that is what he would want us to do. Good luck I can’t wait to see you all shine in ‘THE SHOW”










I can’t make this stuff up!

Love, Justin’s Mom aka (OTTO)

Copyright Susan Toler Carr 11/3/2013