Reflections from CEO Tal Alter on the death of Antwuan Roach and a new campaign in his memory.
In the days before the murder of George Floyd swept through the news, a brief mention was crowded in the local section of the Washington Post amongst blurbs on recent crime. “Southwest man fatally shot in Northeast,” screamed the headline, vying for attention. In total the life lived – and lost – reduced to 50 words.
The victim was Antwuan Roach – 18 years young. Shot more times than he circled around the sun.
I will never forget meeting Antwuan at a school assembly in the Sousa Middle School auditorium. He was a shy sixth grader. Though he had little to say, his gentle and kind eyes spoke for him. He was too old for our then brand new program at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in the Fort Dupont Park neighborhood of Ward 7. But his devoted teacher, Ms. Whitmire, told me he loved baseball and asked if there was a way he could participate.
As many have now read Ian Desmond’s stirring memory of Antwuan, you know his story is a complicated one. But the Academy served as a beacon of hope, a disrupter of the circumstances that conspire to cut short the full potential of children growing up in one of the most underserved areas in our region. And there was hope for a bright future for Antwuan.
Within months, he was a regular at the Academy – practicing with varsity players from Gonzaga High School, friends with Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond, and a favorite of our staff. Antwuan never craved attention, but people were drawn to him for many different reasons.
For me, it was his humor. It wasn’t a fill-up-the-room, story-telling kind of humor. Rather he would notice something subtle, make eye contact with you with a wry smile, and then start cracking up. In the early days of establishing the Academy and endeavoring to fulfill a promise to the children in our community, I would think often of Antwuan – with hope and excitement to see the man he would become.
I am heartbroken that this world will not have that opportunity.
And while I am gutted by his death, I am resolute in ensuring that his memory live on. Today I am announcing a $150,000 fundraising campaign to support the naming of our rooftop observation deck after our lost member of the Nationals Academy family.
The Antwuan Roach Memorial Observation Deck holds stunning views across the sweeping vistas of the Academy and surrounding community. From this perch, our staff, Scholars, and visitors alike can catch those small moments as seen through Antwuan’s eyes that are sure to elicit a wry smile all the same.
Will you make a gift today in memory of Antwuan so that we can meet our fundraising goal by his birthday on September 15? Every dollar delivers life-changing impact.
Chief Executive Officer
Nationals Philanthropies & Youth Baseball Academy