JAMES AND Lonise Bias have now lost two sons to the scourges of drugs and guns. Although the deaths of both young men have been described in the press as "senseless," they were not, because the parents have refused to let them be. Mother and father have worked to give meaning to their unspeakable loss by bringing some good out of it.
When Len Bias, the University of Maryland's brilliant basketball star, was killed by a dose of cocaine four years ago, his mother quit her job and -- to the astonishment of some who thought they knew her as a quiet, Bible-reading person not given to speaking out -- became a much sought-after lecturer, invited to places all over the country to talk about drugs. She spoke well and fervently, and seemed to have a special appeal to troubled young people: "They hand her notes, folded into impossibly small squares, in which they confess their drug use and promise never to do it again," Jane Leavy wrote in The Post after watching Lonise Bias during various appearances. "They reach out to her for a hug, for a kiss, for some of her implausible equanimity."
This week, Len Bias's younger brother, James Stanley (Jay) Bias III, age 20, got into an argument in a shopping mall with a man who was jealous over attentions paid his wife. A short time later in the parking lot, a semiautomatic weapon was fired from one car into another, and Jay Bias was dead.
Thursday night James Bias stood in the family's front yard in Landover and called on people in this community to let his son's funeral today (it is to be at 1 p.m. at the Full Gospel AME Zion Church in Temple Hills) be the beginning of a new struggle to get some control over the guns and violence that have trapped many of the young men in this area in a hair-trigger world in which the slightest misstep can mean death.
"These are young children dying," he said, according to the account in the Baltimore Sun. "I'm not talking about Jay alone. ... You've all seen it every morning in the paper ... a bad attitude and a gun has taken another life. ... I'm sick of it, and everybody in Prince George's County is sick of it ... and the only people to stop it will be the citizens of Prince George's County and D.C. and anybody in the country that can hear my voice."
The death of Len Bias brought home the drug crisis to a lot of people who had never before given it much thought. The death of Jay Bias will not be a senseless one if it accomplishes the same thing with regard to guns and the glorification of violence.