1 Year Later: What Kenneka Jenkins’ Death Taught Me About Drinking And Friendship

Kenneka Jenkins
By Brenda Alexander
It’s been a year since the tragic death of Kenneka Jenkins, the Chicago teen whose body was found in a hotel freezer after a night of partying gone wrong. Her case attracted national attention, protests and conspiracy theories, but was ultimately ruled accidental- she got intoxicated at a hotel party, wandered away from her friends and stumbled into a freezer she was unable to escape. When I initially heard the news of her disappearance and subsequent death, I was saddened. When I saw the actual video of her wandering alone, visibly under the influence of substances, I was mortified. That image has remained a constant memory in my mind and a warning of what drinking with people who may not have your best interest at heart could lead too.

There’s nothing wrong with having a good time. And, what you do when you’re out with friends and what substances you take part in is a personal choice. I myself am the turn up queen and love a good cocktail or two, have engaged in a “puff puff pass” situation on occasion and love to have a good time. That’s a given, especially when you’re young. I’ve always been careful when partying and have imbedded in my mind the things my mother always told me to look out for when outside of the comfort of my home or family function: never leave your drink unattended - don’t share drinks with others - don’t mix silver and brown liquor - don’t drive under the influence - stay in close proximity to your family and friends - etc. But after what happened to Kenneka, I take those warnings a lot more seriously. 

What happened to her could have been avoided. I’m not placing blame on anyone for Kenneka’s death as we are responsible for our own choices when it comes to how much alcohol we intake, although at some point, if too much was consumed, it’s safe to bet we aren’t thinking clearly. When you sit back and analyze the scenario of what we know occurred, she could very well have been saved had someone intervened. Thinking back to some of my crazy nights out when I’ve been white-girl-wasted that could have easily been me...

There have been several mornings that I awoke to friends recounting the night before and I remembered less than half of what they were talking about. The first time I ever got too drunk to the point where I was not in control, I was with my older cousin and her friend. After two jolly ranchers and three double shots of tequila, me dancing on tables, snapping fingers at patrons for more drinks and whatever else, they took me home. There was a guy who tried to pick me up at the bar and continued to buy me drinks. My cousin tried to get me to slow down, but I refused. She monitored me while I did so and cleaned me up later.

There was a time in LA that I drank a fish bowl of Long Island iced tea and unbeknownst to me, took pictures atop of a parked luxury car. My friend that I was with watched me and got us home safe. And probably the worst time was just last year, the weekend of my housewarming. After drinking the entire day and night, my friend from out of town refused to let me go home until he felt I was sober after vomiting naked in the bathroom of his $1500 a night hotel suite (a mess, I know). Any one of those situations could have ended badly for me. 

When in control, I’ve always been that girl joined at the hip with whomever I enter a kick back, bar or club with. If my girls get too hot and decide to step out for some air, I could use a cool breeze too. If they get up to go to the bathroom, I guess I can freshen up my matte lipstick as well. If they walk away with a guy to go and chat in a quieter area, I’m two steps behind and will stand near them scanning the internet with mase easy to grab in my purse in case something pops off. My friends are the same way. Because if you watch enough episodes of Law & Order SVU, you know anything is possible. In Kenneka Jenkins' case, that’s exactly what happened. 

Why in the hell was she allowed to leave that hotel room unattended (or slip away) in the state that she was in? Out of the estimated dozens of people in that room, no one had the bright idea to travel with her, regardless of if she refused anyone’s help? 

And who in the world was monitoring the security cameras? She traveled up and down multiple floors via an elevator and was seen stumbling through hallways and over banisters prior to entering the kitchen for dozens of minutes before going out of camera view. No one deemed it important enough to stop her and take her to the security office in holding until they found her crew, or better yet, contacted her family? Everyone from her friends to the hotel staff are responsible in some capacity for this unfortunate outcome. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that no one stepped in to help and that haunts me to this day. 

I pray that her family finds peace through all of this and advocate partying safely. Furthermore, it is my hope that all who were present that night, learned a valuable lesson. 

As for me, Kenneka Jenkins’ passing taught me to be cautious while enjoying a night out and not to over-drink, remain alert on behalf of those I’m with, and to be appreciative for the friends and family I have who did not allow a fun night out turn into a tragedy like Kenneka’s. 

What do you think about Kenneka's unfortunate death?
 
Brenda is a Philadelphia native with a love for Marketing, Creative writing, wine and Jesus. Her work has been featured on Mayvenn’s Real Beautiful blog and she is the co-author of the book Christmas 364: Be Merry and Bright Beyond Christmas Night (available for purchase on amazon). Follow her on IG @trulybrenda_ and trulybrenda.wordpress.com

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