M.O.B. (money over bitches)

Thug life ain't no good life, but it's my life.

After the song plays twice, Catherine offers her reaction to its language. "I don't like it," she says. "And I didn't like Watson's hair, or his tattoos, or the way he wore his pants.

"He didn't want to be a momma's boy. He wasn't afraid. He told me, 'Fear is just a four-letter word.'"


Steve Satterwhite
Watson Chery, shortly before his murder, holds a friend's child and throws a Westside sign; his mother Catherine cries out for answers
Watson Chery, shortly before his murder, holds a friend's child and throws a Westside sign; his mother Catherine cries out for answers

North Miami's summer of violence has taken a heavy toll. After their eldest sons were arrested, the parents of Max and Richard Daniel fell behind in the rent and they, along with their two other children, were evicted from their apartment. They could not be located for comment.

Odiles Petithomme, 50, the father of Odley Alcy, seems more pained by the failure of his son to find a job than he is by the colon cancer that has made him unable to work as a welder. Postal worker Nathaniel Henry, 51, expresses the same exasperation over the hang-out attitude of his son, Nathaniel Henry, Jr. Both sons were wounded in drive-bys.

Haunted by the memory of her son laying dead outside her front door, Cecile St. Pierre is thinking of moving. Tony Toussaint, who rarely visits his jailed son Edwin, keeps busy with work and church.

In the Chery household, six months after Watson's murder, grief remains palpable. Ernest Chery is too depressed to work. Watson's teenage brothers, Wilson and Wendell, and his sister Chelsea, age 7, are allowed out of the house only for school and church. Catherine Chery, the family's sole breadwinner, still holds down the cashier's job she's had for 11 years, but sleeplessness and worry have made her look older than 38.

The family has also been taunted by anonymous telephone calls, including one two days after Watson's death that may have come from his killers. "Where is your son now?" a female asked Catherine Chery in Creole as others in the background laughed. "Li pa kapab fè qwo nèg koulye a." He's not such a big guy now.

Still Catherine has lost none of the feistiness and willful determination that took her from a penniless refugee to a home-owning U.S. citizen. Since her son's murder she has been outspoken in urging police to bring charges in the case, and shows up to offer support to others touched by violence. On the scene the night Jerry St. Pierre was shot down, Stepp says that Chery was so vocal she was nearly arrested for inciting the crowd and interfering with police.

Nonetheless Chery is grateful for kindness shown her by police investigators, especially Det. Dennis Stemen. She is harshly critical of Celestin, however, who quickly and publicly branded Watson as a gang member. "He had a M.O.B. tattoo. That means the mob," Celestin told New Times. "If your son is named Jean and he comes home one day and says he wants to be called Top Dog, you need to be concerned."

Chery responded in a letter to Celestin that Shay Tropnas helped her compose: "I voted for you because I believed that with you in office our concerns would no longer be swept under the rug. On May 21, 2002, my 19-year-old son was wiped off the face of the earth as if he never existed ...

"I refuse to allow the pages to be closed on him and stamped 'Gang-related.' I want answers."


Watson Chery is buried in Dade Memorial Park on Opa-locka Boulevard. The family goes there several times a week to mourn, and Ernest Chery regularly spends most every Sunday there, sometimes sleeping by the grave.

The family also maintains another memorial at NW 126th Street and 5th Avenue, the corner where he fell. Catherine frequently replenishes the bouquets of flowers, even though they are usually run over by a car and flattened suspiciously soon after she leaves.

And spray-painted on the bullet-scarred pavement, but fading, are his friends' tributes to Watson:

Thug life.

Westside

Love til ya can't feel me.

Homie.

Nigga, I love you.

M.O.B.

R.I.P.

endit

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