Sneakers help Atlantic City man mourn brother’s unsolved killing

Muhammad Griffin never got to mourn his younger brother.
He was in prison when Uthman Griffin was gunned down Jan. 13, 2012, as he ran from his killer toward Schoolhouse Apartments in Atlantic City.
“I never actually shed no actual tears ,” said Muhammad Griffin, who raps as Fresh Money. “Down in prison, it’s like you’re hard.”

At first I caught stage fright while visiting his grave site,
’Cause I was in a cage miles away on that slain night…

Uthman Griffin was fatally shot Jan. 13, 2012. His killing remains unsolved.

But when Griffin slipped on a pair of Nike Air Force 1 high tops his family brought him when he got to the halfway house, everything came flooding to him.
He preferred the low sneaks. These were Uth’s shoes.
“It was like him talking to me every time I put them on,” Griffin said.
“Once I realized that these was my brother’s sneakers, rest in peace, everything came to me,” he said. “I’m really going to be able to express myself about my brother now.”
From that came “My Brother’s Uptowns,” a song dedicated to Uthman Griffin. The video, shot mostly in and around Schoolhouse Apartments, makes its YouTube on the sixth anniversary of his death Saturday.

Every time I put ’em on I feel a closeness.
Never imagined that I’d be talking to his ghost…

“I knew it would come, but I didn’t know it would come that way,” Griffin said of mourning his brother. “I thought maybe I would go in a corner and cry for hours or something like, I don’t know.”
Once free, he knew what he wanted to do.
“He called me to tell me he had to do a video for his brother,” Coley Alarcon said.
Alarcon, who grew up in Atlantic City, founded Full Circle Media Management, which includes videos and marketing.
In late 2011, he had been in the same place filming a group that included Uth. Alarcon hadn’t been back in Atlanta, where he now lives, long when he got word of the killing.

Muhammad Griffin, 35, with his brother’s children and Uthman’s girlfriend who was pregnant with their son when he was killed.

A piece of that older footage — with Uth talking — is at the end of the new video.
Uth’s now-teenage daughter and son, who bears his father’s name but was born a month after the killing.

“That’s special,” Griffin said of having his niece and nephew in the video.
“(My brother) and (his then-8-year-old daughter) Muhasha, they was in love with each other,” he said.  “He didn’t get to see his son born.
“I know Uth would be in love with this little boy because he’s the spitting image of him,” Griffin added. “I feel blessed to be a part of watching him grow. That’s like the positive of all of the negative… him.”
He turns 6 in February.

His young’ins I look after. I gotta hold ’em down,
That’s what I heard him tell me when I slid on his Uptowns…

Griffin talked to his brother just 10 minutes before the shooting.
They talked a lot while he was in prison, reconnecting after the two had lost touch a bit.
“We talked every day, like we were kids again,” he said.
Uth told him he was outside Schoolhouse where it was “cold as hell.”
“You got to be careful,” Griffin told him.
They were supposed to talk later, but instead, Griffin got a text message saying, “Your bro got shot.”
First, Griffin tried calling Uth’s phone. Nothing.
Then he called his wife, who confirmed it happened.

10 minutes before his murder I told him that I was worried,
He’d constantly tell me chill, do my time and take care of me…

Coley Alarcon did the video for his friend.

Griffin didn’t let anyone at the prison know. When a loved one dies, they put a prisoner into isolation and it also interferes with their time. He was in a work camp, the least oversight in prison life. And he knew he wouldn’t make his brother’s funeral anyway.
But the survivor’s guilt was strong. And remains.
“Why couldn’t it be me there and him here,” he said, standing outside Schoolhouse recently. “If anything, I would have deserved it more than him.”
Across the street on a post is a plaque to Uth’s memory.

His killing is still unsolved.

“At one point I wanted to find out who it was and go hunting and do the street… stuff … that I was used to doing,” Griffin said. “But can’t live like that no more because then it’s going to continuously happen.”

He told me don’t let up on my enemies.
And he told me to let his loss be my energy…

Griffin gets energy from those shoes.
“Down prison, some people take a couple of packs of sugar and eat them real quick or some people drink coffee or eat some Jolly Ranchers,” he said. “I put my brother’s sneakers on.”

The Uptowns that inspired the song.

And he listens to every word Uth’s friends have to say about him, to understand all he can about the aspects of his brother he may not have seen and now will never got to know.

“Mentally he gassed me up to work out harder and go harder,” Griffin said. “I feel grateful to have been his brother.”

Freshie, keep it fly. you gotta hold it down,
That’s what I heard him tell me when I slid on his Uptowns…

Anyone with information about Uthman Griffin’s killing should call the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit at 609-909-7666 or Atlantic City police at 609-347-5766. Information may also be texted anonymously to tip411 (847411) beginning the text with ACPD.