Talented, popular Xavier Parris was so beloved in his community that his nickname was “Mr. Uniondale.”
He died last Oct. 29, at 26, when a car in which he was a passenger crashed in Hempstead.
“Xavier was well-known, well-regarded,” his mother, Empress Henderson, said. “Both of our children, Xavier and Solomon, matriculated in the Uniondale school district. My husband (Terrance Henderson) has taught at Turtle Hook Middle School for 22 years, and we were residents of Uniondale for 14 years, until 2016, when we moved to Massapequa. So this tragedy impacted the community deeply.”
Donnell Hill, of Hempstead, was drunk at the wheel of the car and lost control on Jerusalem Avenue, according to Nassau County police, But Xavier’s family and friends did not waste energy on expressing bitterness. Instead they established the Mr. Uniondale: in Memory of Xavier Parris Scholarship Fund.
Then, on Aug. 26, they funded the scholarship by hosting eight hours of family fun in Uniondale’s Bernard Brown Park. They posted ads on social media and flyers throughout the community.
At least 150 people attended, many of them former classmates and friends of Xavier’s and Solomon’s who are now in their 20s.
“All of these young people were impacted deeply by his death and wanted a way to heal,” Empress said.
Xavier’s enthusiasm for basketball inspired a 3-on-3 tournament early in the day. Players paid a registration fee that included a meal, and a blue or white jersey emblazoned with “1st Annual 3-on-3 Tournament. Xavier Parris. ‘Mr. Uniondale.’” The competition was organized by Uniondale friends of the Parris brothers, including Jordan Butler, Malcolm Carter, Tyreek Leftenant, Ian Miller, Matthew Cole and Casey Russell.
After the tournament, a dance-off honored Parris’s moves on the dance floor. The contestants didn’t seem to notice the heat as they twisted, jumped and gyrated. Eight young women from Beacon’s Finest Step Team, a Queens-based group that performs at community functions and step-team competitions, stoked the crowd with their imaginative, unpredictable routines.
Gilded trophies were presented to the 3-on-3 winners, and the champion of the dance-off walked away with a faux gold medal. The prizes came from Scholarship Promotions and More on Uniondale Avenue. The basketball jerseys were designed by a Uniondale artist who calls himself Chillan, and printed by Vikks Designs, also in Uniondale.
“We were thoughtful about Uniondale being part of this event as much as possible,” Empress said.
Meanwhile, black T-shirts sporting the words “The X Factor” sold rapidly, reminding everyone that Xavier also went by the nickname X.
Families relaxed and picnicked while a DJ, B-Lite, kept the hip-hop coming. Some of the security guards and teachers from the Uniondale school district came by, including Board of Education Trustee Charmise Desiré, whose son, Julian, grew up with Xavier. They played together on the Uniondale High varsity football team.
“It was beautiful to see the community come together peacefully behind a great cause,” said Julian, who’s now 25. “Many of us knew X and what he stood for, and it meant the world to be able to celebrate in the fashion that we did.”
“I was overjoyed to see so many young people gather to remember the life of one of our young men who was a ball of energy and sunshine,” Charmise added. “This family has truly been an inspiration to so many that it was the least I could do to join in the celebration.”
“It was a beautiful event,” Parris family relative Tyshinia Wright posted on Facebook. “There was so much love and support from family and friends. Long live X!”
The goal for the day was to raise $5,000, but the event brought in $8,000. Xavier’s parents had already decided that they wanted to empower at least one child’s pursuit of higher education, in the form of a scholarship to be presented to a Uniondale High School senior at graduation in 2024 and every year thereafter. They are now developing the criteria for selecting recipients.
“This is a nightmare that we never saw coming or expected to live through,” Empress said. “One way God is helping us through this journey of healing is to establish a legacy in honor of my son, so when his name is spoken, it is spoken forever.”Xavier ‘Mr. Uniondale’ Parris honored at Bernard Brown Park