Shoppers bombarded the doors of a Walmart on Black Friday, and it killed this employee.

Thanksgiving is traditionally a day that we take to be with our families and reflect on all the good in our lives.

It's also become a starting line for a race that retailers hope we'll opt into — the race to get the best deals and throw our money their way in the service of showing our families a "nice" Christmas or other winter holiday.


The fervor is real. Image by Powhusku via Wikimedia Commons.

Some people take part in these rituals as a kind of consumer tradition, and on the surface, it's not that bad. After all, if they're enjoying themselves and saving some money and not hurting anybody, who really cares? And that's mostly a good point.

Except sometimes people do get hurt.

Because crowd control is a combination of an art and a science and because turnout can be unpredictable, dangling an enticingly cheap deal to consumers without regard for safety can result in tragedy for shoppers and workers alike.

It cost Jdimytai Damour his life in 2008.

Damour had just been hired through a temp agency to work in the Walmart stock room. His friends recall him as a "gentle giant," and "always lively." They used to call him "Jimbo."

Early that Black Friday morning at the Valley Stream, New York, Walmart store, one of the security guards hired for the event didn't show up. So the store manager called Damour up to man the front doors — even though Damour had no crowd training. The manager wanted a big guy up there. One co-worker recalled Damour saying, as the crowd grew frantic outside the doors, that he really did not want to be there.

Seemingly caught under the crush of feet and the door that was pushed completely off of its encasement when an army of shoppers overwhelmed barricades, Damour was reportedly trying to help a struggling pregnant woman when he was trampled. He was unable to be resuscitated by the time help arrived and was pronounced dead shortly after 6:00 a.m.

This isn't just a weird incident, either. Situations like these can be inherently unsafe.

Though Damour was caught in the stampede, the cause of his death was actually not internal injuries, but asphyxiation. How? There's a phenomenon called "crowd crush," explained in-depth in The New Yorker, which may to be blame. When bodies pack too tightly together and become almost a giant single mass that ebbs and flows as one, it can create conditions that squeeze your chest area to the extent that breathing becomes impossible. How does a crowd get so bad so quickly?

Humans in crowds communicate worse than ants.

Unlike ants and other animals that have developed internal systems for the front of their crowds to communicate with the rear of their crowds, for all of our technology, human beings have no such system. So putting ourselves in the midst of huge crowds is taking a big risk — we humans are bad at crowd behavior and many security companies hired to manage crowds aren't all that savvy about it either. When pushing begins, counter-pushing is inevitable, and in the wrong conditions, it can result in a kind of human wave. The force created from that is nearly impossible for a single person to counteract or extract themselves from, and if they fall and end up under feet ... well, may fate have mercy.

Here's a local news report detailing what happened to Jdimytai Damour.

So what does the public need to know in order to stay safe?

1. If you can avoid Black Friday shopping, why not? You'll be one less person adding to a crowd that can be unpredictable, you will have zero risk of injury due to a store that didn't take proper precautions, and your family will be happier with your presence than they will be with "stuff."

2. If you DO go, keep in mind crowd dynamics. Don't pack together too tightly. Don't push or push back. If you need to get out of a big crowd, it's easiest to get out by going in the direction the crowd is, but inching toward the perimeter.

3. I know most people out there won't find themselves in this situation on Friday. But if things start to get dicey (in any crowd crush), keep your elbows out and up to try to ensure your ribcage won't get crushed. Try like hell not to fall — hold on to someone if you start to feel faint. If you do fall, protect your head.

4. If you want to shop, go ahead and shop. Just watch out for others and help others and keep in mind what the giving spirit is really about.

May we all have a safe and happy time with our family and friends throughout the season!

Photo courtesy of Capital One
True

Growing up in Virginia, Dominique Meeks Gombe idolized her family physician — a young Black woman who inspired Meeks Gombe to pursue her passion for chemistry.

While Meeks Gombe began her career working in an environmental chemistry lab, after observing multiple inefficient processes in and around the lab, she took the initiative to teach herself to code in order to automate and streamline those issues.

That sparked her love for coding and imminent career shift. Now a software engineer at Capital One, Meeks Gombe wants to be a similar role model to her childhood mentor and encourage girls to pursue any career they desire.

"I'm so passionate about technology because that's where the world is going," Meeks Gombe said. "All of today's problems will be solved using technology. So it's very important for me, as a Black woman, to be at the proverbial table with my unique perspective."

Since 2019, she and her fellow Capital One associates have partnered with the Capital One Coders program and Girls For A Change to teach coding fundamentals to middle school girls.

The nonprofit's mission is aimed at empowering Black girls in Central Virginia. The organization focuses on designing, leading, funding and implementing social change projects that tackle issues girls face in their own neighborhoods.

Girls For a Change is one of many local nonprofits that receive support from the Capital One Impact Initiative, which strives to close gaps in equity while helping people gain better access to economic and social opportunities. The initial $200 million, five-year national commitment aims to support growth in underserved communities as well as advance socioeconomic mobility.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Sterling Pics

Pinky Cole, owner of the Slutty Vegan

Last year, in the middle of what we thought were the darkest times of the COVID-19 pandemic, after endless months of cooking at home, my husband and I decided to venture out of our cocoon and get "slutified." That's what people are called after a visit to one of Atlanta's hottest burger joints, provocatively named, Slutty Vegan.

Owned by 33-year-old fuchsia-loc'd maven and philanthropist Aisha "Pinky" Cole, Slutty Vegan has three locations in the ATL, with more in the works. Her menu reads more like a list of offerings at a bordello than a restaurant, with the "Ménage à Trois," "One Night Stand," and the "Super Slut," and the atmosphere is more like a night club. But, it's not just the cheeky burger names or the concept of plant-based fast food that has customers literally wrapped around the block at all of her locations, it's the vibe she's created. Slutty Vegan is more than a restaurant. It's a culture. And Cole is at the center of it, building a community based on supporting Black entrepreneurs, getting involved in politics, giving back, and being thoughtful about what you put into your body.


Keep Reading Show less