We’re fighting the war on so many fronts that it’s hard to stay focused and easy to get caught up in surrounding crap. This past weekend’s violence that left 8 dead and 45 wounded tipping the scales forward and ranking as the second highest numbers of people involved in gun violence. And though the report has not revealed the number of Blacks killed nor the number of those injured, we know that one or two is too many. We know that the young 15 year old who was fatally shot in the head along with his 15-year-old friend who was shot three times in the leg were innocent Black youth on their way to play ball in the park. They were shot by people that look like them.
We know that 18-year-old Deionte Harris was shot to death after attending an annual peace basketball tournament. He met his fate Sunday morning in the 8400 block of South Hermitage. It is reported that he was shot multiple times. And we have to beg the question why and then take action whatever it takes to stop this random violence that strikes terror in our communities.
His great aunt, Karen Howard-Thomas says she’s still “in disbelief.” That it can’t be real. It’s not real.” She’s baffled because her nephew didn’t indulge in the activities that usually attract riffraff. He didn’t drink, he didn’t smoke, he didn’t do drugs, he didn’t’ bang.
Ms. Thomas says, “Harris was trying to avoid all of that.” He even joined St. Sabina’s Peace Basketball League. Similarly 44 blocks away Michelle Pointdexter’s 14 year old son who did none of those things either and who had never gone out unescorted was gunned down the same weekend maybe just hours earlier. It was his first evening out unchaperoned.
Father Michael Pfleger, pastor at St. Sabina’s, who sponsors the peace tournament, which brings rival gang members together to settle their scores on the court instead of on the streets say she last saw Harris at Saturday’s games. The following morning during Sunday service, he was informed that Harris had been murdered. “Nobody’s immune from this,” said Pfleger, who referred to Harris a “good kid” as was echoed by Harris’ family. Obviously not belonging to a gang does not spare one’s life but in some situations seems to exasperate the situation and the non-bangers become easy targets for the banger’s initiates.
So while we’re busy fighting the system about police brutally and violence against us how to we justify that we will not tolerate the outsiders’ total disrespect and disregard for our lives when we have failed to teach our youth to respect themselves.
Gangs are not new, rivalry is not new. But how we deal with it as a community is new. We don’t speak up any more when we see children doing wrong or misbehaving. And yes, I hear you. I know that you don’t because the parents’ response is not what it used to be when we were a community–back when we understood that we were extended family. That was when folks called each other ‘Brother’ and ‘sister’ before the Black power movement but rather it was a derivative of the church.
After the Civil Rights Movement and the more militant movement of Black Power we still
embraced one another as extended family. You were my brother , my sister and I was my brother’s keeper. We understood that we were in it together. We understood that it took a village to raise a child and it was taken very seriously.
All eyes were always on us. It may have been strenuous but we knew we were loved and cared about. As community each child represented the community and was our responsibility. So you/we were every body’s business. A Baby Doe would never have existed back then. Everyone knew their neighbor, their neighbor’s children, and their families. So if anyone went missing it would have been reported.
The pain of losing a child, a father, a brother, a nephew, a cousin, a husband, a friend, a sister and so on is too much under the circumstances of terror.
We experience terror from the system and within our own communities against us by us. This is the stress that also helps to sent us to an early grave. It is distracting and influences the attitude of our youth who imagine that there is no future. The rise of suicide has risen in the Black community where at one time we could boast that we did not kill ourselves. It’s true, I just spoke to a woman who shared that her daughter killed herself, as did her godson this past summer and a neighbor’s 9 year old then killed himself.
So what do we do? Do we sit around and pretend that we will wake up one morning and the problems will magically go away? Or do we come together and have that conversation? We have to raise the questions about what to do about it. White folks had the conversation. And they decided to move the banging terrorist out of the inner urban cities. They have cast them out, retaken their cities and sent the riffraff to the suburbs, prison or the downward spiral of homelessness.
There’s so much to be said, so much to be fixed, so much to be done. And trust me I really thought that we’d be further along. But it is what it is. Where do we go from here, what do we do? I’ll tell you this it won’t be said, it won’t get fixed, and it won’t be done if we don’t begin.
Even if you start out small it makes a difference. Envision just a few families gather to meet, to establish their concerns. From there you can invite, and or collaborate with the Church, the aldermanic offices, the police and take to task step by step what has to be done to make a change in our communities.
Last week I said, we have to get back to knowing our next-door neighbors and the ones down the street too, well I’m saying it again. We have to be the change otherwise we are just as much a contributor to the problem as are the actual instigators. I said we have to accept responsibility for our communities. Each adult has to be invested in the community.
Being silent and avoiding the violent has not worked. So let’s commit to change first and then move on from there. Let’s dare to confront the issues and concerns that plague our people.