Don't Shoot, I want to grow up
Twenty-two students in the Columbia Links journalism and news literacy program at Columbia College Chicago this summer wrote about their fears and hopes for their city to be a safe place to live. The resulting letters, compiled into a booklet "Don't Shoot, I want to Grow Up," available at www.ColumbiaLinks.org, detail student fears about gangs, domestic violence, neighborhood safety and perceptions about Chicago.
presents I WANT TO Letters and essays from Chicagoâ€™s youth to the mayor and police superintendent F or the last two years, students have written on their applications to Columbia Links that they would like to report on the increase in violence. In their interviews they told us that the one story they want to explore is violence in their communities—no matter the form—whether it’s shootings, gang activity, bullying, cyberbullying or domestic violence. We, the adults at Links, a high school journalism and mentoring program at Columbia College Chicago, have tried to encourage applicants and students who are accepted into the program to select other topics. However, session after session (winter, spring, summer or fall), the subject of violence would reappear on more and more applications and as story ideas. It was clear that the subject of violence was the proverbial elephant in the room. We could no longer discourage the students from writing about it. We needed to let them express their fears and concerns. After all, teens are the primary target and sometimes perpetrators of much of the violence.Links can help them find their voices and provide them a vehicle to let adults know that teens need to be a part of the discussion. We have heard from the politicians, police, educators, clergy, parents, social workers, even former gang members. Now let us hear from the people who are most affected by gang wars. TEENS. They are part of the community, the future of the community. Inside the pages of “Don’t Shoot, I Want to Live,” you will see essays and letters to Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy from 22 students enrolled in the summer 2012 Links program on the impact violence in the city is having on their young lives. They even offer “solutions” ranging from bringing in the National Guard to redistributing TIF funds. Now we will see if anyone is listening. AUGUST 2012 2 3 TABLE OF CONTENTS Make it stop It’s personal Restore city’s image before it’s too late ....................... 19 Violence hides behind silence ................................. 7 The new ‘gangs’ ....................................................... 20 I’m tired of being scared ......................................... 8 The dangerous evolution of flash mobs ..................... 21 Living each day as if it were my last ....................... 9 It’s not cool being the murder capital ....................... 22 My definition of violence ......................................... 23 Not Me ... Yet More police = less violence ........................................ 11 I don’t want to be next ............................................. 12 Put a stop to violence ............................................... 13 Domestic Violence 4 Violence impacts everyone, everywhere .................... 24 War-like tactics for city’s war zones ......................... 25 Watch out! Ways to stop domestic abuse................... 26 Gang violence spiraling out of control ..................... 27 URGENT: Stand up to stop violence ........................ 28 Solutions Abusive relationships: More than physical ................ 15 A community to cherish ........................................... 30 Epidemic of bullying ................................................ 16 TIF reform will end violence in city ......................... 31 Chi-Raq ................................................................... 17 Venting with a purpose .............................................32 5 Violence hides behind silence By Jenny Sophia Nunez Von Steuben Alumna Dear Mayor Emanuel and Superintendent McCarthy, T It’s personal 6 o stop domestic violence as a society, not only in the city of Chicago, we have to step outside of our own comfort zone and challenge what is morally correct. We must encourage youth who can shape the future generation in the process of getting involved as a positive notion. We can implement courses in the high school curriculum that teach youth about the levels of violence and how it escalates into tragedy. We can show how miscommunication leads to death and how to get rid of the fear of getting involved. Youth can replenish the sense of humanity by getting involved in incidents that occur outside of our own homes. With knowledge comes the power to do the right thing. Domestic violence has erupted in my neighborhood several times. My apartment building was shaken one morning to the sound of rattling pots, broken glass and loud music.There was a couple who lived in the building who did not want to get involved with neighborhood activities, but clearly struggled to keep their relationship from getting violent and abusive at night. One night, I was awakened by the sound of a woman in tears screaming. My first instinct was to find out the source of the cry and to go back to sleep. However, my mother was also awakened by the chaotic rattling of silverware, and somehow plucked out the courage to call the police. She managed to knock on the door of the aggressive, dysfunctional couple and stop tragedy. “Why are we calling the police?” I asked my mother, rubbing my eyes. “They need help,” she said. “We have to do something before someone gets hurt.” That early morning, I watched the police as they arrested a young man. I saw a woman sitting on the pavement cupping her hands and crying. I thought of the neighbors who were awake and went back to sleep despite the noise and troubles of this couple. The woman was clearly bruised. I wondered what would have happened to her if we didn’t call the police and settled the brewing violence. It wasn’t until I saw my mother wrap her in one of our soft blankets that I started crying; I wished someone called the police for us when my mother was that frail, crying woman and I was just a child. In this sense, why are neighbors so afraid of getting involved? Why is it deemed a snitch? What does it mean to mind our own business? What if the cry was for us to speak for the woman who was clearly battered and silenced? Speaking up can save lives. And we must teach the youth that it is not a crime to share concerns. As for gang-related violence, we can lead youth in a better direction. Many teens feel like they do not belong and feel like they do not have a purpose in life. Therefore, joining a gang seems more like an incentive and a chance to belong. I have seen facilities such as the Armory in Edgewater flourish in a neighborhood where gangs find it necessary to congregate. I have seen this facility shape preteens in beautiful ways; I see children of all ages and races getting involved in choir, reading programs and pottery classes. This is a facility that gives youth an opportunity to get in touch with their talents, and give them insight on what they want to do later in life. These are the youth who build confidence and the self-esteem to resist joining a gang. These are the children who build a productive and wise place to belong. They invest their time in the arts, not in the streets. So why not fund more programs and facilities to harbor their creative side? For the older range of teens, we can start a program which helps the soon adults find part-time jobs. This could be a part-time job at a pet store, or work in a nursing home in which they could receive some stipend or volunteer hours. The frustration of youth unable to find a job to often results in deviant behavior, such as armed robberies and theft. As mentioned before, these teens do not see themselves getting a job anytime in the future; therefore they resort to violence to satisfy their needs. This could be changed by implementing a contract in school in which jobs around the city could hire younger individuals for an internship or a part-time job to spark some interest and purpose in their life. With this said, I hope you consider my suggestions on how to end the violence that has youth under fire. Thank you for your time, Jenny Sophia Nunez, Edgewater on the North Side She is a freshman at University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. 7 Living each day as if it were my last I’m tired of being By Diamond Trusty SCARED Prosser Career Academy Dear Mayor Emanuel and Superintendent McCarthy, O n December 27, 2011, seven people were wounded and two were killed in a Church’s Chicken restaurant on the South Side of Chicago. That was the day I lost my best friend and brother Dantril Brown, 17. I didn’t notice all of the violence in Chicago until it took him from me. There are shootings every day and a life is taken. I feel for those families that have to go through losing a loved one. Honestly, something has to be done. I understand that you are starting off by tearing down abandoned buildings to try and stop the violence, but a building does not do the crime people do. The people are the ones killing and hurting others. A step that could be taken is to start teaching teenagers a lesson by enforcing the curfew more often. I know you may feel that is a job for the parents, but you might have to open their eyes as well. When you catch their child outside past curfew and they get fined for it, I’m sure that they will begin to keep their children in the house at a decent time. When you pick up the 8 children some may run or some may say that they are just playing and not doing anything wrong, but the streets of Chicago are no longer safe to even walk in. I live in the Garfield Park community and the crime is very high over here. You can’t even tell a gunshot from a firework. I noticed that when someone calls and says that they hear gunshots, the police don’t come. When someone calls and says that people are loitering in front of their house the police don’t come. I don’t know if it’s just being careless or following procedure, but another way to help prevent crimes is for officers to start showing up. When I walk around my neighborhood and see domestic violence, the police will drive through and blow the siren just to clear everyone out. Clearing everyone from the scene is just giving them an opportunity to move the violence to a different location. Police are employed to keep order and enforce regulations. In my eyes, just clearing people away is not enforcing anything. So is it procedure or just being careless? We have to emphasize prevention as way to make Chicago safer for everyone. There are more steps that can be taken to help prevent the rise in crime. Create hot lines for people to call when things go wrong. Build more partnerships with schools and recreational facilities to show teens and adults how to be safer. Encourage people to clean up the neighborhood; criminals might think that if we don’t care about our neighborhood, why should they. As the government, it is your duty to work with us to create drug-free zones, gun-free areas and an all-around safe environment for everyone. There is nothing more left to say but ENFORCE! ENFORCE! ENFORCE! I am tired of being scared of my community and scared to walk in it. I am tired of having to watch the news and see reports of another death. I am tired of being scared of losing someone every time they step out of their home. Please ENFORCE the laws and make Chicago a better place. Sincerely, Diamond Trusty She is a junior who lives in Garfield Park on the West Side. By Asia Williams Westinghouse College Prep Dear Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Superintendent Garry McCarthy, V iolence. No longer just a word with a definition to me.Violence is what takes parents from children. Babies from families. Friends or acquaintances from equations. Chicago harbors the most violence. And when that somebody who loses his life is your dad, it hits home. Growing up on the West Side of Chicago, I’ve always been around negative influences. However, this did not stop me from having a good life. My mother and father loved me and so did my siblings. Too young to know about what was happening in the streets, I was carefree. Around the age of 4 or 5, my family moved to another location, which was also on the West Side. Here I called it home. Here was the start of my life. I knew my dad had plenty of friends and he was known by the street name “Tony.” His friends’ occupations and histories were unknown by me and my family members. I was unaware that my father had a friend that lived around the corner from our home. My dad, Anthony W. Williams, was shot and left for dead on a corner. If my dad never had that friend, he probably would not have been on that corner. I play back time and time again about how that phone call changed my life forever. Because of someone else, I lived without a father figure for many years. I find myself dreaming that my dad was here. No one witnessed his murder, or knows anything. Rumors about him being asleep in his friend’s car and shot because of mistaken identity have been spread around. But the truth has yet to come out. Violence has not only taken lives away from me but it has actually saved a life. My cousin, who is incarcerated, has been saved. I feel as though it is safer for him to be locked up and in jail than out here on the streets of Chicago. I say this because I know that if he were out here, he’d be looking at death. And it hurts me to say it although it is the truth. From a young age, he’s always been the one to motivate me since my father’s death. He helped me experience life in a new way. The love I have for him is different from the love I have with others in my family. I knew that my cousin was not going down the right path, and I accepted this hard truth. He never chose to hang around positive or influential people. I secretly worried about his safety when I found out what “hood” he was in and the people he would hang around with every day. He got into fights in the “hood” and people started to envy what he had going for himself. The target on his back became larger and larger every day. And it was becoming a problem for not only him, but the whole family. When my cousin committed his crime, I was overwhelmed with emotions. For one, I was angry that he would stoop this low and start a criminal lifestyle. Second, I was frustrated because now I didn’t have anybody to hang out with. Finally, I was happy because I knew he was a step away from a bullet, intentional or not. Sometimes when thinking about life in the streets, I get mad and I cry. People always ask that cliche question, “What can YOU do to make the streets safer?” What do I have to do with these streets? I’m not the one shooting the gun that’s killing. I’m not the one committing the crimes that’s hurting. But I guess since I’m someone in Chicago and a part of the “future generation,” my voice matters. Well, to answer that question, Chicago, the streets, and the hood aren’t going to get better. There’s no solution. I hate to have doubts about things like this but it’s the truth. And it’s a fact that a lot of people have already learned to live with while others still need to do so. We can set laws, but laws, to some, are meant to be broken. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t know where it came from. To me, the day the streets of Chicago get better is the day I won’t have to worry about living each day as if it were my last. Sincerely, Asia Williams She is a sophomore who lives in Belmont-Cragin on the Northwest Side. 9 More police = less violence By Matthew Wettig Lane Technical High School A Not Me ... Yet 10 s a Chicagoan, I see violence all around me although I am lucky enough to not experience living with violence. I live in Lakeview, where I am happy to say, I do not witness relatively any crime. However, this cannot be said for everywhere in Chicago, and I feel fortunate enough that violence is not in the forefront of my mind when traveling in my neighborhood. Oftentimes while traveling throughout other areas in the city, I’ve witnessed crimes committed by young people, who generally appear to be around my age. Seeing crimes like these is very unsettling as the instances of violence seem to spike during summer. One incident that sticks out in my mind happened while I was traveling to work. I had just gotten off the train on the corner of Grand and Milwaukee at 7:30 a.m. I emerged from the station to witness a group of teenagers robbing a woman who was waiting for the bus. She was the only one waiting for the bus and seemed to be cornered into the covered waiting area for the bus. I called the police, but by the time I got off the phone, the assailants were off running. I approached the woman to see if she needed help, but she was alright. Since there were many other witnesses, I continued on my way to work. This incident shocked me because it happened in broad daylight and it happened at the corner of a busy intersection. This left me wondering why? This woman did not do anything. She was just a victim of senseless and random violence. Why in the first place did these boys even set out to rob this woman? How did it occur in broad daylight? I’ve come to realize that there are several possible solutions to situations like these. One, I realize a lot is being done to put police officers out on the streets, yet not a lot is done to ensure that officers are using time to the advantage of everyone. We’ve all seen them, police cars just sitting idly, basically being used to ward off crime in the certain area it is sitting. In the situation I described, a stronger police presence would have been helpful to ward off the attackers. When sitting in one spot, one police car provides less presence in a community than it would patrolling the streets. Also, it does not seem that the police mantra of working “smarter not harder,” is actually working. I’ve seen illicit drug use occurring multiple times, two blocks from my local police station. Seeing this makes me wonder how this can occur, when police should be maintaining a presence in the area. It isn’t just based on the presence of the police, but the efforts made by the police to combat activities like these. If these steps were taken, it would not outright stop crime, but just shift it somewhere else. The actions that I feel really need to be taken are that of not necessarily law enforcement, but preemptively treating the issue before it evolves to crime. If teenagers are kept busy, and not sitting idle, it would lead to less crime. I’m just reinforcing this idea that programs for teens would effectively lead to lower crime rates. Thank you for listening to my suggestions. Matthew Wettig is a junior who lives in Lakeview on the North Side. 11 I don’t want to be next Put a stop to violence By Victoria Susberry Lindblom Math and Science Academy By Kevin Morales Lane Technical High School H ello, my name is Victoria Susberry. I am a 9th grader at Lindblom Math and Science Academy and a Columbia Links reporter. I live on the South Side of Chicago, and I am 14 years old. The violence in Chicago is getting out of hand. No one is safe anymore. For the strangest reasons, people kill other humans. They play God with another person’s life and that is not fair. How can you muster up the hate in your mind so strongly to kill another human being? A mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, etc. I don’t think it should be acceptable. Honestly, I am scared to be by myself when I go to places at night. I read books all the time, where if the kid had only come at a different time, they would have been ok; they would have made it. I’ve seen it on TV, in the news, where kids go to places and are killed, not because they were doing something wrong, but because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It could be a place seemingly innocent and the next thing you know, BAM, you’re gone. I don’t want to be next. I remember riding to elementary school and seeing signs with children on them that read: “Don’t shoot. I want to grow up.” I didn’t really understand the purpose of those signs. I didn’t realize how many children were passing because another human was being clumsy with 12 a gun. I didn’t know that violence was so intense in Chicago. I have been blessed to grow up in a peaceful neighborhood. Now, these signs have so much more meaning to me. I read the novel “Bang!” by Sharon G. Flake, the story of 13-year-old Mann who saw his 6-year-old brother Jason get shot dead on his front porch because he was in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Mann could not even walk on the front porch any longer. While I know this is a fictional story, it happens all the time in real life. There are people out there who have experienced pain deeper than any of us could imagine and their stories need to be told. A real-life example took place on July 10; two girls were shot before 8 p.m. while they were meeting friends at the park. It is not usually dark at this time and many kids are hanging, it’s summer! Now we have two little girls in the hospital with gunshot wounds they didn’t deserve. However, it’s not just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There shouldn’t BE a wrong time to be at any place! I should be able to buy candy from a corner store at 8 p.m. without having to worry that someone is going to shoot me or start mess in the store. While the city’s latest efforts to quell violence are to demolish abandoned buildings, I don’t think that’s where violence starts. My father always said to kill a weed, get it at its roots. I believe the root of violence is how the person grew up. Many children grow up without fathers or mothers, or even parents at all.That can be detrimental to a child’s development. But I have a solution to some of the issues regarding violence in this city. I would like to propose that we start a non-profit foundation for young children, R.A.N.G. (Raising A New Generation). RANG would be a center where children ages 4 and up could go to for mentoring, tutoring, community service, or just plain advice. I believe that if we can start a good foundation for children while they are young, we could keep them out of the streets. RANG could be used for after-school programs at school, and could even be an elective for high school students. The vision for RANG is a safe place in every community for children and teenagers alike to get help with their problems, mental or social. If we as a society, as a city, as a unit, come together and help these people, we can make a change. It’s not going to be easy, and I know that. All I can do is pray that eventually it will work, and if I change only one life, or convince only one person not to pull that trigger, then everything else is worth it. STV, Stop The Violence. Victoria Susberry is a freshman who lives in Beverly on the South Side. F or the past 17 years, I have called the Northwest Side of Chicago my home. I have enjoyed every moment of growing up there and I can never picture myself moving away from that area. I have had the privilege to live in a neighborhood where one does not have to worry about walking out the front door. The neighborhood has mostly been a calm and well maintained area, with only a few problems occurring now and then. I always see new families moving into the neighborhood to raise their families, which reminds me of the comfort that the area has to offer. But as I said, being able to grow up in this kind of neighborhood is a privilege, one that unfortunately other residents in other parts of the city do not have. I have several friends whose homes are located in dangerous neighborhoods. When they tell me some of the dangers they have to go through, it makes me wish that I could do something to help them as well as their community out. At the same time, their experiences teach me to have an even greater appreciation for where I’ve grown up. However, things tend to not stay the same forever. I always pictured my neighborhood as one of the few places that wouldn’t be affected by crime and violence. I was wrong. Within the past year, robberies, shootings, drug-related-incidents and even murders have found their way into our neighborhood. The scary thing is that several of these incidents happened within a five to 10-minute walking distance from my house. It’s really frightening to see an area that I thought would always have a welcoming feeling, transition into a place where residents now have to take extra precautions about where they go, what they plan to do and what time they plan to do it. Although I have not personally experienced any of these problems, I would wish to have things remain that way. I do not want my neighborhood to fall into the same problems of crime and violence that plague other communities. I know that I alone do not have the capability of preventing such problems from escalating, but that is where the mayor and police forces are supposed to step in. They are the ones with the manpower and the resources that can be used to not only counter but try to resolve this growing problem. That being said, it is important to remember that no perfect solution may ever be achieved, but if these increasing levels of crime and violence are able to be brought down to a minimal, that in itself is an achievement. It is understandable that economic hardships may have their toll on what Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Police Department have planned, but maybe a simpler strategy is needed. Depending on the situation, some force may be required to calm down situations that can well be defined as out of control. However, I believe that perhaps the best way to approach those who cause or may be prone to causing violent situations is by having more communication. There may already be existing programs that are made for this purpose, but several are only accessible where those who run such programs see as fit. What about trying to literally go to the source, to the real people and offer aid, instead of waiting for them to come get help when it might already be too late? Another idea would be to increase the rate of development in the neighborhoods that are facing these difficult situations. However, instead of just bringing up the area and making those who live there move to a new area along with their problems, why not involve them in the attempts to fix their communities? I really love this city and I would definitely hate to see it become an eyesore on the map because the problems throughout the city were not handled in the proper way or within the right amount of time. Those who can save our city from falling into that position should certainly take action now! Kevin Morales is a senior who lives in Portage Park on the Northwest Side. 13 Abusive relationships: More than physical By Alan Muñoz Lincoln Park High School Dear Mayor Emanuel and Superintendent McCarthy, Domestic Violence 14 V iolence, I would say, is an ordinary issue discussed in the media, so much so that people have become somewhat desensitized to it. This should not be, as we have laws to prohibit such acts of violence. Laws are supposed to protect us; if they do not have significance for us, they serve no purpose and violence continues. It is commonly known that Chicago is known for violence, a reason for the decline in tourism. A major aspect of this is domestic violence. It is very personal and destructive to its victims most being within abusive relationships. The root of this problem is that people who find themselves in these detrimental relationships do not do it for the right reasons. The basis of any relationship should be mutual respect, trust, and communication. Through this foundation people can be certain that his or her partner is being faithful and is committed to that relationship. However, approximately 30 percent of relationships among teens are associated with violence, according to CBS News, making it a major issue for the city. It is a problem which nobody likes to address, and is very difficult to admit. People should be encouraged to speak out if they see this type of abuse occurring in their communities. One organization that was inspired by this type of violence is S.P.E.A.K. (Speaking Publicly Eliminates Another Killing). Keisha J. Willis was working as a teacher when out of a “senseless act of violence”, her younger brother, Clyde Raymond Willis Jr., and his close friend, Dahmetri Michael Ross, were killed. Being the strong woman that she is, she had tried to make good out of this tragedy. Willis explained that her brother and his friend were killed by the abuser in a relationship. She stated that this could have been avoided if the killer’s girlfriend, who had also been associated with the friend, had spoken out and told him that she was involved in an abusive relationship. Not only is this type of abuse physical, it may also be psychological, emotional, and verbal. Often times the abuser will try to gain dominance through use of fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation. He or she will belittle the victim and continue to do so until they are under control. The practice of domestic abuse, unlike other violence, is prominent in whichever social group that one is apart of. It knows no class barriers What can be done to prevent this major social issue? An organized effort is needed to provide a support group for victims of domestic abuse; so often they find themselves without someone to turn to for guidance and encouragement. Even though Chicago is a large city, we can still harbor a sense of community – through community programs like church events,volunteer groups,and social-activist groups. By promoting these types of organizations, people are kept off the streets and communities become united—fighting for a common cause. Domestic violence is as destructive to the victim as to the community, harboring further violence and gang activity. To prevent further social injustice, the public should be educated about violence within relationships. On a personal level, people will be more motivated to stop the violence, just as we have seen from activists who fight for the decrease of gangs, which has had a great impact on the mentality of teenagers living in Chicago. For victims of this horrible social injustice, rehabilitation centers should be set up to help victims recover and live confidently and independent. Alan Muñoz is a junior who lives in the University Village on the West Side. 15 CHI -RAQ Epidemic of bullying By Josh Jones Walther Lutheran High School K athleen Mulvey was bullied at Carl Sandburg High School. Kathleen was a standout basketball player, and her teammates did not like her. She was being highly recruited by colleges, until one of her teammates pushed her in practice, and she tore a tendon in her foot. She needed surgery and she then became depressed. Children and coaches in the school knew this was happening to Mulvey, and they ignored it. Although this problem did not occur in this city, this type of thing happens everyday in schools across the city, and across the nation, and there is so little being done to change it. People don’t do anything because nothing is enforced. Students don’t stop bullying because adults in the schools don’t force them to stop. It is saddening to think how many lives could have been saved if something were done; if there were rules or policies enforced. There are so many policies and options that haven’t been enforced. Teachers report to the higher authority, students face discipline, and the entire cycle 16 begins all over again. The students don’t get the message because it’s not made strong enough. There are different types of bullying. There is cyber bullying, emotional bullying, and physical bullying. These things have a negative impact on people. People commit suicide, have trust issues, and so much other emotional distress. The fact that bullying is not stopped dead in its tracks despite the major epidemic happening in this country is ridiculous. The problem is spoken of all of the time in this country. Countless reports come in every day. Celebrities ranging from Justin Bieber to Lady Gaga have taken an anti–bullying stance. They have started anti-bullying campaigns. People who have major influences in our society are against bullying. Why is the epidemic not going away? The mayor starting an anti-bullying campaign would be very helpful. If the most powerful man in the city rose up against bullying, the problem could be solved. When people who have great influence try to make a difference, it works. People try to follow the lead of important people. What better than to lead them in a positive direction? Something being done about bullying can have an impact on students’ school work. Students will be more willing to go to school if they don’t have to go with the fear of being bullied. Students will walk the hallways with less fear of violence. Students will be more comfortable. Being comfortable in a school environment really helps the students. This fact alone should cause more to be done. Anything that helps the students should be considered a good option. When bullying is seen, it should be required that it is reported to a higher authority. The higher authority should take the proper disciplinary action to make sure that the student will never do anything of this sort. It is important that things are done to stop bullying. If nothing is done, the problem will never be solved. Josh Jones is a senior who lives in Austin on the West Side. By Raymond Roundtree I have been a citizen of the South Side of Chicago all of my life and quite frankly I am not that proud to admit that. Chicago is also known as Chi-Raq to my friends because it feels as if the streets are at war. I have had firsthand experience of the violence of the South Side. I have been jumped, been pushed to fight, and have been robbed. My mother attempted to be my shield and protect me from all the negative aspects of humanity, but soon I opened my eyes and began to see how cruel the world really is. At first glance I seem like an innocent, nerdy kid. But everyone has their own perception of who is innocent or not because to others they saw me as prey. I moved around a lot and it seemed like everywhere I went someone always tried to harm me. It seemed that in every case my skin color and my body build was brought up as a factor. But with all that I never let it affect me. I stayed strong, fought the battles that I was forced to fight and managed to stay happy. The fights that I actually won still ended with a loss because after I had my victory, the sore losers felt the need to jump on me. Eventually, even though it’s sad to say, I became immune to violence. In 8th grade I was jumped on by at least 15 people. It happened while I was walking home and saw two Options Laboratory guys. The two guys were with a girl that I knew from school. I waved at her and I guess the boys thought I was looking at them so they walked over to me and asked why was I looking at them. I remember saying something smart, they said something back and before I knew it one of them hit me. We fought until I was knocked out and some random bystander broke it up. The next time I saw the guys was once again on my way home but this time I was in an alley. I saw one of the guys in the alley. He approached me and wanted to fight. I fought him and had the upper hand. Until a crowd of people came out of thin air and beat me up, until I got away and transferred schools because the Board of Education felt as if my life was in danger. I soon moved on, not letting anything bring me down. That was actually my last fight. Surprisingly, I made it into senior year without a fight. I expected high school out of all places to be the most violent. Freshman year I entered and people thought I was way older than what I was so I guess they didn’t want to mess with something that they thought they couldn’t handle. But as am I’m writing this, I still haven’t found out why was I targeted in a series of separate cases of violence. So, I started to think of the psychology of the subject. I compiled a few questions to research. My opinions were that violence is something learned from the media. But then I soon dismissed that because I listen to music, grew up playing violent games, and watch all types of violent television shows, and I’m not violent nor a bully. So my second hypothesis after a little more research was that violence was maybe genetic or a social thing. There are numerous articles relating violence to a mental disability but there isn’t enough information because it relates to the personality of the person, which is always unpredictable. Actually, I define personality as the way in which one person acts and it’s true that an act isn’t always actually true. The social theory of violence seems to relate more to how I experienced violence. Most of the cases were by the so–called cool person in the class trying to add to their reputation and bully somebody. An article that I read stated that 85 percent of kids say they were bullied because of the cool vs. un-cool argument. I tattooed heartless on my neck to show that violence will not affect me in the wrong way. All I know is that violence can be prevented. ChiRaq is a war that I hope will one day end in peace. Raymond Roundtree is a sophomore who lives on the South Side. 17 Restore city’s image before it’s too late By Taylor Nazon Trinity High School Dear Mayor Emanuel and Superintendent McCarthy, M MAke it stop 18 y name is Taylor Nazon. I am a 17-yearold, African–American female who lives in the Beverly community, a quaint and well-groomed middle-class neighborhood on the South Side. I attend Trinity High School, an allgirls Catholic school in River Forest. Gang violence does not directly affect my life. It is something I am fortunate enough to have never been exposed to. However, it affects me indirectly in that it is threatening the reputation and the well-being of the city I call home. Word association is important. It helps us visually identify words with their meanings. You read the word “zebra” on this page and an animal of varying size with black and white stripes forms in your mind. Here’s more word association: Chicago. Outsiders and natives might scrunch their faces when asked to express the first feeling or images that came to mind when they hear the word “Chicago.” Our city seems to take on a negative connotation. Why is that? What could possibly be so negatively overshadowing a city with so much beauty and history? The same stereotype that has plagued our city since the time of Al Capone: gang violence. I’m proud of my city. When traveling, I take pride in telling people where I’m from. However, as the years have gone on, I’m not too sure how proud I should still be. When I was younger, Chicago’s mention would provoke smiles, brightened eyes and a piqued interest. The reactions changed as I got older. Interest is still expressed, but no longer for the reasons I was used to. Questions about the Sears (Willis) Tower, the Bulls, the Blackhawks, and Lake Michigan morphed into questions about shootings and killings and how dangerous the city is. Chicago’s issues are not “in-house.” Let’s set aside the issue of children and teenagers being murdered before their life could even begin, or how prevalently we are losing bright young minds to the streets as they channel their intelligence and talent in illegal and destructive ways. Instead, let’s focus on how this is hurting our city as a whole. With the increase of communication through technology and social networking, Chicago’s issues are being criticized and publicized worldwide. We’re losing tourism. Gang violence is said to be one of the reasons Chicago lost its Olympic bid. We are losing money along with credibility. The less money the city has, the fewer resources and money can be dedicated to fix this plague. Thus, the vicious cycle continues. How can we fix gang violence? I think if the answer were simple,the world would have been a better place a long time ago. This is a process and requires the dedication and resources of many individuals. I am sure your jobs are very hard, and I can’t imagine the obstacles you face with problem of this magnitude and complexity. I only beg that you fix the problem before it’s too late. I love my city, but I’m finding it harder to defend it. Please restore this city to the one I remember. I want this to be a place where I can safely raise my kids. When I was I younger, Chicago was a much safer, far more honorable city. I believe Chicago can and will be a peaceful city again. Sincerely, Taylor Nazon A supportive and concerned citizen She is a senior who lives in Beverly on the South Side. 19 I n a high school environment, it is typical to see students separate themselves into cliques or groups with whom they are most comfortable. However, in many Chicago’s public high schools, this simple idea has become a dangerous problem. These cliques are no longer innocent groups of close friends. They are beginning to resemble gangs. Although they are not affiliated with any known gangs or are entangled in violent turf wars over drug trafficking, they still pose a threat with petty theft and ambushing bystanders. At my school, Kenwood Academy on the South Side, these entourages give themselves names, emphasizing their resemblance to gangs. The problem is that the police are not aware of the violence caused by such minors. In fact, they’re discounted by the police. These groups of students bring a certain danger to the school environment and are not only a distraction to other students, but a constant worry about our safety in a place we spend most of our waking moments. I believe the media are, in part, to blame for the formation of these crime entourages, particularly rap music. As news sources report on rap artists and their affiliations, these groups develop a sense of superiority over others. This same concept is instilled in the youth of Chicago. Teenagers affiliate themselves with a “gang” to give them a superior status over those who aren’t. It may also be possible that they are pushed into said groups for protection. They believe no one will harass them if they are known to be part of a bigger society. To solve this problem, the Chicago Police Department must be informed of this new threat within the learning environment. I think it is also wise to assign an officer within every high school so that the students can rest at ease. Let’s face it, students are not afraid of the school security, but perhaps a higher authority will keep things in check. We cannot stop students from affiliating themselves with certain people, but we can ensure the safety of them as well as the people around them. It may seem like a minor problem, but I do believe that it will develop into something much serious if we do not act Yes, it may be difficult containing these groups during school hours, but it seems to be the only effective solution. We can choose to do something about it or we can sit back and watch it turn into something ugly. The New Gangs ‘ By Shawn Wong Kenwood Academy High School ’ Shawn Wong is a sophomore who lives in Bridgeport on the South Side. 20 The dangerous evolution of flash mobs By Jack O’Brien Jones College Prep Dear Mayor Emanuel and Superintendent McCarthy, M y name is Jack O’Brien– and I’m from Lincoln Park attending Jones College Prep. I want to talk to you about flash mobs. They are a form of attack when a group of people select a random place and a random time to beat up people and take their stuff and then they leave suddenly. These attacks happen in some of the most populated places, during some of the most congested times. Flash mobs are also possibly hurting the tourism the city receives and the security the citizens would like to have. For the last couple years the attacks have been getting gradually bigger and it’s been affecting many people. Flash mobs are especially confusing, because they developed from such a harmless form of dancing,celebration and expression of a strong emotion, that are also called flash mob or flash dance. Flash mobs seem to be happening in the downtown area more frequently and the attacks are increasing intensively, especially in these summer months. People are becoming more worried about why these events aren’t being stopped, according to a recent story in the Chicago RedEye. The article said the attacks can happen year round at any time, so be ready whenever. Cops have been sent into very populated places and tourist friendly places like Water Tower Place and have been making an effort in that area, but many people haven’t seen a change in less touristfriendly areas around the outskirts of Chicago. These are the areas where most of the deaths are occurring. One reason I think these attacks have become more frequent is because of the economy. Many people have been pushed into doing things that they might not want to do like stealing and picking on other people and beating them senseless, which is a peer pressure take on the situations. Another problem would be if there is gang problems and it’s hard to react to peer pressure in gangs and it will be a lot of people reacting poorly to the problems and the people will be reacting poorly within the gang, which is a cause or more negative reactions building on each other. Throughout the last year a friend from my school was involved in a gang, and he told me one day that he wanted no part in it anymore, so I told him to quit. When he told the people who were in charge that he wanted to quit, they started growing a hatred towards him. When he saw them within the next couple of months, all they wanted to do was hurt him. I think the worst problem overall is the gangs causing violence when they have been pushed and shoved when they need help and support by close people or distant reliable sources. The people of Chicago do not feel safe in their own homes and when I come home everyday my mom reminds me of all the deaths that have occurred that day to make me be more cautious and be more safe downtown. One idea that would help to stop this problem is to have more officers patrol the Chicago districts, but it is not as easy as it seems.These economic hard times have restricted the city’s ability to hire more officers,which then leads to difficulty covering a lot of space with a smaller police force. Without the usual spaces being covered in the city, people are more free to wreak havoc. Another idea would be to start a program that would help people get a fresh start in life and set people up to get good jobs, but I don’t think there’s much interest in these programs because the funding is not there. The flash mobs are a growing problem and it makes people feel insecure around the whole city, and unless the situation is stopped with a huge force, the numbers will keep climbing and the violence will continue. Jack O’Brien is sophomore who lives in Lincoln Park on the North Side. 21 It’s not cool being the MURDER CAPITAL My definition of VIOLENCE By Femi Adigun Homewood–Flossmoor High School By Damien Foster Manley Career Academy To Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent McCarthy, M y name is Femi Adigun, and I will be a senior at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. I notice some things that anger me as a resident of the Chicago area. It seems like people in Chicago and the surrounding suburbs pride themselves on belonging to the murder capital of the U.S. This is the mindset that runs rampant among the youth of the Chicago area. Many teens are killing each other simply because they want to live up to the reputation of terror that has been bestowed upon Chicago. This mindset doesn’t only apply to inner-city youth, but to suburban teens from all the way north in Evanston to the southwest suburbs of Homewood, Markham, and Harvey. The youth think that the thug lifestyle is cool so they try to emulate it. I live in the Homewood-Flossmoor community and I have been to multiple parties where the festivities are cut short because people would get in a physical altercation or draw fire on another person, who was usually another teen. People don’t care about it because they think the action does not directly concern them, but the reality is that it affects everybody. There are teens that are becoming numb to violence because they see it so much. They feel that it’s just 22 something that comes with the territory; the territory known as the murder capital. Some teens boast to others about the deadly reputation of our once great city. Others upload videos and incriminating pictures of them or people they know participating in violent acts. Why? Because those kids feel it’s cool to partake in random acts of violence and like to brag about it.This thought of violence being cool needs to be changed dramatically. If not, acts of violence will continue to occur at an alarming rate. During this era of extreme technological advances in entertainment and news, most teens get their information from television or the Internet. To reach these teens and inform them of just how uncool violence truly is, one must reach through these channels. Instead of our news stations containing 25 minutes of killings and five minutes of the youth’s accomplishments, they should show more stories of positive things done within communities. This would help teens realize that violence is not the only thing that goes on in their community. Funding should also go into making more after school programs in Chicago communities. In these after school programs, there should be workshops and mentors who can show teens the negative consequences of violence and that we need to rid our city of its reputation as the murder capital. In addition, we should have police officers come to schools and talk to kids and tell them real-life stories of death and violence in their neighborhoods. Then it would hit home that violence affects all of us and that we need to solve this problem. To handle the state of emergency that plagues Chicago, we first need to figure out the reasons why violence is so prevalent in our community. That starts with changing the image that the youth hold of the city. If they are aware that the city of Chicago is not a battlefield but rather a place full of opportunity, then they will pursue these opportunities rather than a life of violence. This idea of a Chicago full of potential is what needs to be“cool to the youth. Teens need to understand that being the murder capital is not something to be proud of, but the positive things going on in the city are worthwhile. If this mindset can be properly cultivated among youth, it would spread from the city to the suburbs of Evanston, Homewood and Harvey. It would not happen overnight but slowly and surely, the city would be once again peaceful. We need your help. This can only be truly effective if you take action. Please help us make this place wonderful again. Sincerely, Femi Adigun W hen I think of violence, I think of fighting. But violence also can be a state of mind. Sometimes you want to use violence as an way to take out your anger, but you cannot because you’re not that type of person. Some people are. Violence can provoke these people to start fighting and causing problems without considering the lives or feelings of others. That is why, in my opinion, I feel that people in Chicago could benefit from a program like CeaseFire that teaches people how to handle their anger without resorting to violence. A lot of killings happen to kids who have something good going for them, but they get mixed up with the wrong people. I remember reading stories by Scoop Jackson, an ESPN columnist, who wanted to help out a promising young basketball player LaTravis Hawkins. Scoop tried to help him get off the streets, but he didn’t know where LaTravis was. Scoop would only hear from LaTravis when he called or texted. Then, LaTravis got mixed up with the wrong people trying to make ends meet and was killed. Scoop had to find out the hard way; he called LaTravis’ phone a few times. One night, he got a text saying that LaTravis had died. A lot of people already have inner rage and can’t release their anger. The first thing triggers them, makes them want to fight. To deal with her anger, Keisha Willis started S.P.E.A.K. (Speaking Publicly Eliminates Another Killing) after her brother and his best friend were killed late one night. At a vigil, she let her emotion out. Anger and violence go hand and hand, but I feel that those who turn to violence are stupid. When something is done to you, it doesn’t mean that you have to do something back. Violence makes violence. If something is done to you or a family member, you want to do something out of anger to get revenge. I can relate to this because my brother was jumped on by his friends. He wanted to go and fight back with a gun, but my other brother and I wouldn’t even let him out the house. We knew that it was a phase and that it would pass. I feel if more people reacted like that, they would create a chain that would never end. Violence is more an aggressive mindset than anything else. People who are violent had to grow up around it. As a young child you saw someone do something bad and you thought it was the lifestyle that you wanted. Violence is a lifestyle, but it’s not one you have to live. At least, that’s my definition. Damien Foster is a sophomore who lives on the West Side. He is a senior who lives in Homewood in the south suburbs. 23 War-like tactics for city’s war zones Violence impacts everyone, everywhere By Averie Allen Lindblom Math and Science Academy opportunities for people that are unemployed. Thus, this solution can help lessen violence and create a better economy in Chicago. We need to have more alternatives and educational opportunities for those who want to join gangs or commit acts of violence. Many people are violent because they are bored and don’t have anything better to do with their time. If the city of Chicago offers more extracurricular activities for teenagers, like volunteering and sports, these kids will have better options that will positively benefit their lives. To me, the violence that plagues Chicago is often unnecessary, and there are better ways to solve your problems, such as talking issues out, avoiding areas that you know are violent and troubled, and finding people to help you when you face problems like bullying at school. When you use violence as an answer to your problems, you encounter even worse consequences, like going to jail, ruining your job opportunities, and getting expelled from school. Although my solutions may not entirely erase violence in Chicago, they will help minimize the level of it and provide kids with better options for their lives and futures. I live in Beverly, a neighborhood that lies next to Morgan Park and Roseland. Many police officers and he harsh, ear-splitting firefighters live in my community. echo of gunshots blare This helps increase the safety throughout the urban throughout my neighborhood, landscape and the next creating a safer environment morning, you turn on the news to even when located in the middle see a mother crying over the loss of crime. Violence impacts my life because of her 15-year-old son, explaining to the reporter that “he was just it is steadily creeping into my Beverly, and in the wrong place at the wrong neighborhood, overtaking public areas that have time.” “Homicide [was] the leading always been relatively safe, such cause of death for non-Hispanic as parks. This creates a dangerous black male teenagers,” according environment for taking my to the Centers for Disease Control siblings to the playground, riding and Prevention in 2010. In a June my bike, or swimming at the pool. 25, 2012 New York Times article Leisure activities that were once about Chicago violence, it stated, protected havens are drawing a “Homicides are up by 38 percent negative crowd. My parents tell from a year ago, and shootings me to not go to certain parts of my have increased as well... As of June neighborhood because they want 17, 240 people had been killed here me to be safe and avoid bad crowds. this year, mostly in shootings, 66 Unlike my parents, who used to more deaths than occurred in the travel around their neighborhood with more freedom, where I go same period in 2011.” The violence in Chicago has and what I do is more restricted. Truthfully, I am not as much become such a prominent issue throughout the city and is even of a victim of violence as other affecting teenagers that have teenagers in Chicago. However, as never picked up a gun or been in a teenager, I can still offer some a gang. Nonetheless, these kids solutions to this problem. To keep parks in better areas live in areas where the violence is mainly taking place. Some on the South and West sides of youth living in the city cannot go Chicago safe, the city should outside and even visit their local provide more police officers on park because it is occupied by certain streets. This initiative Averie Allen is a sophomore can also present many new job who lives in Beverly on the South Side. gang members. Dear Mayor Emanuel and Superintendent McCarthy, T 24 Aaron Polk Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep I live in Chicago during one of its most violent times since the 1990s.There has been a 38 percent increase in homicides during the first six months of 2012 compared to 2011. Fortunately, I have been blessed to live in a moderately safe neighborhood; however, the violence still affects me. I am going into my senior year in high school; I have my whole life ahead of me. I’m enrolled in a college preparatory as well as numerous extracurricular activities such as a journalism program (Columbia Links) at Columbia College Chicago. My support system and I are doing everything in our power to ensure that I remain on the right path. Unfortunately, because of the ever increasing gang presence throughout the city, it’s not always up to us. It is unfair that my parents have to be skeptical about allowing me in certain parts of the city. Why should I have to “stay inside of the gates” simply because my school is located in Roseland where the crime rate is high? Why do I see a larger police presence when I visit Hyde Park than when I visit my grandmother in Englewood? Quite honestly, I’m tired of being overly cautious...sometimes even fearful in a place I call home. I love Chicago, but it seems that Chicago hates us...we hate us. Why else would Chicagoans go around killing each other for seemingly recreational purposes? I have been raised to never be fearful. Mainly out of religion, I believe that everything happens for a reason and sometimes, unfortunately I will never understand that reason. It doesn’t make sense to me that anyone with so much ambition and hope for the future could suddenly lose their life because of violence. In my mind, there is no justification for that. However, because of how I have been brought up I try to stay positive. I try to convince others and even convince myself that things are going to get better. Try convincing someone who has just lost a best friend or even family member that everything is going to “be okay.” It’s virtually impossible. Honestly, I’m tired of lying to people and I’m tired of lying to myself. As it stands, surviving in Chicago is becoming about luck. The gang presence in Chicago is ridiculous; there’s no other way to describe it. Yes, rival gang members kill one another but what may be even more heinous is that they also kill innocent bystanders who were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Saying that gang bangers need to be driven off the streets is an immense understatement. Anyone can say that, it’s an obvious statement but what are elected officials actually doing to get murderers off of THEIR (gang members) playing field? It’s clear that gangs have taken over and that they’re not, in any way, intimidated by the Chicago Police Department. The CPD is not making a big enough statement. I recommend summoning the National Guard to Chicago, considering the epidemic of violence has virtually resulted in a genocide. Barely six months into 2012, Chicago has already had 228 homicides this year; overseas in Afghanistan, the body count for U.S. troops has only reached 144. It is a war zone in Chicago and the only way to restore peace is to treat it like one. Yes, it’s desperate but it’s also necessary. The CPD needs backup. They need people who are actually going to come in and get these gangs off of the streets so that we can feel safe again. There is no other way. Chicagoans deserve to feel safe...to be safe. Aaron Polk is a senior who lives on the South Side. 25 WATCH OUT! Ways to stop domestic abuse Gang violence spiraling By Maya Dunson Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School Dear Mayor Rahm Emanuel, M y name is Maya Dunson and I attend Mother McAuley, the largest all-girls Catholic high school in the nation. It is located in Evergreen Park. We talked a lot about domestic violence in school last year. I was a freshman then. I’d like to mention it to you. Domestic violence is really nothing but a fancy word for ABUSE and it is nothing to take lightly. It comes in many forms: physical, emotional, and sexual. Physical abuse is most common. Did you know that, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1 in 3 women will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime—which is 4 million in any given year? Or,were you aware that the FBI reports that one woman is beaten every 15 seconds by her husband or partner in the United States? I bet you didn’t know that domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44 in the United States—more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. Have you ever wondered what causes domestic violence? Well, I have and it all goes back to when I was in elementary school and the teacher taught us about bullies. I have been taught that bullies abuse because they have been abused. So is that true in the real world? I found out that domestic violence will sometimes occur if the abuser feels that he is not in control of the relationship.They also may be angry because of something outside of the relationship or extreme jealousy, and most of the time the abuser can have low self-esteem. The biggest problem is if the abuser has ever seen domestic violence or been involved in domestic violence as a 26 child. If the child never went to counseling for domestic violence, the child will grow up thinking that is how you resolve conflicts. Mayor Emanuel, I have recently read that you did a lot to stop gang violence and I am thrilled you did. However, have you thought about domestic violence? I have been brewing with great solutions so we can put an end to the domestic violence madness. First, couples in homes where there is domestic violence may need counseling. The abusers may need to go through their past and figure out what may have happened to make him/her abusive. Some couples don’t attend counseling because it can be costly. There should be a program where couples can get help for a lower price. Another good solution is to advertise that help is available. An abuser may be abusive because of some sort of drug or alcohol addiction. What we should do is advertise, advertise, advertise, advertise. We have to spread the word for people to know about drug or alcohol treatment programs. There are more fast–food commercials than ones about domestic violence help centers, but fast-food doesn’t help anyone. This letter is not just on behalf of women, because domestic violence affects people regardless of their race, gender, education, ethnicity or social class. It also doesn’t matter if they are a child or an adult. The word needs to get out about domestic violence because most people are oblivious to the facts and they will continue to be until they know more about it or until they are next. Sincerely, Maya Dunson She is a sophomore who lives in Beverly on the South Side. By Andrew Rivera Whitney Young High School I think a big problem that Chicagoans are facing is all of the violence caused by gang recruitment in some neighborhoods. It seems to be in the news every day. Some kid gets shot or beat up because of some thugs who don’t have anything better to do than beat up people who are younger than them and take their lives for no good reason. It’s just crazy to me to think that this kind of stuff happens in otherwise peaceful neighborhoods and really makes me question the reasoning behind killing an innocent teenager.They rely on the police officers to protect them from danger but it just doesn’t happen. If we lose most of our youth, then how bright is the future of Chicago? We need to stop this senseless killing and fight for the right to live. Gang violence doesn’t just affect the person they are after but also their families and their whole community.The violence leaves scars on a neighborhood and makes people afraid to leave their homes. These crimes give this great city a bad reputation and will cause lower tourist rates, which will eventually cause the economy to become even worse. Gang violence does not just affect one person but everyone in this beautiful city. As a teenager in this city, I feel it is my duty to help in some way as a citizen of Chicago. I feel that you must make people feel safe in their communities and more confident about elected officials, which is why I’m writing this letter to you. I am trying to restore the confidence of my community in you by asking you to make the streets of Chicago safer. This topic of gang violence is very important to me because I had a close friend who was threatened by a gang. I tried to give him the help he needed to get out of this gang but he was too afraid to leave, and because of that he is no longer with us. I think one way that the problem can be resolved is by having more police on duty, especially at night, keeping the peace and stopping people from causing problems. We need people watching out for their communities and unifying their neighborhoods so that these gangs don’t settle in and create problems for the teens living there. The numbers of death are rising and we need to find out what all these crimes have in common. With that information the police could mobilize a special team directed toward ending these gang-related threats. We have to do this to protect all of the children so that incidents such as a little girl dying late at night because of gangs fighting are not repeated. Another solution is to advertise that the police are watching these gangs and raise the penalty for gang crimes to discourage people from joining and staying in gangs. I think that the fines for these type of crimes should be increased. I believe that if just a few people hear what one kid has to say, it can make a big difference. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope you take these thoughts into consideration. Andrew Rivera is a freshman who lives in Logan Square on the West Side. 27 URGENT: Stand up to stop violence By Desmond Herring Cary Comer College Prep I t has become impossible to pick up a newspaper or watch the nightly news without hearing about someone being a fallen victim to the crime present in Chicago. Of course some people have much more going in their lives and will simply turn off the television and act as if nothing happened. This shouldn’t be the initial response after becoming aware of the violence that is overtaking the city that we live in. We cannot be comfortable with criminals having authority in our city. What must happen is the residents of Chicago, as a whole, must have the same objective to stop violence at all costs. When you go to bed at night or your kids are out playing with friends, you probably aren’t concerned about any violence because they are well– protected. How awesome would it be that every child and parent is given this same protection? If the correct tactics are used and noble people are challenged to stand up and fight for their city, then peace will be in Chicago. Bashing the Chicago Police Department or the politicians of Chicago is not the solution to the problem at hand. This solution is simple: unity. It is far from possible for Chicago 28 to be a peaceful city if the several millions of people who live here are not on the same page. Disorganization, itself, would kill people because there are too many voices that will go unheard if everyone wants to be acknowledged simultaneously. The first step to ending violence in Chicago is to get all communities involved, even the few where violence hasn’t struck yet. If a community decides to stand up against robbers,drug dealers,and gangs, then these corrupt groups of people will be forced to cease their illegal activity. However, if the community doesn’t trust the police or doesn’t have an appropriate outlet to inform officers about what they have witnessed, then the violent acts will continue and the evildoers will continue to have control over the community. Allowing this to continue will rob people of the right to pursue happiness which is offered to us by the U.S. Constitution. The next step is providing witnesses of a crime a safe outlet to inform police. This will help solve many cases that usually go unsolved because of lack of evidence or witnesses. Society has given “snitching” such a negative connotation that many people fear their own safety.THIS HAS TO STOP! Once the relationship is built between police and citizens, the perpetrators will then become the ones who are scared to come outside of the house, not the people who rightfully deserve a safe community. This relationship needs to be established fast and should be equally yoked. The people in the communities of Chicago will become just as strong as the Chicago Police Department if we stand up and speak out. I love Chicago but I don’t plan on raising my kids in this environment because I would like for them to enjoy their childhood and not feel as if they are imprisoned by my overprotective acts. The politicians, police officers, and citizens must immediately take a stand against violence or it will only continue to get worse. We cannot and will not allow violence to reign over our city; Chicago will not be known as the violent city that no one wants to visit. We must all stand and make a change! Solutions With urgency, Desmond Herring He is a senior who lives in Englewood on the South Side. 29 organic soap. They make six different scents of soap and sell it at their farmers markets. ’ve lived in the neighborhood of Many people are amazed to learn evAvondale my whole life. I was erything the ELP does and they admire only about 5 years old when I and support us. I am amazed to see evmoved into my new home, but erything the ELP has done for my comI remember the frightening nights munity because along with having our when I’d hear fighting and screamown gardens and farmers markets, we ing outside my block, and I rememalso visit seniors at St. Paul’s House, we ber being intimidated by the group of read books and give nutrition workyoung men who lingered the streets shops to the younger children at Conall day and night. My parents would cordia Place, and we have become role always remind me to not leave bemodels for the community and our yond the front part peers. of my house if I were Concordia Place playing outside. has transformed Much of the vioAvondale by all of its lence that occurs in opportunities and Chicago and that ocprograms. But specurred in Avondale cifically, it has transwas involved with formed teens into teens. Why do these having knowledge “My neighborhood transformed after a teen program learned to of nutrition, being people do bad things? Do they really not care for nutrition and the environment and found ways to provide responsible and resee anything good to healthy, organic produce to the community. Good people make spectful, and knowdo? I strongly believe a good community and anyone at any age can contribute to the ing the importance that being involved change of their community.” with your community is a great way to take control of have a focus. It was By Belany Contreras what you want your community to meant to give teens Lincoln Park High School be like. With programs for children, a fun experience teens and adults, I believe commu- with field trips, nities would learn to get along and socializing, cleanbe involved with projects that will ing up the neighborhood, learning of the environment. Today, there are make a change for the better. leadership skills and being outdoors. 50 teens in the program and they’re For Avondale, I think the change Now, it’s become more than that. all working to benefit the community. came when a closed private school Avondale residents weren’t doing I never thought I would love the prowas remodeled to be a daycare cen- much for their community and the gram; I love what we do in the program ter in 2006 called Concordia Place. idea of providing fresh, organic pro- and knowing that we do it to help the Besides offering daycare programs duce for the community was taken community is a great feeling. for infants, toddlers, and preschool- into consideration because there If the city were to have more proers, it also has an after–school pro- weren’t many local markets. The grams like these, in which teens learn gram and a summer camp for chil- Emerging Leaders Program part- skills and are kept active in their comdren ages 6-12 years old, a leader- nered with Linne Elementary School munity, there would be more people ship program for teens, ESL classes to transform the neglected patio involved with beneficial activities, for adults, and a senior program. into a vegetable garden for the teens. rather than violence. Please take this Concordia Place gives many op- An herb garden was also built in into consideration and realize how portunities to be involved with Concordia Place. the ELP has changed Avondale and your community. Teens helped construct these gar- its people. My brothers and I were a part of dens and have been maintaining Please support programs and activtheir after school program.The coun- them. During the summer and early ities because sometimes, all people selors would pick us up after school fall, farmers markets take place in need is an example for them to do good and we’d walk together to Concordia Concordia Place where their produce things. Place (which was only about 5 blocks and herbs are sold. They’re also partaway). There they would help us nered with other organic companies Sincerely, with our homework, give us snacks, which sell their products at their Belany Contreras and play with us. Parents love this farmers markets. The ELP worked program because they don’t have to with Abbey Brown Soap Artisans She is a senior who lives in Avondale worry about their children’s safety who learned how to make their own on the Northwest Side. Dear Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Superintendent Garry McCarthy, I when they get out of school. When I turned 13, I joined Concordia’s teen program, Emerging Leaders Program (ELP). Being a very shy girl, I learned a lot of leadership skills such as responsibility, initiative, respect and communication. The program has helped me overcome my weaknesses and develop strength. It’s also kept me busy year-round. I go there whenever I can during the school year and I’ve been there every summer since 2008. At first, the program didn’t really A community to cherish 30 TIF reform will end violence in city By Lily Moore Northside College Prep V iolence in the city is rising at an alarming rate. Already, the murder rate is up 38 percent and Chicagoans need a solution soon before the streets are made even more dangerous. An increased police presence and longer school day aren’t going to cut it. The longer school day could increase the likelihood of kids dropping out of school and the police presence isn’t going to scare anyone out of committing crime. There is a pattern happening in the crime committed; most of it occurs in poorer neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are places where children grow up without proper education and preparation to handle good jobs in the future and so they do the things necessary to make ends meet. The city needs a better plan, one that makes sense and that will work to improve the city as a whole, as well as provide poorer neighborhoods with the resources they need to escape a path of violence. The way to fix these violence problems: bring the impoverished neighborhoods up to standards. Currently, the city uses a funding tool called Tax Increment Financing. The following information was taken from the city of Chicago’s website: Funds are used to build and repair roads and infrastructure, clean polluted land and put vacant properties back to productive use… the amount of property tax the area generates is set as a base EAV amount. As property values increase, all property tax growth above that amount can be used to fund redevelopment projects within the district. This system allows for TIF districts to benefit from their own increase in property value and gives them the ability to redevelop their neighborhoods. The only problem with this plan is that the funds generated in certain TIF districts can only go toward helping that certain district. As such, the TIF system does not benefit the poorer neighborhoods as much as it could. Here’s how it could be fixed: The city of Chicago could use the funds generated from areas with higher property value to help development in poorer areas. The rich can afford to help the poor, and areas like the Gold Coast only need so much money for their fix-ups. Areas like South Chicago and Englewood don’t have such a rise in property value and could benefit from the extra funding that the neighborhoods in the Loop generate. These funds could be used to build libraries, provide resources to improve schools, redevelop dilapidated housing and improve the poorer communities in general. Soon enough, the property value in poorer neighborhoods will rise. Once all the neighborhoods have gotten to a decent point of development and property value all over the city is mostly even, the city can go back to the TIF system that is used currently. This plan will work to improve the communities in places where people do bad things to make ends meet. It will mean better education and preparation for the children of these communities so that they can grow up to take on good jobs and be successful. The people of the future will be better off and will no longer need to commit crimes to make a dollar. This plan will make the city a better place to live. It will bring all neighborhoods up to higher standards and send the violence rate plummeting. If the city chooses to adopt a plan similar to this one, it will see a property value increase all over the city and students who are more intelligent and better prepared for their futures. A plan like this could make Chicago a model for cities all over the United States. Lily Moore is a sophomore who lives in Albany Park on the Far North Side. 31 Venting with a purpose By Wesley Bogard Harlan Community Academy O ver the past few months, our city has experienced a rash of violence and as a youth I feel this violence affects my peers and me more than anyone. Because of this, I feel the need to write you this letter and provide my recommendations to addressing the problem. First, teens should be included in finding solutions to violence. I say this because, according to the Chicago Tribune, homicide is the leading cause of death in youth ages 15-19. And since teens are being affected by this issue so greatly, why not allow them an opportunity to solve the issue for themselves? This can be done by creating programs that allow teens to vent about gang violence, and also create strategies toward solving the problem. I feel if teens were given this opportunity, it would make a huge difference. Another recommendation would be to provide more funding to anti-violence programs such as CeaseFire. Anti-violence programs are extremely important to our communities and without the efforts of these individuals, gang violence could be much worse. I feel that if more funding would be given to these organizations, they could accomplish even more for our city. And if these programs can improve our city, we should all be for them. My third recommendation revolves around the 32 security of the public areas in our city, specifically train stations and public parks. These two areas are frequent sources of gang violence. This is proven by the shootings of two girls, ages 12 and 13, in a public park on July 10. I strongly believe the shootings and muggings would be cut down greatly if these areas were always patrolled. If this is done, our fellow citizens will take much less of a risk as they walk through a park or wait to board a train. Finally, more effort should be given to job training and counseling. I recommend we prepare youth for adulthood and keep them off the streets and out of trouble. Counseling would also provide teens with an outlet for expression and a place for them to be heard. If these two things were done, Chicago teens might be in a better position financially and maybe this would lead to less gang violence. There are several reasons why Chicago suffers from gang violence, but there can be just as many solutions. If correctly used, these solutions could make a big difference in our communities, neighborhoods and our city as whole. As I conclude, I want to leave you with saying no one person can do everything but everyone can do something. Wesley Bogard is a junior who lives in Roseland on the South Side. 33 summer 2012 I-Team class of summer 2012 columbialinks.org 34 35 36