Wearing Orange- For Hadiya and all our babies!

544276_10151821023684552_1267127514_nWhen hunters go into the forest, to protect themselves from unintended gun fire they wear orange. Orange, a bright and vibrant color, keeps hunters safe in an environment blasting of guns and lethal bullets flying. Sadly, our young children in urban America are living out their innocence in an identical reality…in the midst of gun shots and whizzing, life-taking bullets.

All too well, the evening news has familiarized us with the names of the young lives we’ve lost, now included as statistics of random gun violence. There is one whose name and legacy sparked a movement to keep our children safe…to keep stray bullets from snatching innocence.

Miss KLyn (one Hadiya's MANY best friends) repping Project Orange at GLMPI Pampered Power Talk

Miss KLyn (one of Hadiya’s MANY best friends) repping Project Orange at GLMPI Pampered Power Talk: I’ve got my Orange button ready for April1st!

Hadiya Pendleton’s devastating murder prompted her former classmates and friends to create Project Orange Tree.  In their own words on Project Orange Tree Facebook page, the campaign…

“Project Orange Tree is an awareness campaign that focuses on educating youth about violence and its roots (structural violence). It is completely ran by teens of Chicago and is in close affiliation with the Lupe Fiasco Foundation. The color orange is used because hunters wear the color to warn other hunters not to shoot. We took that same concept and applied it to the violence in Chicago. We used the tree because it represents both life and prosperity. Incorporating both the color orange and the tree we created: Project Orange Tree.

Most of the victims that died in the year 2012 were innocent bystanders. By wearing orange on April 1st we are showing others that we are human and wish not be gunned down, because bullets do not discriminate against race, age, or sexual orientation. Gun Violence has become an epidemic, and will soon result in genocide, especially in the African American community.

“Structural violence refers to systematic ways in which social structures harm or otherwise disadvantage individuals. Structural violence is subtle, often invisible, and often has no one specific person who can (or will) be held responsible.” By raising awareness about how structural violence directly affects deviant behavior we can slow down gun violence in Chicago. The people have to realize that gun violence is a result of how the government has manipulated variables that put us in cramped homes, land us in food deserts, and gives us poor educational opportunities, all resulting in deviant behavior.

In order to make a difference, the citizens of the world have to correctly identify the root problem of violence, and find ways fix them, or build a bridge over it. Project Orange Tree is doing this.

Wearing orange on April 1st will create unity amongst all races, ages, genders, and economic statuses, while providing awareness about structural violence, ultimately creating a central mindset: Peace on earth.”

My organization, Girls Like Me Project, Inc. is standing in solidarity with these young people. My entire house hold will be wearing orange today (April 1).

There is more to be done whether in Chicago or other cities.

Follow @Pro_orangeTree on Twitter

Like Project Orange Tree on Facebook

Post pictures of you wearing orange to social networks

If you are in Chicago, I’ll see you tonight at Chicago State University for Word Is Balm where Project Orange Tree’s young people will be on the mic.

Bless the children who have a vision. Guide the adults who are the example.

Heal our community! Project Orange Tree is our way forward!

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I Got 99 problems w/POTUS, his Chicago Speech ain’t One!

CT-MET-OBAMA-VISIT-JMP_CTMAIN 0216 SRPresident Obama answered the demand for his to visit Chicago to address the violence plaguing his hometown.
Although an online petition garnered more than 45,000 collective signatures from across the country, the reception for such a visit by actual Chicagoans was mixed. Some who simply wanted validation that the hundreds of lives lost to violence be recognized as a national concern welcomed the attention POTUS’ presence would bring to the city. Others, who think of themselves as radicals for the hood, wanted no parts of the politics that surely would accompany the POTUS.  Still, there were those who believe the death of Hadiya Pendleton should no more warrant a reaction from the leader of this nation than the other children who lost their lives prior. Then there were those like me, who fully grasp how the POTUS’ presence would yield the demand that the lost lives of Chicago’s children be included in the national discourse on child welfare and violence, as well as abide a common-sense acknowledgement that whatever work we desire to see, whatever healing required to heal our city wracked with so much blood shed and pain, requires on the ground organizing and work.

While acknowledging the above sentiments, it is kind of perplexing to me that the ones who seemed to have the most vocal outrage and disdain for President Barack Obama’s speech to Chicago are not even from Chicago. Go figure.

I find the outrage quite disheartening for a number of reasons.
1. People seemed to be disappointed that gun violence wasn’t his main focus. But didn’t he tell us what he came to discuss?

Further more, everyone wants to focus on gun violence and thrust Chicago into that conversation. Yes, we should have a bookmark. But our problem is beyond gun violence. It is stifling segregation that plays out in housing and education which feeds into joblessness and poverty. It is classism. It is loss of mental health care. It is the inertia of political will and fortitude. Violence, whether by gun, knife, pipe, fists; is yet a manifestation of it all. He addressed all of that.

“That’s what I’ve come here to talk about today…raising our kids. I’m here to make sure we talk about and then work towards giving every child every chance in life. Building stronger communities and new ladders of opportunity that they can climb into the middle class and beyond. And most importantly keeping them safe from harm.”

Now, I did not paraphrase. That is the exact words of POTUS.

2. I completely understand there are those who resist the traditional view of family and what they consider to be “hetero-normative.” But puh-lease! This was no ivy-league, university campus sequestered lecture debunking feminism nor a woman’s right to be an independent single mother. But  since some lead us down that road, I must ask…how’s that working for us?

The President was speaking to the issues in the hoods of Chicago….the various communities where households lack ANY resolute male presence, for generations inclusive of fathers, grandfathers and uncles. He wasn’t specifically addressing marriage (though if he were what is wrong with that?) But yes, if you want to discuss heterosexual privilege…um let’s ask how many of the single mothers how their children came to be?

I cannot count how many of the girls who are in my programs share that they have either never seen their father, haven’t seen their father in more than a year, or don’t have any respectful relationship with their fathers.

Now for those who had a problem with the POTUS remarks, when’s the last time you spoke to a group of Chicago youth and asked how they feel about their father’s presence in their lives?

In his words, “No law or set of laws can prevent every senseless acts of violence in this country. When a child opens fire on another child, there is a hole in that child’s heart that  government can’t fill, only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole.”

Is this flipping the script on what we have known, and subjectively purport; that is starts at home? That we learn our values and sense of self from family/community first, then school, media, etc?

Y’all mad because he said families and solid parenting are the foundation to setting a child on a path that does not lead them to hopelessness and destructive behaviors? Don’t claim that he “blamed” single mothers for violence. He spoke on the unfair and unforgiving policies that penalize young people. He spoke about lack of jobs. He spoke about education reform…

It sounds like folks cherry picked the points they wanted to hear and ignored the others. Before President Obama even mentioned fathers, he said, “There are entire neighborhoods where young people, they don’t see an example of somebody succeeding.”

I don’t know. Watch for yourself.

3. What really gets to me is that this address was local…folks had the privilege to see it via a livestream from a “local” ABC affiliate. From the very beginning I think he made that clear…I mean do you know the relationship between Woodlawn and Hyde Park high school? Can you decipher the dynamics of those communities? Do you have an inkling to the generational ties to street organizations that sprouted from Woodlawn? Do you know history of federal funding that has come into this city to solve this very problem more than 30 years ago and the outcomes? These small details are a HUGE part of what is happening today.

Listen, POTUS was not providing the blueprint for the Nation. This was not for you, really. It was for Chicago. A do-for self reminder. Or is Kwanzaa only relevant in December? People only seem to be able to handle the truth when it’s in a lie. Or only when Minister Farrakhan marches a million Black men into the Nation’s capital to tell them they need to step it up as fathers and keepers of the community.

What I’d like to offer is this. As a nation, if you care about Chicago’s violence and the and continuing decline in moral fortitude of our people across this country, then let’s do this. Let’s halt the reactionary impulse to get caught up in the semantics of the message. Let’s focus on the truth. The truth is we are far off the path that our ancestors laid for us. We are even further from the inherent greatness our Creator has instilled in us. The truth is we are not living up to our Divine principle. The truth is , while we live under oppressive systems that teach us to hate our selves and inflict harm on one another, WE KNOW BETTER. And the truth, plain and simple is that far too many are not doing their part to transform. They’d rather pontificate on the problem and the words of a messenger. While you are dissecting POTUS address for your next “university” lecture, how much time will you spend serving the youth in the hood? How much time are you giving being a mentor to a young person?

It’s almost a level of poverty pimping. Yes I’m going there. Folks will do mad lecture series around the country visiting cities like Chicago and never once go to a struggling school while there. Nope. Nice hotel, straight to campus where your “topic” is not even present. Or how about those amongst us who have college degrees, abc’s behind our names never been out of a job or homeless in our adult lives, travel the world, yet we continue to perpetuate and sing that sad song to brothers and sisters struggling that the system ain’t fair and won’t let them succeed. Hell, how did you make it?

Folks want to stay in the misery talk of how oppression is the culprit and it’s the “man’s fault” that we don’t love ourselves and make bad choices. Yeah. The man playing his part. Still, you know the song and still do the dance. So…

I’m ready for real solutions.

How about we all build a unified voice of demands that result in a federal probe into the root causes of inner-city violence. Then we can really get to the crux of poverty and hopelessness.

What if we all supported inner-city youth programs with our time, finances, gifts? Are you a journalist, attorney, accountant, professor, entrepreneur? You are needed in the hood!

Let’s just stop talking about it, stop tweeting about, stop commentating and BE about it!

Thought I’d share a little Goodie Mob with you….The Experience!

Where do we go from here?

The World's Fallen Angel, Hadiya Pendleton
The senseless murder of Hadiya Pendleton finally captured the attention of the nation. Heartbreaking and tragic, her death attracted thousands of mourners to her home going celebration. The sanctuary filled to capacity included First Lady, Michelle Obama; Mayor Rahm Emanuel; Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and a host of “dignitaries.” There had to be a designated standing-room only overflow section, while still hundreds more lined the street outside to pay their respects. It was a ceremony fit for a princess…our sweet angel Hadiya was laid to rest in a royal purple gown, her high school band playing for her ‘til the end.

Initially, outrage and frustration at the lack of urgency in response to the senseless violence taking the young and innocent from Chicago as well as countless urban cities around the country prompted me to ask How many dead Black Children does it take to get a Sandy Hook response?

And the Black Youth Project started a petition to summon President Obama to come home and deliver a speech on gun violence. garnering more than 45,000 signatures, the petition seemed to have worked. POTUS will be in Chicago on Friday, February 15, 2013 to answer the call.

If we know our POTUS, we know the man is eloquent with the wordplay. His speeches can ignite the most stubborn will, inspire hopeless apathy, and challenge the harshest critics. This is what we come to expect from the 44th President of the United States.

But what happens after the speech.

Where do we go from here? It is commendable for BYP to demand POTUS address gun violence, yet we know all too well that what has cost us the lives of so many of our young children is much bigger and drastically more complex than gun violence. For the last time all eyes were on Chicago for the brutal murder of one of our babies was in 2009 when Derrion Albert was beaten to death and speeches were given, funds proposed. No gun play involved in that heinous homicide. In fact, let’s really look at the crime stats of homicides in Chicago. Lives are taken by those wielding deadly fists, knives, boulders, pipes, sticks, and yes guns.

See gun violence is symptomatic of the myriad of social issues infiltrating the poor Black and brown neighborhoods of Chicago. Systematic injustices designed more than 50+ years ago are now manifesting. It’s a spider web of oppression which has turned in on itself.

So yes, the POTUS should definitely come to Chicago and hold up the mirror to our nation…force us all to peer at the ugliness racism, segregation, forced evictions, criminalization, war on drugs, unemployment, failed public education reform, and host of human rights violations that our governments sanction with failed policy after another. Gun violence, then, should be but a fragment of the conversation.

Still after we gaze purposefully in that mirror, how about we come back to the table with intentional change. There needs to be a federal commission to research and investigate what causes urban violence in concentrated areas of our major cities. The answers won’t be so pretty and neat, I can guarantee.

Then there absolutely must be infrastructual supports in the form funding for jobs; recreational zones; urban youth development.

A major component that absolutely cannot wait is support for mental health prevention/treatment. Our babies have been through trauma! Living under siege of gun fire where a walk to school can result in death of you or a friend; seeing blood splatter from a body sprayed by gun fire on your corner? Can anyone deny our children are dealing with PTSD?

And then the people. Our people. Those who have lost sons and daughters to the madness. The victims….and the perpetrators of crime. The everyday people.

It is time to be our own vanguard. It is time for us to build our own institutions with education and culture at the forefront; where every Black youth-serving organization/agency synchronizes and collaborates to bring about effective and SUSTAINABLE investment. We are overdue to reinstate the village concept where every stable minded adult is mentoring and nurturing at least one young person outside of their immediate family. The time is now for churches to move their private “classist” ministries (undercover social clubs) from within the four walls of their “sanctuary” to the streets. The clock has struck on the hour for the college-educated business folks to show up at work in the community. It is high time our academia with its scholarly debates to move the dialogue beyond the college campuses and lecture halls to the classrooms in the hood. Time for mothers and grannies to practice tough love. And we are almost out of time for fathers to repent and restore their homes.

The alarm is ringing!

Don’t ignore, or else you will soon answer that dreadful call saying this time it has touched your household.

Please, let us not allow this child’s life to have been in vain. Let her death be the catalyst that shines light through the oppressive fog we find our community today so that we honor all of our children, the fallen and the survivors.

 

Part 2: How many dead Black children does it take to get a Sandy Hook response?

598729_267069820089970_1022579448_nSo. Chicago lost another young, innocent child. A developing life; a soul who in her short time left a lot of good behind. It hurts to imagine how much more she had to give to us. This world has lost an angel, by the name of Hadiya Pendleton.

It has been four days since the senseless murder of Hadiya.

Four days of pain. Four days of grief. Four days of mourning. Four days of devastation.

Yet in the midst of what must be an impossible amount of grief and agony, Hadiya’s mom, Cleo Cowley, summoned the courage to tell the world about her baby girl on Rev. Al Sharpton’s cable television program, Politics Nation. Through tears, Hadiya’s mom painted a picture of Hadiya. “She wasn’t the violent type,” Sister Cleo said. “She loved people. I want there to be an awareness.”

And while Cleo Cowley allowed us to be gapers of her sorrow, the answer to the question I unapologetically posed in my initial blog post remains on the table: How many dead Black children does it take to get a Sandy Hook response? 

An infographic couldn’t emphasize the blatant difference in the response following the Sandy Hook massacre from that of the heartless murder of Hadiya or the hundreds of economically-crippled Black children in Chicago, Oakland, Baltimore, Detroit and all around the country who have been slain.

So, yes, I wanted to know if America would join this mother and cry tears for Hadiya…Would we move to action to vow her life would not have been loss in vain.

It was wonderful to hear Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced Hadiya’s name and story into the Senate Hearings on gun control.

Senator Durbin honored Hadiya’s memory  and he raised up all children who have been impacted by senseless gun violence.

At the same time, Hadiya’s choice to hang with goal-oriented peers was mocked as Chicago Police and local media jumped to the conclusion that all the boys in the group she spent her last hour with were “gang affiliated.” and they all fled to leave Hadiya dying alone… Turns out that was completely false.

See there was no immediate concern by media or law enforcement for the mental wellness of the friends who are  left to cope with the trauma they endured having been shot at, let alone process the helplessness of watching their friend lie dying. This is not only the case in this instance, but routine after the victims have been identified and laid to rest, their peers return to schools, playgrounds, and corner stores that hold the most painful memories for them. Our children are criminalized, which takes precedence over their socio-emotional well being.

Sad.

Still, I believe there are even more questions to ask. Questions such as how long will it be before President Obama makes the trip home; almost literally as his Chicago residence is within walking distance of the playground where Hadiya was shot in her back and left to die. The question makes sense as President Obama had visited the Sandy Hook families to personally deliver his condolences; he sent his regrets through the press secretary, Jay Carney, and later a private phone call.

This child was ecstatic about her visit to Washington D.C. to perform with her high school band during her President’s inauguration…she believed he would win the election even before voting day. Hadiya had faith in President Obama before his second term began. Four days after her death and so far he has a phone call for her…some say that’s not going to cut it.

Which is why Black Youth Project authored a petition requesting President Obama visit his hometown and deliver a speech addressing the violence and hopelessness suffocating the youth here.

And while the President’s presence is requested, Chicago’s Mayor Emanuel immediately expressed his outrage over the loss of our children, the incredible life we lost when Hadiya became yet another victim of constant gun violence plaguing this city. The gun violence that has taken more than 300 Black and brown children’s lives in the last four years.

More than 300 lives. Count that number. How many classrooms could you fill with that number of children? Whether it is the class size of 20 in Sandy Hook or an oversized class of 30+ in underperforming Chicago Public Schools, the number is atrocious.

In the first month of this year, Hadiya became the the 42nd homicide in our world-class city. 42 in a month of 31 days. Do the math. Heart wrenching I know. Conscious shaking for sure. Yet, it seems like the math Mayor Emanuel is doing is less about subtraction of lives and more focused on addition, multiplication…the bottom line.

Less than four days later, now Mr. Mayor wants to assure everyone that the city’s reputation is just fine and to prove it he shared the numbers, “Our tourism is up 8 percent.”

What?!? Shameful!

You cannot ensure the safety of this city’s residents, but you can assuage visitors? But he is right. Beverly, Lincoln and Wicker Park , the loop and downtown remain safe. Tourists can shop Mag Mile with carefree abandon, fueled by the plentiful cash lining their designer pockets and leather handbags.

In the same city. Meanwhile a world away on the south side (a distance of 10 miles) Black children live  in a war zone where sirens are the soundtrack to their daytime and lullabies at night. Their young innocence stifled by rampant, random gun fire. Where mothers worry that their child doing the right things at the right time will become victims at the wrong place at the wrong time. No one has any reassurances for them. Police patrol the hood, not in the spirit of service, but uniformed Gestapo.

So, here is where we get our answer. This society does not hold the same value for our children, children who do not resemble the children of Sandy Hook in race or class. Point blank. And it is counter productive for us to sit around waiting for them to see the light; the light that is the beautiful treasure of our young people. It is time, long overdue for us to have our own response.

Now we will honor Hadiya in the ways we know how. We will support her family in preparing a home going fit for our angel. You can do your part to assist w/ funeral costs. Donate via PayPal. Use the PayPal email is HadiyaOurAngel@yahoo.com

We should all “Like” her official RIP Hadiya Facebook page which has more than 30,000 likes.

Hadiya will be our community’s tipping point.

321462_266104590186493_2071689025_nThe no snitch code will be broken and the $40K reward will be granted to the brave person who turns the in the killer.

The activists, advocates, organizers, pastors, educators, and those who recognize that every life is a valuable contribution to our society will come together with a strategic plan of action and strident demands to keep our children safe in EVERY neighborhood, across each zip code and property tax bracket.

We know we can’t wait for any savior. We must save our own.

537291_267294856734133_1627112177_n

How many dead Black children does it take to get a Sandy Hook response?

Hadiya Pendleton, 15 years old. Shot and killed by senseless gun violence in Chicagp

Hadiya Pendleton, 15 years old. Shot and killed by senseless gun violence in Chicago

Do you remember? Remember when you were young and carefree? Think back on how excited you would have been with an early dismissal from school into warm weather and a park nearby. Remember wanting to just cool out for a minute, hang on to the laughter and silly antics of  your friends before heading home to chores and studying? Time travel to the time when life was so full and promising, back when you had the zeal and energy to really live it?

How old were you back then? When did that all end for you?

Well for Hadiya Pendleton 15years old was her time. A baby really, just getting her taste of life’s promises. A scholar attending King Preparatory High School on the south side of Chicago. An enthusiastic student, a member of her school’s volley ball team and it’s band that just performed at President Obama’s Inauguration, a trip to Paris on the horizon as a part of an exchange program. Young and carefree, yet it ended much too soon for Hadiya. Her young life snatched just as she was getting to the good part; her life counted in the number of children whose lives have been cut down before they could really fully create a memory.

Could we all please stop and really imagine what it must be like to send your child off to school and the next time you see them they are in a body bag? Pause to connect how it must feel to have your friend killed doing the very things you take for granted? Each one of us had better take a moment to get a full understanding of the trauma our kids face and how it is manifesting in their lives. Time for us to get a clue!

In America, land of the free and home of the brave, your zip code dictates your life worth. As I pen this post and watch the Senate hearings on gun control, I am reminded of the scene from the movie, Boyz In The Hood, where Ice Cube’s character, Dough Boy says “…either they don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood.”

That was just a movie. But apparently art imitates life. During these hearings they continuously refer to the massacre at Sandy Hook. Congresswoman Giffords testifies about how gun violence has ripped apart her life. Law enforcement officials share statistics and plead on behalf of domestic violence victims.  They have even interjected into the hearings breaking news of a shooting in Arizona. But no mention of Hadiya nor the hundreds of young children in urban cities who have lost their lives to gun violence.

I had to laugh to keep from crying when a news break came on to report a man  has lost his life in an unseasonable tornado storm… Another report on a girl half way around the world in Pakistan who was shot in the head and is receiving a titanium plate….

Meanwhile, here in our own country, within one month of the atrocious murders of 20 students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, legislation has popped up across the country and a specific “Sandy Hook Bill” proposed in our Federal government. Let’s not forget the relief fund for Sandy Hook victims/survivors.

Yet, for the more than 600 children slaughtered across the city of Chicago in the last five years, nor for the thousands slain in the urban cities across this country, there is no national outrage or grieving.

And for that, America should be ashamed. It begs the question: how many dead Black children does it take to get a Sandy Hook response?

Rest in peace sweet Hadiya.

hadiya-pendletonOur children, our battle:

Please “like” the R.I.P Hadiya page her  friends have created

We can’t continue waiting for the calvary or a super hero. These are Black children and we must fight this battle for our babies. We need a movement! What will the movement entail? I don’t know…

Some are calling for a boycott of Chicago until the City approaches this epidemic with urgency. That means no tourism, no shopping on the peaceful Mag Mile; which by the way is less than 10 miles away from where our children live under siege of gun fire and oppressed by failing schools. Still others call for Marshall Law. And then there is our mental healing. Obviously we need the counseling and therapy centers that the State of Illinois closed to be reopened. We need clinical therapists in the schools.

One immediate solution to heal what is killing us is mentoring. Please join National CARES Mentoring Movement, Inc. and mentor to save more lives. 

I have gotten lots of call, texts and FB messages for people on the ground ready to organize. Let’s go!

And if you are not in Chicago, please refrain from the sensational tweets and comments and HELP! Come out and get to work. Contact our Mayor and/or aldermen.

As Susan L. Taylor so passionately reminds us, “The village is on fire!” We need our people to to put it out.