Disconnect. Denial. Bloodshed: When losing a generation is not enough

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You feel a depth of pain that at first snags your heart and you cry tears of sadness. Then an angry sensation sears  through your nervous system…it is a state of existence that seems quite normal if one lives in Chicago and is in tune with the events of the hood or just regularly watches the news. All of it seems to settle with a big depressing thud right in the middle of your spirit and you ask yourself how many more? What can I do? Why? How?

The loss of life is never any less senseless in situations where children are involved…never a way to make sense of the insanity, even after the 50th child is murdered within the first four months of 2014.

Such is the case upon hearing the news that 14 year old Endia Martin was shot to death, by her 14 year old former friend; an argument over a boy taken to the streets from a Facebook beef.

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The anger consumes you and you want somebody to pay for the absolutely deranged order of things. Whereby kids are no longer arguing and having a fist fight but cocking back and following through with pulling a trigger to not only shoot at, but shoot again until the victim falls like action in a video game. But it is not a game. No brilliant sounds  or lights signaling the score or proclaiming a winner. It is real. And the only sounds and flashing lights come from the ambulance and police cars…no winners. Two lives lost in a minute of thoughtless aggression.

chicago-violence-juvenilesIt is the reality facing our babies on the south and west sides of Chicago whose common denominators are the color of their skin and proximity to poverty.

You become depressed when you know full well that little 14 year old girls 20 miles away in Edgewater and Ravenswood are having catty arguments over boys and other such juvenile melodramas…and yes they are engaging in cyber-cat fights and bullying. Ridiculous selfies that are ripe for 20/20 hindsight…and you wish, really pray hard for the times when the girls in your community could have a life so simple…where they can be assured that no matter what, a violent death is possible yet not highly probable.

Why is that?

Heartbreaking that Endia Martin will never get to realize her dream of traveling the world…she’ll never follow in her mother’s footsteps to become a nurse and possibly a physician. She is dead. A bullet struck her petite body. Blood spilled from her body. She lay lifeless, zipped into a plastic bag and carried to a coroner. Do you FEEL THAT?!? It is not just news, this is happening to a family, to teenagers who have to return to the same school, same streets as she just walked the day before.

And to add unto the tragedy the accused shooter, another 14 year old girl, was handed the gun by her adult uncle…and another family member helped unjam the gun after her first attempt. She then had to stand alone, no family, nobody who cared enough to stand with her as her fate is dictated to her by the court system.

So much screams at us that we are completely off track if in fact we truly CARE about the lives of our children.

Here’s the deal.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently gave public statements questioning the morals and values of the families/parents of people who shoot/kill others. Okay. I’ll give you that..if you also apply the same theory to the families/parents of those who shot up Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and other such incidences.

All the values in the world, all the compassion and dreams can be smothered to death when lack, and want and survival are suffocated without their airline of resources.

So now here’s where you should stop reading if any diversion from political correctness makes you uncomfortable.

That was your warning.

STFU about values, STFU telling kids they are the future…just STFU if you are not present in the lives of any children who do not share your blood line. STFU if you had any part in the closing of 54 schools located within the most desperate communities of our city. STFU if you have had any part in the dismantling of the family structure with policies that castigate fathers and harden mothers. STFU if you are producing/playing/dancing to spirit killing music and not reading to your children. STFU if you shake your head, pack up your family and move away without planting seeds for growth within the ones still behind. STFU if you have not asked for accountability beyond a press conference and photo opp with politicians and celebrities.

EVERYONE READING THIS HAS A RESPONSIBILITY TO SAVE OUR CHILDREN!

How? Here a few ways to begin…

 

There are never enough ideas or ways to transform our community and save our babies! If you have more to add, please feel free to share!

 

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!

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.

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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.