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!

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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.

More than tears for Heaven


I cried today, as I seem to do many times when watching local news here in Chicago. But today the sorrow is deep and far-reaching as news outlets around the country report on 7 year old Heaven Sutton, shot from a coward’s bullet while she played near her family’s candy stand on the city’s west side.
This hurts.  And it should hurt us all. Yet it does not as many have become desensitized.I think of what this young girl’s mother had in her heart for her baby girl to give her such an intentional name…Heaven.

Many will hear the story and not recognize their connection to little Heaven. Some will distance themselves from the tragedy either by virtue of their zip code, occupation, race and/or class. So often we believe if we just “avoid” certain areas and types of people, we will live to see another day. We believe that. Maybe there was a time when that was true…not today.Perhaps this is what pierces my spirit the most: The saved and sane amongst us have done such a thorough job of maneuvering the maladies of the ghetto like an elusive NFL  running back. We move out to suburbs; keep to the “safe” part of town; disassociate from neighborhood folks; enroll our children in “good schools”; socialize in trendy leisure watering holes; lock our car doors and roll our windows up then avoid side streets, taking the expressways to navigate point A to B.Still, left behind are the innocent ones just trying to live life they were born into and play where they live. You know, just being kids.

When I heard the headlines stating the victim’s name, age and neighborhood, I prayed it was not the precocious child I met just two days ago who’d enrolled in my summer program on Chicago’s west side, also named Heaven.  Even after seeing it was not her, no relief came to me. Only tears for Heaven.

Like my own daughter whenever we head to our home in Englewood on Chicago’s south side, little Heaven begged her mother to move from her neighborhood because of the violence. See she too wanted a life of affirmation. I can imagine her “when I grow up…” declarations. Not surprisingly, she had the dream of most children to visit the magical world of Disney. But we have robbed her, and so many other little girls and boys, of that possibility.

How are you included in the “we?”By simply ignoring the cancer eating away- infesting our community and families.

At times like these you want to sympathize and pity the victim’s family.  Spout visceral language, wishing ill-fate to befall perpetrators who snatch lives and run to hide like spooks. You want to point the finger and give blame a face and name, look anywhere but at ourselves.

Yet it was while watching the news, to my utter amazement I found myself nodding my head in staunch agreement with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who audaciously asserted, “This is not about crime, it is about values.” When further pondering who could shoot into a crowd near innocent, playing children, he searched out “Who raised you?”
That’s it. Here’s our mirror moment. Nobody is helpingraise our precious babies any more. Too many are “minding their own business.” Not long ago, even as late as the crack-pushing Reagan 80s our community raised us. It is not airing dirty laundry to tell how people of African descent (Blacks are included for the new post-racial folks) were nurtured and raised in the village concept. Nosey neighbors existed to tattle and correct wayward children. Present fathers and uncles rounded up all the knuckleheads for sports. Sassy mothers braided any little girls hair and doled our freeze pops to any child within 50 feet of their home. Cool aunties taught us how to dance. Experienced big sisters kept us safe. Teachers set expectations and vehemently reinforced them. Dedicated church deacons disciplined like biological parents. The Mother’s Board and church ladies emphasized decorum. And dignity and values were common practice.And I’m not romanticizing. Was there deviant and criminal behavior back in the day? Most definitely. But bad behavior knew its place, and it certainly was not to be demonstrated out in the open near children and innocent by-standers. Nobody said, because little Kenya’s mother is working late it’s okay for her to run up and down the street with no supervision. Even if little Chris’ father wasn’t around, the fathers who were did not exclude him. Everyone took responsibility for everyone. There was and remains a role for each and everyone of us.  Without any of us ever pulling a trigger, if we continue to deny and shirk from our roles and responsibilities in this fight for our community’s values and ultimate existence, little Heaven will become an inexhaustible statistic.

Speaking of statistics, according to the Chicago Tribune, Heaven became the 20th child under 17 to be killed by gun violence. Let me instagram that visual for you… that would be an entire classroom of students. Get the picture?

Also included in the number is 16 year old Shakaki Asphy who was shot in the chest while visiting a friend earlier this month. She died. Unarmed. Sitting on a porch. 
Are you outraged about that? Don’t we owe it to our children, those born into circumstances through no fault of their own and with no resources to change their present reality, to live free and unharmed?Hate to admit it, but generations before dropped the ball in some aspects, many succumbing to drugs (using and selling) or that integrationists’ all-mighty, ever intoxicating American-Dream that if only you become a success  you can escape the hood that raised you and prosper…
Still, no matter what has or hasn’t happened in the past, it’s time for my generation and beyond, the Xs Ys whatever you tag yourself, it’s time to  take it back to the block. Attending to our professional development and networks is a beautiful thing, but when senseless violence stifles the dreams and makes life a nightmare for the children coming behind us, we can’t side step that.

I’m fed up. I really am. Time to take it back to the block. If you’d like to join Windy City CARES Circle of the National CARES Mentoring Movement and Girls Like Me Project, Inc. to organize a peace movement here in Chicago, please email your contact info.

Other ways you can help end the senseless violence are:
  • Become a mentor to youth in your community: So many are involved in self-destructive lifestyles due to lack of positive engagement. Your experiences and interaction can offer a life-saving alternative.
  • Report Crime: Time out for the “no-snitching” creed. Criminals are brazen because they are confident no one will tell.
  • Fight against gun violence
  • Educate: Share history (personal and universal) that gives young ones some cultural context and relevance. When you know better, you do better.
  • Dedicate your blog to gun violence prevention
Let’s not only shed tears for Heaven. We owe our lives to all those lives trying to survive the America they know and we want to forget.