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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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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