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.

 

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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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