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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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.