Violence in Chicago has drawn national attention as many express concern over the grave gun violence, generally, and the mounting gun violence that has taken the lives of youth, specifically. To address this growing concern, the national Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) with such leaders as Rep. Bobby Rush-former Black Panther, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr.-Founder of Rainbow Push Coalition, Reps. Robin Kelly and Danny Davis-both IL and others organized a National Emergency Anti-Violence Summit recently held at Chicago State University.
It humbled me to meet Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, mother of the slain teen, Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed in Chicago within weeks after performing with the King College Prep High School Band at President Obama’s inauguration in the nation’s capital. As CBS Chicago surmised, ” Police believe Pendleton was the unintended target of a shooter who fired into a crowd, believing he was shooting at rival gang members at Harsh Park on the South Side. Pendleton was with her volleyball team at the time of the shooting, authorities said.”
In chatting with Ms. Cowley-Pendleton, I became increasingly aware of the ignitive inner strength of some mothers despite the depth of pain. I was disappointed to find that not all of her interactions with the public over the death of her daughter, were positive ones. In my hurt for her pain and mothers like her, before even asking permission, I instinctively just kissed her on the cheek and hugged her again. While the pain of her daughter’s death still lingers, Cowley-Pendleton told MSNBC at the Summit, she is faced with yet another challenge: raising an 11-year-old black boy in America. “There is a concern there,” she said, of her own son, Nathaniel, facing down stereotypes and prejudices so many African-American men and boys face, sometimes with deadly consequences. “It is my responsibility to do what I can to lessen that confusion by the time he becomes of age,” Cowley-Pendleton said. “That gives me what, five good years, maybe four, to try to make a change. I’m doing what I can and mourning at the same time.” Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said in a statement. “Everyday our officers are on the street going after gangs, guns and drugs, and we will continue to do so to make this a safer city.”
Loading Up Education & Economics
It blessed me and other leaders to participate in the conversation regarding school safety and anti-bullying strategies. We had opportunities to present our concerns and solutions. One of my suggestions – which became part of the final initiatives to be recommended to congress and acted upon by the leaders – involved increasing support for Parent/Family Engagement in Education. This would involve training parents/families to better envision how they can be more engaged while better understanding more of the issues confronting their students, administrators and schools. I also strongly recommended more parents/families, including dads/uncles, and community supporters to become a part of their schools Parent Teacher Association (PTA) or request one if there isn’t one there. Experts also offered outreach to increase skills in managing emotional needs and challenges of students. Other initiatives involved increasing economic growth in urban areas especially where violence is more pervasive. Rev. Jesse Jackson poignantly responded one-on-one to my question to him about needed intervention, “We need Jobs, jobs, jobs!” According to Austin Talks, “The lack of gainful employment, basic social services, mental health facilities and other supports are directly related to poverty, which is a precursor to inner-city violence. Ending the cycle of poverty is the only chance of saving our students and their community.”
The involvement by the youth at this summit and the school/community leaders who brought them impressed me very much! Some high schoolers helped to lead the discussion in our break-out session. Other elementary/middle schoolers conducted interviews and made their voices heard and their presence felt.
Michael Skolnik, Political Director for Russell Simmons, moderated the Summit’s Town Hall. He selected my question, along with some others to share with the panel, which was my concern over “immediate intervention” to help protect the lives of our children and residents while we implement the more long term solutions of economic empowerment and education engagement. I wondered if the panel or audience thought military intervention might be needed to aid the police departments. There were crowed murmurs of no, so no formal discussion erupted.
Driving Home the Point
I drove from Kentucky to attend this summit in my hometown because like many, I am grief stricken by the devastating loss of life. The concern over the loss of lives in this country is not a misplaced emotion. However, some contend that when you look at the number of murders in Chicago relative to its large size, Chicago falls short of actually being the murder capital that it is informally touted to being. One reporter believes, “The key is to take the number of murders, multiply by 100,000 and then divide by the population. That gives you the standard expression of the homicide rate: murders per 100,000.” According to Mary Sanchez of the Kansas City Star, “Turns out it’s a dangerous place, but not even in the top 20 most deadly cities. Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn crunched preliminary FBI data on homicides, noting Chicago was safer than, among others places, Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Little Rock, Kansas City, Montgomery, Memphis and Richmond.” That said, whether your city is perceived to be the most dangerous – as in Chicago, or one of the safest – as in Sandy Hook, whether a child is killed on the streets or in a classroom, America aches. We all deserve to be safe and to feel safe in this great land of ours, because after all, “There is no place like home.”
- Gun violence in Chicago: Black leaders convene ’emergency summit’ (tv.msnbc.com)
- Black Caucus discusses urban violence at Chicago State (chicagotribune.com)
- Mom of Hadiya Pendleton fears for her surviving child (tv.msnbc.com)
- Bullying Attacked at PTA Convention’s Youth Summit
- The School-to-Prison Pipeline
- Family Engagement Act of 2013
- New African-American Male Installed as National PTA President