I want to reminisce a little bit. There used to be a glorious time when youth were able to ride bikes, jump double-dutch and play Hide and Seek with their only concern being the street lights coming on – indicating that it was time to go in the house. Nowadays, some youth are missing out on the simple joys of childhood because of the threat of violence looming on every street corner. And what’s even worse is, places that were once considered safe havens from the streets are no longer that–our schools have become battle grounds, too. Our students aren’t safe anymore.
The headline in the Chicago Tribune read, “CPS Worker Killed in Front of West Side School: Our Babies Go Here.” Just last week, a young CPS employee who had no criminal record or gang affiliation was shot and killed in front of McNair Elementary School on the west side of Chicago causing the school to be locked down and their eighth grade graduation to be delayed. Over the years, there have been similar headlines highlighting gun violence in near vicinities of CPS schools. In most cases, there’s an investigation, crisis counselors are called to support the staff and families, CPS makes a statement, school commences and it’s over…until it happens again. Our students aren’t safe anymore.
Addressing the issue of urban violence is a tricky one because, as a society, we tend to want to place the blame on the most “obvious” culprits–the government, the police, the school district, the criminals, etc. And while there’s a strong likelihood that one or more of these entities have a larger part to play in the demise, we sometimes neglect to accept responsibility for our individual roles. Our students aren’t safe anymore because they’re being failed by us–the community.
Let’s reminisce again. Back in the day, there was a village–a sense of community where people looked out for one another and sought to protect their family AND neighbors from danger. Back in the day, people instilled invaluable morals and ethics in their children with hopes of them growing up to be decent human beings. Back in the day, students were able to attend school without the threat of hearing gunshots outside of their classrooms. And, back in the day, innocent people like Denzel Thornton didn’t have to too much worry about losing his life while trying to make an honest living.
At this juncture, people are looking for policy recommendations or a step by step strategy in which order will be restored. Here I offer, in theory, a simpler solution that doesn’t involve the time constraints or complications that come with politics–we have to reclaim our communities and rebuild our villages.
We have the task of educating and raising our youth to be responsible and respectful adults. We have to support and uplift one another. We have to collectively reprimand those that are destroying our communities. And, when something threatens our quality of life, we have to work together to stop it. Our youth have to feel safe in order to thrive and that begins with us being accountable for their futures.
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