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Lupe Fiasco: Every death matters

Lupe Fiasco talks group for black history month Friday St. SabinChurch. Phoby Maudlyne Ihejirika

Lupe Fiasco talks to group for black history month on Friday at St. Sabina Church. Photo by Maudlyne Ihejirika

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Updated: March 18, 2013 7:05AM

We are all Hadiya Pendleton, a good girl on the right path, killed by youth on an opposing road, said socially conscious Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco.

But we are also Jo-Jo Coleman, a troubled youth killed while on that opposite road, Fiasco added.

The two deaths are equally important in Chicago’s ongoing violence, Fiasco said.

Fiasco made the comments at a Black History Month speech Friday night at St. Sabina Church in which he shared with a South Side audience for an hour his views on race, power, self-worth, and the violence plaguing his hometown.

He spun a series of poetically gripping stories around a call for change. He named each character in his stories, as well as each of the 1,000 people listening at St. Sabina, “Hadiya Coleman.”

“Hadiya Coleman is us. Joseph Coleman and Hadiya Pendleton. This young boy and young girl from very different walks of life, very different circumstances surrounding their deaths. But no matter how we feel about either one, the reverence that we hold for one and the disdain we hold for the other, they’re still us,” the bespectacled, dreadlocked, Muslim intellectual said.

Pendleton, 15, an honor student at King College Prep, was killed by a gang member’s bullets Jan. 29, becoming the national face of gun violence in President Barack Obama’s hometown.

Coleman, a Chicago rapper and gang member known as Lil JoJo, was gunned down last year as part of an alleged gang feud that brought infamy to Chicago’s rap scene.

“I was heartbroken about Coleman, even with the music that he made and circumstances of his death. I just kept thinking beyond his circumstances, this was a young black kid, and then he was a rapper, so he was me, a young black rapper trying to get from one point to another,” Fiasco said.

“With Hadiya, I’m almost numb. When that happened, the numbness was still there. It’s like I’m almost shocked to the point of impervious.”

Fiasco said everywhere he travels, the only thing people seem to know about Chicago now is the violence.

“We’re not going to solve this with tears and vigils. We can’t deal with this with emotion. We can’t unpack it with spirituality,” the 31-year-old Grammy winner said afterward.

“It’s going to take education and jobs, which is something we can all do,” he said. “Hire a brother to cut your grass. He’s only going to make $300 a week selling drugs anyway. So it’s on us. It’s on each one of us. We’re all Hadiya Colemans.”

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