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Dear first lady, children need you

Updated: August 13, 2012 1:51PM

‘Like so many Americans all across the country, Barack and I were shocked and heartbroken by the horrific act of violence committed in Arizona this past weekend. . . . As parents, an event like this hits home especially hard. . . . And it makes us think about what an event like this says about the world we live in — and the world in which our children will grow up.” — Michelle Obama, Jan. 13, 2011

Dear Mrs. Obama, the children here desperately need your help. This is my S.O.S., a plea for help. From the West Side to the South Side, where you grew up, the streets have become killing fields, unsafe even for children to play.

The toll is great, the tally of shootings and horrific violence filling headlines after each weekend.

Bullets fly. Another child dies. A mother cries as the hearse rolls by.

This is the world in which children in Chicago grow up — a world where kids learn to run for cover at the crack of gunfire before they have learned to ride a bike. It was not always this way.

I would appeal to your husband, as I have in a past column, echoing the desperate pleas I have heard in the bloodied streets of Chicago while covering the latest senseless murder. But because he is president of the United States — and given the demands of his re-election campaign — I understand he is quite busy these days.

So I appeal to you, our esteemed first lady, a home girl who has made us all proud. A soul sister who stands in stately elegance and also in her blackness with sophistication, articulation and wisdom, you are a shining example for our daughters — and our sons — a symbol of what is possible through hope, hard work and dreams.

I too have a dream: That one day our streets will be at peace. That children will be able to play in front of their houses, sit on their porches, jump double-dutch rope, run through a white spray of water on a hot summer’s day without fear of seeing the streets suddenly run red with blood.

I have a dream that one day the shooting will stop.

I appeal to you, Mrs. Obama. Not for help with addressing a “Chicago” problem. For homicide statistics show that what is happening here is a microcosm of what is occurring in other poor black and brown neighborhoods across this great nation. This is a human problem. A national tragedy — one that I believe requires the help of everyone from the church house to the White House.

It will require a shift in the American paradigm of accepting as normal the daily slaughter of our children. It will require a relentless national campaign that not only calls greater attention to this issue but also promotes the wide use of evidence-based prevention strategies and programs, and the hard work of rebuilding communities.

It will require someone to speak for the children, someone to carry this mantle.

And frankly, Mrs. Obama, I’m afraid that if you won’t hear the cries of our children, of little South Side girls who live in fear of being shot, of precious daughters with brown eyes and skin like your own daughters, then no one will.

Your “Let’s Move” campaign is a godsend. But far too many of our children face daily the weightier issue of avoiding stray bullets, even while lying in bed.

Sister queen, we need you, in the same way that a people once needed a queen named Esther. Perhaps you are called for such a time as this.

With Hope & Admiration, John.

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