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A kid is a kid, not a ‘Lil Soldier’

Updated: October 28, 2013 7:14AM

Not “Lil Soldier.” Not “Baby G.” Or “G Money.”

Not “Lil’ Pimp,” “Lil’ Player,” “Lil’ Thug,” or even “Lil’ Man.” Not unless we are a lot dysfunctional and unwilling to help end this vicious cycle that turns too many of our baby boys into thugs.

A cycle that sends far too many of them to early graves. That has helped turn this city into a national murder capital with near apocalyptic episodes being played out on tree-lined streets. That leaves a trail of carnage.

Little boys who evolve into gangbangers and drug dealers because it is all they know. Because it is all that some of them think they have. Because it’s what their father did. What their grandfather did. And it’s what their uncles and cousins and big brothers do. All they see.

Our sons perish because too many adults have pre-assigned them with hopeless destinies, spoken and sealed by the names we call them. This amid a culture that has fallen from grace. A culture that now embraces what we once were ashamed of. A culture that now shuns that which once made us proud.

Drug Dealer, Pimp, Gangster weren’t always occupations to which our sons aspired. An honest day’s living, even digging ditches, once far outshined any drug dealer’s pot of gold.

Our little boys perish — the streets saturated with their blood — because for far too many, all they’ve ever seen is an alluring criminal lifestyle. For too many black and brown boys, it dangles like a golden carrot since before they are potty-trained. A way of life played out before them in living color by “revered” men with flash and cash, wielding bravado and deadly power: bang-bang.

Some boys long to be these men. Too many adults are complicit. A culture of calamity.

Lil’ pimps and Lil’ soldiers, some of “us” call them. Little men and little G’s, short for gangsters, we call them, as if bestowing upon them a crown of life. Like an inheritance to be passed on from father to son, uncle to nephew. Generation to generation.

And yet, if it is a crown, it is an inevitable crown of death for those who choose to wear it.

Not street soldiers. Boys.

Little boys with wisps of hair on their chins. Boys who ought to still be playing childhood games, or be somewhere studying. Somewhere, anywhere, besides waving guns and pledging allegiance to a gang. Boys whose best chance is to stay in school and off the streets.

Boys whose best hope lies not solely in the creation of jobs, or in calling in the National Guard, the Illinois State Police, or even in hosting a “gang summit.”

Not a gang summit. But a parent summit — an assembling of fathers and mothers, of grandfathers and grandmothers, and the elders of “the village.” What is needed is a collective effort to mend the fabric of family that is at the heart of restoring community and hope.

Not another moment for grandstanding politicians, preachers and poverty pimps. But a movement for social and cultural change, for the redemption of our sons, which just might begin by finally recognizing we have the power to make that change.

We might even begin by speaking life to our sons, by calling — and seeing — them as they are. Not as Lil G’s. But little boys.


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