Mitchell: Officials take to the frontlines in combating violence
BY MARY MITCHELL firstname.lastname@example.org July 26, 2013 9:52PM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Rep. Robin Kelly during the Invocation at the Congressional Black Caucus summit on urban violence at Chicago State University on Friday, July 26, 2013. | Chandler West~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 30, 2013 6:41AM
I didn’t have to turn on the news to know what was up at 75th Street near Yates on Friday, just before noon.
The flashing blue lights, and crowd of young people milling on the street said it all.
I didn’t have to see the yellow police tape or a pool of blood to suspect that another young person had been shot in my neighborhood. This time a 17-year-old male.
I avoided the chaos by taking a detour down a one-way street and took Jeffery Boulevard to 95th Street, then drove to Chicago State University where yet another summit on urban violence was getting under way, this time at the impressive convocation center that bears the names of Emil Jones and his late wife, Patricia A. Jones.
Convened jointly by three local black elected officials, Congressmen Bobby L. Rush, Danny K. Davis and Robin Kelly, the “Emergency Summit on Urban Violence” had the backing of the Congressional Black Caucus.
U.S. Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Ca.), Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) were participants, along with the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. Each spoke eloquently, and at length, about the crisis urban communities are facing because of gun violence.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel also was at the summit, which he called “long overdue.”
The mayor ran through a list of programs he has undertaken to address the violence. For example, “Midnight Basketball,” an activity that was introduced to curb violence in public housing in the ’90s, has been resurrected as Windy City Hoops, a program that draws 1,700 kids to basketball courts across the city on Friday and Saturday nights.
“These kids are good kids just looking for a safe place to be,” the mayor said.
Always outspoken, Waters pointed out that former President Bill Clinton walked the streets with her to address the gang problem in her district.
The veteran congresswoman drew applause when she said that while Chicago State University is a nice facility, she would have preferred to be attending a summit in Englewood.
But violence can erupt anywhere as it did not too long ago when a young man was killed after attending a basketball game on the campus of Chicago State University.
Karol V. Mason, Assistant Attorney General, shared her personal experiences with respect to the challenges black families face in trying to keep young black men off the path that leads to incarceration and a life of barriers.
“My twin brother adopted two young boys and raised them. One of my nephews was clearly on the wrong path. I was fortunate to get them in a program that saved his life,” she said.
“My challenge is to do the best I can to give you those resources because this is personal to me.”
Still, as passionate as these speakers were, we’ve been down this road before.
More than a decade ago, Rush, who has spent his lifetime trying to uplift black people, called an emergency summit on violence for the same reasons participants were outlining today:
Too many young black men were killing each other. Too many black youth were dropping out of school and ending up in jail. And too many black men were jobless. Too many parents were not taking responsibility for their children.
I’m sure some of the same people who participated in the summit years ago were in the audience on Friday.
They are the same people who run the youth centers, mentoring programs, and other anti-violence initiatives that have helped keep the black community from imploding.
The real challenge these legislators face is recruiting a new army of ordinary people who are motivated to take to the streets with the same resolve they showed when Trayvon Martin was killed in Sanford, Fla.
These legislators also have to lead the charge for federal funding to address the social ills driving black-on-black violence.
If they can’t get these resources into the hands of the people who would use them effectively, then summits are pointless.
Brown was adamant that it isn’t just on legislators to turn the tide on violence.
“It’s ministers in the room. It’s parents in the room. It’s one team, one fight. We all got to work together,” she said.
The “National Emergency Summit on Urban Violence” won’t change our neighborhoods overnight, that’s for sure.
But it put our elected officials where they needed to be — on the frontlines of this fight.