Hadiya Pendleton: A Letter to Barack Obama, Newtown to Chiraq

Dear Barack Obama, I’m from the bloodiest and most violent area ever recorded in modern American history—the Southside of Chicago. Recently, Hadiya Taylor Pendleton , a young lady, who attended King College Prep High-School (where I am a high-school alumni) was shot and killed.  My condolences and prayers are with Hadiya and her family. She was only 15 years old. Although, I didn’t  really know Hadiya personally,  she attended the Chicago Debate Summer Institute with me and we had plenty of mutual friends who had this to say:

“Just please stop! I am tired of all this gang shit, violence, shooting, all of it; my friend just got shot and killed today.”

” I held her hand and told her everything was gonna be okay and it wasn’t and I know bullets don’t have name but my best friend had one and a smile to light up a room, and her senseless murder will not be in vain. It cant be. She can’t just die and we treat it like its nothing. Stuff like this is too commonplace.”

According, to the Chicago Sun Times, “Police said Hadiya had no previous arrest history and doesn’t appear to be in a gang. But preliminary information indicates most of the members she was with were gang members. None of the group stuck around to help Hadiya or wait for the police.”[1]

This is a textbook case of terrible reporting allegedly coming from ‘reputable’ news sources. According, to primary sources  coming from KCP students:

“The news really knows how to fuck up a story. One, they spent 20 seconds talking about how my best friend was with gang members, then they don’t even mention Lawrence got shot, and then said we all ‘fled the scene.’ I WAS HOLDING HER HAND TALKING HER THROUGH IT. VERONICA AND JORDAN WERE TALKING TO POLICE OFFICERS. SHE WAS IN DANETRIA’S LAP UNTIL THE AMBULANCE CAME. HOW THE FUCK WAS LAWRENCE GOING TO RUN WHEN HE GOT SHOT IN THE FUCKING ANKLE?”

thehadThe language is harsh but the living conditions of African-American youth throughout Chicago are harsher. President Obama, you used to do community organization in the Altgeld Gardens neighborhood—recently Joseph Coleman (Lil JOJO) was shot and killed there. When I was in sixth grade you spoke at the graduation ceremony for my school. I’ve also attended your former church where I heard your once close pastor Jeremiah Wright spoke. My community is running rapid with gun violence. Robert Sandifer was a 12 year old kid from my community who over a decade ago was carrying out shootings  for his gang. I was once talking to a kid who hadn’t even reached his teenage years yet; he was putting up ‘gang signs’ and calling out the names of respective street organizations. I asked him why he was doing this and he responded, “If you out slangin’ dope and someone shoot you, they go put up they sign. You gotta know who they belong to if you want to get them back.” This is the reality of black life in Chicago. I am sure you are aware of the gun violence in Chicago; indeed in your victory speech you stated

Robert_sandifer“We believe in a tolerant America, open to the dreams of an immigrant’s daughter who pledges to our flag, to the young boy on the south side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the street corner, to the furniture worker’s child in North Carolina who wants to become a doctor or a diplomat or even a president. We will rise and fall as one nation, and as one people. It doesn’t matter if you are black or white, young or old, rich or poor. You can make it in America, if you’re willing to try.”[2]

Hadiya, who attended your second inaugural address to preform is not the only Chicago Public Student to be shot. According to the progressive labor party:

“Before Renaissance 2010, the intolerable number of CPS students fatally shot in these neighborhoods was 15. In the 2006-07 school year, it rose to 24; in 2007-08 to 23 deaths and 211 shootings. Now in 2008-09 it’s risen to over 40 fatalities and 290 shootings (five in the first two months). These resemble numbers from Iraq or Afghanistan.”[2]

The Southside of Chicago is in shambles resembling third world countries. Currently, America is a long ways from accomplishing what you desire. The fatal shooting of Hadiya Taylor took place in less than a mile from your Chicago house. I was reading a book recently entitled ‘The Assassination Of Fred Hampton’ where the author, the lawyer of Fred Hampton who attend the University of Chicago back in the 60’s, said[4]

“On the South Side of Chicago I was surrounded by a poor black community, one being displaced by the university I was attending…  I could not ignore the blatant inequality between their lives and mine.”

My former school, King College Prep, is located within a couple of miles of your home and the University of Chicago. My school has a very unique history; over a decade ago it used to be known as a violent school filled with gang activity. But when the neighborhood became gentrified, King College Prep became a ‘selective enrollment’ school and over time weeded out the disenfranchised youth who were members of various gang organizations and replaced them with students who were academically successful.

Yet, despite the gentrification of the neighborhood, gangs are still very much prevalent in this community, but of course your house, as well as the University of Chicago (which is filled with police protection), is shielded from such violence.  However, urban black youth who are simply walking home back from school are not.

20 suburban children were killed in Newton, and this was a very unfortunate event. You decided to visit the parents of some of their slain children and meet their families.  Between 2008 to 2009, over 200 black youth had been shot with 40 of them not surviving. A couple of months ago while I was on the 75th bus, there was a woman crying hysterically. Her sad red eyes and swollen face formed by years of hopelessness, cried out “They shot down my last boy.”  The grief in her face left me heartbroken and so I asked her, “What happened?” She told me she had three boys and that all of them had been shot down in cold blood.

“One of my boys was shot down when he was 17, the second when he was 15, and the last when he was 19,” she replied. I then asked, “Why were they shot?” And her response to this question truly broke my heart in half: “I COULD never PROVIDE for them.” She started crying hysterically again and then stated “They started selling drugs. I couldn’t tell them no. They was [sic] getting food into their stomachs.”

Why I blog.Then, a man with a sinister, crazed, heartless look walked onto the bus with a gun. I quickly got down and everybody collided into each other in a mad frenzy trying to duck down. Everyone got down except for the woman I was talking to. The man with the gun simply said “scary ass bitches,” and walked off, thankfully without shooting anyone. I asked her why she didn’t get down and her response was,” I don’t care ‘bout life no more. My boys was all I had.”

President Obama, why do you not visit the parents of slain children in Chicago? Do you have any idea of what such an event would mean to the black community? Why has the Newton massacre has become so grieved over? And why is it that the innumerable casualties of  Chicago Gang’s wars shown unworthy  of the same attention and remorse? Indeed, as I saw this headline on yahoo news, this girls death was met with racist and disgusting comments by white citizens of this nation.

“Some blacks have yet to evolve into human beings…. .”

“Hmph – wonder if her shooter will end up looking like what Obummer’s son would look like if he had one. :-/” (http://news.yahoo.com/photos/chicago-high-school-sophomore-hadiya-pendleton-shot-killed-photo-120200826.html)

Despite, what conservatives claim, the origins of this violence and poverty in the black community stem mainly from one source: capitalism. African-Americans were brutally worked for no pay at all. This brutal enslavement of African people gave America the wealth it has today. After slavery, African-Americans endured Jim Crow laws that significantly halted any aspirations they had for socio-economic equality.

In the post-Jim Crow era, black people would be exploited and subjugated in new more sly ways. Blacks still face discrimination in every area of American society from housing, credit, health-care, education and employment opportunities.

President Obama, what will your administration do to confront the ongoing oppression of black people which in turn causes gun violence and premature deaths of black youth?

1) http://www.suntimes.com/17889243-418/one-week-after-attending-inaugural-south-side-teen-shot-dead-in-neighborhood-park.html

2) http://uptownmagazine.com/2012/11/president-obamas-victory-speech-video-transcript/4/, President Obama’s Victory Speech [VIDEO & TRANSCRIPT]

4) The assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther by Jeffrey Haas.