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]

 3)http://www.plp.org/challenge/2009/11/13/derrion-albert-is-not-racist-capitalisms-first-or-last-victi.html
4) The assassination of Fred Hampton: How the FBI and the Chicago Police Murdered a Black Panther by Jeffrey Haas.

Fox News on Chicago’s Gang Violence

Yet another Chicago youth has been brutally killed in Chicago’s streets. 18 year old, Joshua “JayLoud” Davis, who was friends with Lil Jojo (another brutally slain rapper) was gunned down Christmas day. At the time of his death, he was wearing a hoodie adorning the words “Jojo World” to commemorate his deceased friend—Lil Jojo[1]  Joshua’s family believes that members of a rival gang took offense to his sweater (Jojo routinely dissed The Black Disciples) and when he got off the bus they shot him down. When it comes to black on black violence in the inner-city, everyone wants to lecture black youth about our alleged lack of values and morals. Chicago has now reached over 500 homicides in 2012. Since Chicago has a Liberal mayor (Rahm Emanuel, a man I personally dislike), right-wingers have decided to use this appalling statistic and the horrific violence in Chicago in their talking points on gun-control. Fox News did a report in the South-Side of Chicago in which they sent their reporters to interview residents. The news reporter then discussed his time in the South-Side of Chicago with notorious racist Bill O’Reilly. The following is a transcript from that interview:[2]

O’REILLY: Now what are these gangs fighting about?

WATTERS:  It’s mostly drug gangs and they are fighting over smaller and smaller scraps because the economy is bad. And white people aren’t buying as many drugs now. So the profits are down. So they’re trying to fight over turf, property and respect.

Up until this point of the dialogue I took no issue with what was presented Bill O’Reilly, Watters and Fox News then decided to give their solution to Chicago’s gang violence stating that:

“…what they need to do is ‘the surge strategy’ like Iraq…”

Listen, sending the national guard or army to attack black youth in the South-Side of Chicago won’t stop the gang-violence because it does not address the root cause of the violence which, of course, is poverty as a result of institutionalized racism. You literally have groups of kids in some areas of the South-Side of Chicago occupying abandoned houses, all sleeping on floors with no parents, with an illegal drug economy being the only way to bring in money. These kids have absolutely nothing to lose.   In another news report in which CBS interviewed South-Side Chicago gang bangers, one of them had this to say:

“The police hate us. Every time they ride past us, they shoot us down and do all that. Do what you want to do, I don’t care about you all, keep riding. Who are you all? We’re not scared of you all. I’ll fight you too.” [3]

While Fox News has a reputation for its hard-core conservative views, in this interview they let a nugget slip out about the role that racism actually plays in causing Chicago’s gang violence. The Fox News reporter stated that:

“WATTERS: It’s out of control. I was safe though. I said, ‘Should I be scared?’ And they said, ‘We don’t shoot white people; you’re our biggest customer.’

 

O’REILLY: For drugs?

 

WATTERS: Yes.

 

Bill O’Reilly and Watters then let out a chuckle. I guess they were amused by the fact that these Chicago gang bangers don’t shoot white people yet this statement proves the role that economic deprivation has in escalating these gang conflicts.

The largest gangs in Chicago are the Gangsta Disciples and Black Disciples. These two gangs used to be part of a single entity known as “The Black Gangsta Disciples”. After the arrest and imprisonment of key leaders and numerous organizers the gangs split into “The Gangsta Disciples” and the “Black Gangsta Disciples” which eventually became just the “Black Disciples.”  Homicides in South-Side Chicago were always frequent, but since the arrest of key leaders who were crucial in gang’s organization (coupled with the economic recession), the violence has increased and gangs have splintered and formed various factions. Sometimes you will have people who belong to the same gang, yet belong to different factions, who will go to war with each other over drug territory. Initially the conflicts begin as a fight for drug territory, but the problems have only deepened over time. For example, the death of Jojo, who was well-loved and popular and a friend among various members of the Gangsta Disciples, escalated the conflict between the Black Disciples and Gangsta Disciples. Gangsta Disciples sought to retaliate for his death and it led to an all-out war between the two gangs that was more than just a territorial dispute; rather, it was about retaliation.

All of these conflicts have their root in economic oppression; blacks have been systematically disempowered and have consistently lived in the most violent areas, not because we are “naturally” prone to committing crime or don’t work hard enough, but because of economic conditions that have been imposed on us by malicious outside forces. The obstacles that were, and still are, put in place, to halt black socioeconomic aspirations, has resulted in black youth acquiring detrimental social, economic, and political habits that are exemplified in the gangs that roam Chicago’s streets.

Chicago’s state-sanctioned racism produces “thugs” and systematically strips the morality from people, replacing it with a stone-cold belief system and demeanor that is seen as necessary to survive on these mean streets. Those in Chicago’s hoods live in such dire poverty that some cannot abide by any types of morals (moral beliefs such as ‘stealing/shooting is wrong’) in order to survive.

The origins of this violence all began in the early twentieth century when African-Americans that previously resided in the Klan-run south came to Chicago during the great migration, lured by the promises of jobs and political rights.[4]

When blacks first came to Chicago they competed with the Irish over a scarce labor and housing market. In 1919, racial animosity reached a boiling point when a white person hit a black child with a rock while he was swimming in Michigan Lake. The black child drowned to death, but the Chicago Police Department refused to arrest the white aggressor. Blacks led a peaceful protest demanding justice, and as a result of their efforts they were viciously attacked by white mob groups. The Chicago Police Department decided to arrest the peaceful African-American protestors. [5]

Despite this, whites then entered the predominately black area on the South-Side, terrorizing the black population through arsons and assaults. Nobody, not even children, were spared in the attacks. These white angels with exemplary morals even sought to enter a predominately black hospital to terrorize the black patients there.

Hundreds of African Americans, including women and children, were left homeless on the streets after fires demolished their homes in these senseless attacks.

Richard J. Daley was 17 years old at the time and one of the leaders of the Irish Hamburg Athletic Club that led this senseless attack on the black community. Instead of being punished for these clearly racist attacks, he was made Mayor of Chicago where he would continue to push and support racist legislation to disenfranchise the black community. Indeed, the white-ran Chicago housing authority from its inception worked to ensure that blacks lived in segregated neighborhoods.[6]

While blacks were portrayed as being “violent,” many times it was not the “delinquent” black youth attacking innocent peaceful white people but vice-versa. During this time blacks lived under increased threats of violence and fear from whites. Subsequently, blacks had no choice but to live in ghettos because of the terrorism inflicted by whites against those who dared to live on the outskirts of their state created locus. Around this time, as whites began to barbarically attack black neighborhoods more and more frequently, black male youth began to form groups in order to protect themselves.

They began to call themselves the “Black P Stone Rangers,” a group originally composed of impoverished black kids who protected themselves from white mob violence. Today, we know the Black P Stone Rangers as yet another gang who fights with both the Black Disciples and Gangsta Disciples over drug territory. Their origins can directly be tied to white mob violence.

Also of significant note, the black community had attempted to take numerous steps to deal with gang-violence only to have their efforts interrupted by the government which further proves the government wants to keep blacks in social decay.  Fred Hampton,  leader of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, attempted to form an alliance with Chicago’s black street gangs to turn them into an activist organization. Instead of allowing this alliance to manifest, the FBI would instead forge letters between the two groups to breed hostility. The Chicago Police Department would eventually assassinate the Black Panthers leader Fred Hampton. This alliance had the potential to unify black street gangs and end the violence that they were perpetrating against one another, but the government would not allow it to materialize.[7]

What we are witnessing today in the South-Side of Chicago is the aftermath of these violent attacks as well as systemic institutionalized racism cause by the capitalist system that governs us.

Today, gang violence continues to take the lives of black youth. It is absolutely ridiculous for right-wingers to use Chicago’s Gang Violence in their talking points on the failure of gun-control; a capitalist system, which right-wingers are the most vocal apologetics for,  is directly responsible for such violence in the first place.

 

1)Chicago Rapper JayLoud, Lil JoJo’s Best Friend Killed On Christmas

http://allhiphop.com/2012/12/26/chicago-rapper-jayloud-lil-jojos-best-friend-killed-on-christmas/

2)Fox’s Jesse Watters Investigates Chicago’s South Side: We Dont Shoot White People.

http://nation.foxnews.com/chicago-violence/2012/04/06/fox-s-jesse-watters-investigates-chicago-s-south-side-we-don-t-shoot-white-people

 

3) http://chicago.cbslocal.com/2012/09/27/killing-is-the-solution-gang-member-tells-walter-jacobson/

Arnold Richard Hirsch, “Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago 1940-1960″, University of Chicago,1998,http://books.google.com/books?id=px0PuO7GWhsC&pg=PP1&ots=9I1rYsYyNh&dq=%22Making+the+Second+Ghetto%22+hirsch&sig=IPgKY-xgpCRZwpCsboI_rk0UPgc#PPA18,M1

4)  Chicago Race Riot of 1919″.Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.. 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-04.http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/110488/Chicago-Race-Riot-of-1919

5 Tuttle, William. Race Riot Chicago in the Red Summer of 1919 (Urbana, IL; University of Illinois Press, 1970)

6) RACE NOT SPACE: A REVISIONIST HISTORY OFGANGS IN CHICAGO John M. Hagedorn* gangresearch.net/Archives/hagedorn/articles/racenotspace.pdf

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