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Do You Still Have Your “Hoodies” On?

25 Sep

The City of Chicago has a serious problem with gun violence and the murder rate is soaring. The eyes of the nation are upon Mayor Rahm Emmanuel; however, the solution cannot be the sole responsibility of one man. We also cannot leave the expectation of raising our children to the Chicago Police Department. The time is long overdue for urban families to reflect on the infamous culture we have developed around gangsta rap, crack sales, marijuana smoke, saggy pants and fatherless children. The same culture that is directly responsible for creating this inner city war zone is killing our youth.

After the Trayvon Martin shooting, the African American Community rallied to have alleged killer George Zimmerman arrested and brought to justice. Community leaders, including Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, were quick to organize the masses demanding justice be brought upon this fair-skinned, racial profiler (ironically found to be of Hispanic descent). A man hired to protect and serve a community of above-average income families. Every media avenue was abuzz with outraged citizens overwhelmed with anger over another black youth being gunned down without cause. Facebook profile pictures prolifically popped up proudly displaying photos of protesting public servants in their “hoodies”, a symbol that became synonymous with Trayvon’s case.   

But, months later, the African American community that upped its ethical antenna in response to another slain young black boy is quiet again. Quiet despite the numerous accounts of other young Trayvons having their light distinguished by the devastation of gang related gunfire filling the streets of Chicago every night; quiet when young children are confined to their porches because wandering further into their own community could easily leave their mothers to make coffins their final beds; quiet when we should still have our proverbial “hoodies” on for teenage rapper Joseph Coleman (aka Lil’ Jojo) and 14 year old Evanston Township freshman football phenom Dajae “Dae-Dae” Coleman. These two youth were recently gunned down in the Chicago area and their killers remain on the loose. Though no one has been identified, in the back of our minds we have already allowed the all-too-common story to play out. It is hard to believe it has been nearly 30 years since Simeon basketball star Ben Wilson was tragically murdered and yet we don’t seem to have learned an effective enough lesson. Reacting in outrage when a black or brown child is killed by a “fair-skinned” person is senseless if we continue on with our daily routine when the person taking lives in our community lives within our community or one just like it.

We have to do a better job of policing our own communities and stop placing the blame on others. We have to take the reins out of the hands of the Mayor and the police and take ownership of our failing culture. We have to create a new culture that promotes the talents of our people in the arts, sciences and sports, not the deficits of the community around them that allows for easy access to drugs, gangs and guns. It’s not too late to change our culture in order to save the lives of Chicago’s youth.

Many of our rising stars will remain hidden jewels who never have a chance to shine. They won’t ever get there because they are victims of a culture that is failing them. We need to keep our “hoodies” on and occupy WGCI and Power 92.3, demanding that they change their format and reject songs with messages that play to the destruction of our young people’s minds, directly affecting what we see and hear in our communities. We need to demand better from the talented artists with the ability to create as much of a positive message through their skill set as they do the negative, nonsensical, mind-numbing noise that has affected our youth. We need to keep our “hoodies” on until real change happens.

We need to keep our “hoodies” on until there are no more senseless killings of young black people in the city of Chicago and other cities of this great nation. We need to keep our “hoodies” on just as a protest to fair-skinned crimes against our people, but as symbols of a society ready for change and as activists ready to make those changes!

ELDRICK HEREFORD