“But you know, there are no children here. They’ve seen too much to be children.”
The tragic death of Hadiya Pendleton struck a nerve in the city of Chicago which spread throughout the entire nation. Once a city desperately crying out for help against gun violence, Chicago officially had the attention of national media, the White House, and the Obama family. Hadiya’s death seemed to be the needle that broke the camel’s back in Chicago. The city was angry. Rev. Jesse Jackson led a march from King College Prep (Hadiya’s school), to the scene of her untimely death at Vivian Gordon Harsh Park. There were a few marches initiated and led by CPS students. Prayers went up for Hadiya’s family, as people empathized with Hadiya’s mom Cleo, as if they lost their own child. For once, it seemed as if there was a united sadness in the city. Why did this have to happen? Hadiya was just in Washington D.C. earlier in the month, performing at President Obama’s inauguration. After years of becoming numb to the usual gun violence in our city, for some reason Chicagoans had a hard time letting this one go. It was a wake up call. Children were dying in the streets of Chicago. Something needed to be done, and it appeared as if everyone agreed.
The days, weeks and months went by, and more innocent children of Chicago lost their lives to inessential gun violence. 18 year old Janay McFarlane, shot and killed, ironically on the same day her younger sister sat on a stage behind President Obama as he spoke on gun control legislation. Baby Johnylah Watkins, shot and killed in a drive-by, while her father obliviously changed her diaper in his car. On top of the increasing gun violence, random melees began to occur throughout the city. As one watched the videos of Chicago youth destroying a Mindless Behavior event at Ford City Mall and committing random acts of harm in Chicago’s downtown, the obvious questions come to mind: What is happening in Chicago? Why does it seem to be getting worse? Is anyone planning to do something about it?
There has been many heart-breaking tragedies to occur in our country. From Sandy Hook, to the Boston bombings, every blue moon our nation is in mourning. In Chicago, the mourning never ceases. Many residents of Chicago can no longer identify or empathize with tragedies that occur outside the city. It was extremely sad when 20 children lost their lives to unnecessary gun violence at Sandy Hook Elementary. However, Harper High School (Chicago) lost 27 of their students to gun violence within 13 months. Kevin Ambrose lost his life to gun violence as he waited for his friend at the train station. He wasn’t in a gang. Kevin was actually a student at Columbia College. He worked at Target and wanted to be a police officer. The list could go on forever of innocent children whose lives have been snatched away by the wickedness of gun violence. Where are their national tributes? Why isn’t the nation mourning with Chicago?
What makes one life more valuable than the next? Or a tragedy more sad and compelling than another? Does racism and classism play a huge role in the lack of sympathy for Chicago’s gun violence?
The death of Hadiya Pendleton showed the nation what Chicago deals with every week. A mother loses her child almost everyday in Chicago. The lives of many families are being disrupted and broken due to gun violence. Where is the help? Or are they invisible?