Guns Killing People or People Killing People?
Written By: BreAuna Jackson
Edited By: LeMara Perry
The city of Chicago is filled with many sounds. On a normal day you may hear the sound of children playing, ice cream truck melodies or the neighbor’s dog barking. But there is one sound that has become all too familiar for Chicago residents, the sound of gun shots.
Chicago, a place once known for its thick crust pizza and championship basketball team, is now making headline news across the nation for its gun violence epidemic and the senseless killing of their youth.
Chicago, which has some of the country’s strictest gun laws, reached over 500 homicides due to gun violence last year. That was almost an 85 percent increase from 2011 when 423 people were killed.
Compared to the previous years, the crime rate is higher. In January alone over 43 people were killed.
The most recent stories include 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton and six month old Jonylah Watkins who were both shot and killed on the city’s south side. Pendleton, who just one week prior to her death performed at President Obama’s second inauguration, was shot in the back while standing outside with friends after taking her final exams. Watkins was shot to death in the front seat of a car as her father changed her diaper.
Although these stories brought political and media attention to the ongoing gun violence epidemic in Chicago, the violence did not start or end there. Mourning families and friends have long suffered the loss of their loved ones in the city. But it’s the recent rise violence, particularly gun violence, which leaves Chicago residents wondering what the problem is and
where the solution lies.
Two Chicago residents, Rashida Olayiwola and Shontay Newsome, both lost close relatives to the gun violence in the city.
Olayiwola’s cousin, 26-year-old Dernardo Collins, was shot three times in front of his home in April of 1998.
“My cousin was so handsome so all the girls wanted him,” said Olayiwola. “Every new item he had to have because he was a effortlessly fly guy & genuinely nice to everyone! Family meant the world to him!”
Newsome lost her cousin, Dave Scott, on April 24, 2004. Scott was shot in the head on Chicago’s West Side. Newsome attributes the lack of parenting
increase of violence in Chicago.
“These kids think it’s cool to try to be the toughest or the baddest. They think it is cool to hang out on corners and sell drugs,” she said. “When I was growing up I wasn’t allowed to do those things. My family made sure that I was in school and not hanging on corners.”
Pastor Phil Jackson of Tha House Covenant Church on Chicago’s West Side also believes that the lack of parenting has played a factor in the rise of gun violence in the city.
Being a youth pastor, Jackson has had to attend several funerals for young people killed in Chicago. “Parents aren’t raising their children, the streets are. The old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” doesn’t apply anymore,” said Jackson.
“Some adults are scared to get involved with the kids in the neighborhood. We have to take our kids back from the streets. We have to take our blocks back. We have to get involved and help these kids.”
Jackson is a firm believer in meeting kids where they are in order to take them to where God wants them to be. Tha House Covenant Church, a hip hop worship experience, is doing their part in taking the streets back by going block by block praying for the youth. They also hold several community outreach events like the annual hip hop revival which features an outdoor concert, break dance competition, and graffiti battle.
“Our children need to know that we are here to help them. They need to feel safe just like we adults have the need to feel safe,” said Jackson. “Not all of the children in Chicago are gang bangers and drug dealers. They just need our help and our guidance.”
In an effort to reduce crime, the Chicago Police Department has assigned rookie officers to foot patrol in some Chicago’s higher crime rate areas. So far over 1,550 firearms have been recovered as officers walk their beat.
Although it may seem to others that gun violence is the norm in Chicago, it is definitely a problem that citizens are hoping to do without some day; someday soon. Olayiwola, Newsome and Jackson hope that through parental involvement and the hard work and dedication of city residents, leaders and officials, Chicago can go back to the great pizza city that it was once known for.