The month of August presented so many topics to discuss. I provide this series as a way to look at these topics from a different set of eyes. My aim is to create an open and insightful dialogue, and remind everyone that in some way or another, we have all been on the outside.
CHICAGO GUN VIOLENCE
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the gun violence that has plagued Chicago, my home, in the month of August.
On the weekend of August 3rd, 74 people were shot in the city. Three weeks later, on August 17th, it was 58. These are not numbers, these are people, and any bullet that kills a child kills the entire community. I cannot, as a black man from the South side of Chicago, approach this topic with the same zest that I usually put into these articles. In 2008, a close friend of mine was murdered while leaving a birthday party, and I’ve always felt that the bullet that killed him was lodged into my soul as well.
Why do black and brown neighborhoods experience the bulk of the violence in Chicago? There is a simple answer – hopelessness. These communities are hopeless. They’re untrusting of the Chicago Police Department due to a history of police abuses, and therefore less likely to call them when witnessing a crime. I know the feeling – I didn’t file a report when I was robbed at gunpoint. I had no desire to be victimized again by those who were supposed to help me. When a lack of trust keeps the police out of the neighborhoods, the bad guys set the order of things. When communities fear the police more than the criminals, the criminals are free to take charge.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to build a $95 million police academy to combat crime and ramp up officer recruitment. This will not solve the issue of violence in Chicago. What we really need is better trust and communication between law enforcement and the community. If you have a community that will call the police in cases of emergency, the bad guys might think twice before committing a crime. The members of crime-ridden communities know who the perpetrators are, but are terrified to come forward. We can change that. We need to change that.
Despite proposing $95 million for the new police academy, Mayor Rahm has consistently stated that there are not any funds for public education in the city, resulting in mass school closures in black and brown communities. Fifty Chicago Public Schools were closed in 2013.
Every single one was in one of these minority communities.
This speaks volumes about how the city fails to focus on educating its minority youth. The lack of educational opportunity that naturally follows a school closure directly impacts the potential for violence in a neighborhood. Without adequate education, young people (especially young men) become prime targets for gangs seeking to recruit drug dealers.
For a young student who watches their parents – often only a single mother – bring home barely $30,000 per year, the idea of making that much in only three to six months through dealing can have quite the appeal. Other outside factors, such as gentrification and rising rent, can make this path seem like the only way to survive.
Not surprisingly, the drug business on the South and West sides of the city is overcrowded, and sometimes the only way to lay off competition is with a drive-by shooting. Since drug dealers are not good marksmen, bullets often miss their target – and so, a lack of education leads to a lack of opportunity, which leads to desperate solutions and, eventually, the loss of innocent life.
The solution to Chicago’s violence is not more police, not the National Guard, not Trump. The solution is simply reinvesting in those forgotten communities, and instilling hope. My grandmother taught me something years ago that I will never forget:
“You don’t want to mess with someone with nothing to lose.”
It is my hope that my black and brown brothers and sisters will re-learn to love themselves and each other. Positive change starts with self-worth, and the realization that we all have something to lose.
The Unite the Right rally was held by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 11th and 12th, 2017. On the second day of the rally, Heather Heyer, a counter-protester, was killed by one of these white terrorists. Heyer’s friends described her as “a passionate advocate for the disenfranchised who was often moved to tears by the world’s injustices.”
At this same rally, a man named DeAndre Harris was beaten so badly that he sustained spinal cord injuries. Harris was the first person arrested following the events of the rally, though he was later acquitted. Donald Trump, when speaking of the white supremacists, stated that “there were very fine people on both sides.” In contrast, the new leader of the free world, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, stated “It is a racist, far-right violence and clear, forceful action must be taken against it, regardless of where in the world it happens.”
Trump’s passions were stirred, however, when the movement started to remove confederate statues across the country. His response was quick:
“Does anybody want George Washington’s statue [taken down]? No. Is that sad, is that sad? To Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt. I see they want to take Teddy Roosevelt’s down too. They’re trying to figure out why, they don’t know. They’re trying to take away our culture, they’re trying to take away our history. And our weak leaders, they do it overnight.”
Make no mistake about this; when Donald Trump speaks of “our country” he is talking about white America. He is espousing white supremacist rhetoric. On the one-year anniversary of the Charlottesville horror, the country reflected, and there were vigils held all over. But as I look around, and this saddens me to say, nothing has changed. Confederate statues still stand, a racist is in the White House, and hate groups are more visible now than I ever before. There will always be hate in the world, and there will always be hate groups.
So one year later, what have we learned? We’ve learned to counter march. On the one year anniversary of Charlottesville, when white supremacists marched in our Nation’s capital, the counter protestors far outnumbered them. It is my belief that the family of Heather and all the families that were victimized by the acts of white supremacy can find some kind of solace in that.
On August 16th, the Queen of Soul passed away. There will be many articles written about her music, but I want to focus on her activism.
Ms. Franklin is someone that used her voice to sing and her celebrity to make a difference. It should be noted that she was never overtly political.
Franklin’s signature song “RESPECT” was a cover, something that many people do not know, even now. It was originally recorded by Otis Redding. When Franklin covered it in 1968, it was groundbreaking. It was both a nod to feminism and the civil rights movement. Shortly after her death, Jesse Jackson stated that she helped to fund that same movement for years.
“When Dr. King was alive, several times she helped us make payroll,” he told the Detroit Free Press, “On one occasion, we took an 11-city tour with Aretha Franklin and Harry Belefonte and they put gas in our vans. She did 11 concerts for free and hosted us at her home and did a fundraiser for my campaign. Aretha has always been a very socially conscious artist, an inspiration, not just an entertainer.”
In 1970, Aretha offered to post bail for Angela Davis, a fugitive at the time who was being searched for by the FBI. She was someone that President Nixon referred to as a “dangerous terrorist.” Franklin stated in JET magazine that whether the bail was $100,000 or $250,000, she was going to post it.
“Black people will be free,” she said, “I’ve been locked up [for disturbing the peace in Detroit] and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace…Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism but because she’s a black woman and she wants freedom for black people…I have the money. I got it from black people – they’ve made me financially able to have it – and I want to use it in ways that will help our people.”
When I think of the strength and courage it took to make a statement like that with Nixon in the White House, it gives me goosebumps. Aretha’s legacy will always be her music, but I would really enjoy if her activism become more than a footnote. Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul and Activist – that has a nice ring to it, if you ask me.
TRANS LIVES MATTER
In 2017, 28 Transgendered people in this country were murdered. This number could be higher, as these are only the ones that were reported. This year, there have been 16 reported Trans deaths.
Why is there not a public outcry about these murders? The answer to this is complex. A large majority of the trans women that have been murdered were women of color, which, in America, automatically limits media coverage and concern. Americans also still have a hard time viewing Trans people as, well, people.
Due to the fact that some Trans women have a penis, law enforcement sometimes classify them as “male”, which leads to the actual number of Trans murders to be incorrectly reported. It also makes it harder for their friends and family to identify their loved one’s bodies. If you know Sally as a woman and hear a report about a murdered John Doe, you wouldn’t really suspect that Sally was the victim.
On top of the racial bias and homophobia, some of these women are sex workers. Due to racism, systemic oppression, poverty, and interpersonal issues, some in the Trans community find this to be the only line of work available to them. Sex work is the easiest and fastest way to obtain food, shelter, and routine medical attention.
It is a harsh to say, but these are the women that America does not care about.
This in itself makes them easy targets for murderers. They are the women that no one will miss. It is also for these reasons that law enforcement does not invest the time and manpower necessary to find their murderers. There are simple steps we can all starting doing today to lessen the proliferation of Trans murders, or at the very least, make these murderers fear that they will be caught.
A simple way to start is to LOVE YOUR TRANS BROTHERS AND SISTERS AS YOU LOVE YOURSELF!
It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with their “lifestyle”. They are human beings. If a Trans person is murdered in your community, take it upon yourself to call the police station to make sure they are actively searching for the killer. Trans lives matter.
These are the women that have been murdered this year so far:
Christa Leigh Steele- Knudslien – 42 – Massachusetts
Viccky Gutierrez – 33 – California
Tonya Harvey – 35 – New York
Celine Walker – 36 – Florida
Phylicia Mitchell – 45 – Ohio
Amia Tyrae Berryman – 28 – Louisana
Sasha Wall – 29 – South Carolina
Karla Patricia Flores-Pavon – 26 – Texas
Nino Fortson – 36 – Georgia
Gigi Pierce – 28 – Oregon
Antash’a English – 38 – Florida
Cathalina Christina James – 24 – Florida
Keisha Wells – 58 – Ohio
Sasha Garden – 27 – Florida
Diamond Stephens – 39 – Mississippi
This section will remain brief.
LORDY I HOPE THERE ARE MORE INDICTMENTS.