On the evening of Friday, 17 August 2018, a 16-year-old boy was murdered in the streets of Chicago because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person. That boy, Raysuan Turner, was my cousin once removed, but I referred to him as my nephew.
He was reported missing on Saturday, 18 August, by his mother who begged the police to do something. Ultimately, she had to canvas the neighborhood with friends and family because the police wouldn’t help.
On the evening of Sunday, 19 August, his body was found by police who got involved only after receiving information of where his body could be found.
Unlike some missing children cases that we hear about nationally, Raysuan’s barely made the local news initially because the media has become accustomed to children in Chicago going missing, or being murdered, and they don’t bother to report on it. According to the Chicago Tribune tracker, as of 8 September 2018, 33 of the 365 homicide victims in 2018 alone were children between the ages of 10 and 17.
The love and determination of his mother and father made people, including the police, pay attention.
When I think back to my teenage years, I can remember countless times that I was somewhere that I shouldn’t have been, and luckily, it never resulted in my death. What has happened to us as human beings? Why have some decided to not care about human life?
Let me prepare you; this is a rant. My grief and disbelief has turned into anger. I’m now trying to channel that anger into something purposeful.
I’m not one to get into hot topics over social media. I keep it light, usually talking about business and being your best self. But today . . . today, I want to have a conversation about what we can do as a society. What we can do as Americans.
Let’s get something out of the way first. Raysuan was a good kid. He was not in a gang. He didn’t have a criminal record. He was a regular kid.
While we’re at it, let’s make a few other things clear: (1) just because a person frequents or lives in a rough area or neighborhood, does not make them a thug, gangster, or drug dealer; (2) although the occurrence of violence in specific areas has come to define Chicago, it’s still a beautiful city — third largest in America — and one which helps to define our country; (3) you should not judge an entire race by the decisions that a small percentage of that population makes.
On Monday, 20 August 2018, I awoke to see two text messages. One from my mom, the other from my cousin. Both stating that Raysuan’s body was found. The hairs on my arm stood up, and a wave of heat rushed through my body. I looked at my husband and said “How could something like this happen?” “What kind of world are we living in?”
The only way I could cope was staying busy. I continued to work on things. As soon as I felt a rush of sadness, the more active I became. It may sound like avoidance, but it’s how I process. All the while, I replayed what could have happened, why it happened, how it could have been prevented, and what I can do to figure out how to stop this madness.
So I did what I do best — research. I read tons of articles on what people think is causing the ridiculous amount of violence in Chicago, and how it can be stopped. Before I go into what I think are some good ideas, I want to address a question that might be going through your head.
Why should I care? Not my city, not my family, not my people.
For us to be a productive society, we have to care about all people. Violence isn’t concentrated in one place. It festers and spreads like a disease. Just reference the increase of school shootings. I remember the first one. Everyone thought it was a one-off. Now shootings are happening everywhere, and have occurred in other common places such as nightclubs and churches. So if you don’t think it’s your problem, it is. For us to be a healthy and productive society, we must ensure all areas and people are safe.
Also, what about the desire to see others, who you may not relate to, thrive. If we are willing to help people in other countries, we should also be willing to help those in our own country. It’s time for us to wake up.
So what did I find, you might ask. I don’t know if I’ve found “the answer,” but I may have found places for us to start. I think the problem is those of us that want to do something don’t know where to start. I’m hoping this may provide some guidance.
There was an article written eight years ago on Newsone entitled Six Ways To Stop Violence in Chicago Without Using the National Guard. There are a few ideas that resonate with me.
Strengthen Gun Laws
I am so not about to start a gun law debate, but you all know we need to do something. Regardless of what side you fall on, it’s clear that steps need to be taken to reduce the violence.
ACTION: Write your Congressperson and request that they fight for tighter gun laws. If they aren’t delivering results, vote for someone who can!
ACTION: City of Chicago, do something! Control the flow of guns into the city and make it harder for people who shouldn’t have them to obtain them.
More Jobs and Summer Jobs For Youth
I like this one because it’s true if you have nothing to do you’re going to end up somewhere you shouldn’t be or hanging with the wrong people.
ACTION: The City of Chicago can create more jobs for youth. The city can also produce good, meaningful programs that help people find jobs. The city has a reputation for creating programs that achieve little. It’s time to demand results.
ACTION: Parents can encourage kids to get summer jobs or attend free camps. If there aren’t any good safe camps, we need our community leaders and the City to create them!
Strengthen Prison to Work Programs
I think this is huge. If former inmates can’t find jobs, what are they going to do? Usually they turn to the streets and possibly get into things such as selling drugs or gang-related activity. We need to make sure that we have good programs that are helping people. For these programs to stay funded, they should have to provide proof of the viability of their program.
ACTION: Write the Mayor of Chicago and ask him, what is the city doing to improve and promote these programs.
ACTION: Encourage loved ones who are being released from prison/jail to join these programs, and if they think the programs are inadequate, they should contact the Mayor’s office.
This one is also a hot topic. Let me be clear, we need the police! I have the utmost respect for the law. My grandfather is a retired Chicago police officer.
With that said, Chicago is known for having corrupt police officials and some that aren’t willing to do their job. Because of that, the community doesn’t trust the police. The abuse of power from the police has created a community that refuses to cooperate when a crime has been committed. Subsequently, the police officers who do take their jobs seriously, don’t receive the support and cooperation from the community that often help to solve crimes and bring criminals to justice.
I will give an example of how police may be creating a lack of trust among community members. On Saturday, 18 August, Raysuan’s mother went to the police to tell them he was missing after he did not come home. They said they would start an investigation on Monday because they were sure he would show up. His case was not officially opened until Sunday, when they received a tip on where to find Raysuan’s body.
Talk about lack of trust — her son did not have a track record of not coming home, which is why she knew something happened. When she called the police for help, they were probably thinking “Oh this is just another runaway, gang banger, or merely a troubled youth.”
ACTION: The Chicago chief of police needs to work harder to help build the trust between the people and police. That not only means better training for police, but enforcing disciplinary action for those that aren’t doing their jobs or are abusing their power.
ACTION: The people of Chicago need to find police officers that they can trust and rely on and start talking. If this culture of silence endures, murderers will continue to walk the street of Chicago thinking they are invincible.
There was also an article on BBC in 2017 entitled Five Ways Trump Can Help Solve Chicago Gun Crime.
The article made several good points, but I want to zone in on housing. I was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, and what sadden’s me is that minimal changes have occurred through the years. Literally, a few new stores and homes have popped up, but overall, it’s the same. No major developments.
Those in low-income areas have no way out. The ones that want to get out of their situation and get out of neglected buildings can’t afford the shiny new places developers are putting up in other areas of Chicago. No one is trying to help improve areas that are dilapidated.
Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson discussed this very issue:
Gun Violence in Chicago and how we can stop it
Rev. Al Sharpton is joined by Rev. Jesse Jackson to discuss the recent rise in shootings this 4th of July weekend in…
ACTION: The city should require developers to provide vouchers to low-income families. To break the cycle of violence, you have to be able to get out of your situation.
ACTION: The City of Chicago should clean up vacant lots and abandoned properties and businesses.
I think I’ve gone on enough. The last thing I’ll mention is some people ask, “Why don’t people move?” Trust me, I’ve told several friends and family the same thing. But remember, it’s not always that easy. Some have family obligations, some don’t have the financial means, and some aren’t able to find jobs in other cities that will allow them to live and thrive on their own.
With that said, we need the government, the people of Chicago, and all Americans to make an effort to make real change.
ACTION FOR CHICAGOANS:
- Stop being silent. If you see something, say something. If the police aren’t listening make them listen by calling and writing until they get sick of hearing from you. Come forward with information. We still don’t have closure on Raysuan’s murder investigation.
- Elect people who can make a difference. If they aren’t doing their job, inundate their offices with calls and letters. When it’s time to reelect officials show up and vote.
- Work together as a community. We have to take care of each other. We have to work together to make our neighborhoods better.
- It’s time to stop the violence.
ACTION FOR THE CITY OF CHICAGO:
- Overhaul the gun laws.
- Work on building a better police workforce.
- Create jobs for youth and adults.
- Overhaul housing and clean up vacant and abandoned buildings.
- Hold city programs accountable. If they aren’t producing results, cut the program.
- Although I didn’t go into this, we have to stop drugs from flowing into our community. Strengthen the laws and prevent drugs from flowing into the city.
Do everything on this list. Commit.
ACTION FOR OTHERS OUTSIDE OF CHICAGO: No matter what side of the gun control controversy you’re on we all need to work to create laws that make sense and protect us as Americans. Vote for people who will make a difference. Write Congress and tell them you demand change. Heck, write the Mayor of Chicago and tell him we expect better.