CeaseFire officials: Students from Chicago need to take caution over break

By Danielle Banks

Bob Jackson, executive director of Roseland CeaseFire, said that this Thanksgiving, students returning to their homes in Chicago are at risk.

“A lot of young people come home during the holidays and a lot of them don’t return,” he said. “The thing is, when young people leave for college and when they come back they have to understand that the neighborhood may be different, and a lot of things may not involve them directly, but it does involve their friends who are still here in the community … it can also put their lives into danger, just by hanging out.”

Craig Henry, freshman in DGS, was raised in Roseland, a neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. While Henry knows the dangers of returning home all too well, he is willing to risk it, he said.

“When I really thought about it, I thought about my friend who came home from college and got killed last year, so the thought crossed my mind,” he said. “But I don’t know, I’m probably going to still be hanging out where I shouldn’t be hanging. Those are my friends.”

Henry’s friend, Dante Kyles, was going to Central State University in Ohio, and was visiting his home in Chatham over summer break. He was killed after being robbed last year.

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“It really hit me. I heard he was going to college, I didn’t expect that. I haven’t ever really lost a homie,” Henry said. “Even though we weren’t close at the time, we grew up together, it still hit me.”

While the provocation was unclear, he said the violence is cyclic.

“There’s a Kendrick Lamar song with a skit where Kendrick gets beat up, and his friends come and shoot at the people who beat him up,” he said. “One of Kendrick’s friend’s brothers gets killed, and then the brother says how he’s tired of all the violence. An old woman comes up to them, telling them they’re dying of thirst, and need to be quenched by holy water. That may have happened where Kendrick is from, but that’s not going to happen in Chicago. In Chicago, you kill the guy that killed your homie — it’s just the hood mentality.”

While Henry feels confident returning home despite situations like these, freshman in Business and fellow South Sider, Dayneeia Thrash, is reluctant to go home for breaks, as she feels the University is a better environment for her.

Thrash said when she’s back home she has to take steps to secure her safety, when doing things like walking down the street.

“I would say I do (feel safe at home), but there are certain things I do — like I know not to have my headphones loud, and things like that,” she said.

Thrash said she learned this lesson the hard way when she was robbed while she had headphones in.

“People do anything, you never know. I still wear them, it’s just getting off the bus, I turn them down a little bit. It made me more aware of this,” she said. “You never know, it could lead to even more devastating things than getting robbed. Getting raped, getting hurt, getting killed.”

Like Thrash, Henry remains alert in his neighborhood; however, he is no longer scared, he said.

“It’s just exhausting. I’m tired of being worried about stuff, running,” he said. “In my neighborhood, if someone messes with you, you’re supposed to stick up for yourself no matter what. My homies have taught me not to be afraid.”

Richard Wills is a member of the Board of Trustees for Roseland CeaseFire, and he said the organization works toward lowering these risks of violence. Jackson said the organization has established safe passage routes where outreach officers patrol during the day.

Wills said his organization tries to reach out to at-risk youth — young people who have a history with criminal activity and might be in a gang — to redirect them from violence.

“We try to get them re-engaged outside of gang involvement,” Wills said. “(This) includes trying to get them back in school, provide job training, counseling, we try to get them into positive activities, community-based sporting events and activities, volunteering programs, things to try to redirect them. This is how we make the impact.”

In Roseland, which is in the fifth police district, 23 people were murdered in 2011, but the number rose to 32 in 2012. This year, the number decreased to 26, according to the weekly Chicago Police crime report. Additionally, Roseland saw 358 felony thefts in 2011 and the number rose to 434 in 2012. This year, the number of thefts dropped to 385.

Henry believes there is still impact to be made.

“I love my city. I really want to help my people,” he said. “When I think about killings, I get mad, but that just makes me want to go there more … so I can understand their situation. The media creates a misunderstanding that these people are just beasts, or animals. It’s wrong what they’re doing, but there is always an underlying reason.”

Danielle can be reached at [email protected].