Panel discusses methods to prevent violence in Chicago

Hadiya Pendleton had just taken her final exams at King College Prep High School in Chicago. Earlier that week, she had performed at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration with her high school marching band. She was spending time with her friends in Harsh Park when she was shot and killed earlier this year.

Chicago recently surpassed New York in homicides and was named the new murder capital of America, according to statistics released by the FBI.

The National Association of Black Journalists hosted City on the Brink: A Closer Look at Inner City Gun Violence to bring to light the violence that is occurring in Chicago and what changes can be made to make the city safer. 

There was a panel discussion with seven prominent figures from Chicago who are working to make these changes, including Hadiya’s father, Nathaniel Pendleton.

The event began with a presentation from photojournalist Mike Locashio from ABC-7 Chicago. It highlighted last week’s mass shooting in Chicago that left 13 people injured, including a 3-year-old boy.

“It’s a story we’re, unfortunately, used to covering on a daily basis, and it doesn’t change,” Locashio said.

There was also a discussion about the media’s portrayal of gun violence. Evelyn Holmes, a reporter for ABC-7 Chicago, said reporters are quick to jump to conclusions.

“Black kid, black neighborhood, obviously it must be gang related,” Holmes said. “The first question reporters ask is ‘was he in a gang?’ and that drives me nuts.”

Shango Johnson works with CeaseFire Englewood, a violence prevention program for the youth in the community. He explained that many types of crimes go unreported.

“The ones that are victimized that don’t get shot or killed don’t get any attention at all,” Johnson said.

Johnson was concerned that no one had taken the time or effort to walk around communities like Englewood, which has the highest crime rate in Chicago, to talk to the people who experience this violence on a daily basis.

The panel also addressed the impact that social media and music have on violence. Virgol Hawkins, CEO of AON Center for Community Arts and Development, explained why he believes Chief Keef’s term “Chiraq”, coined to describe the violence in Chicago, had been glorified by rappers and the younger population in the city.

“Our area is infected with post-traumatic stress, and the only way our kids can get out is through rap,” Hawkins said. “They’re only speaking with the knowledge they have.”

Hawkins said the community must work together to educate Chicago’s youth so they will begin to change the way they speak.

The panel went to great lengths to discuss changes that can be made by community organizations, politicians and the people in the communities.

“A lot of young people feel like they’re invisible, and that’s why they act out in front of us,” said Alderman Walter Burnett, 27th Ward. “We just need to let them know that we care.”

Holt encourages University students to make a change by starting anti-violence community organizations and transferring those changes to Chicago. 

“You are the young and the educated,” Holt said. “You are the bridge.”

Taylor can be reached at [email protected]