I look upon my people today with a great sense of concern and fear. The violence has taken a toll on my Black and Brown people in communities mostly on the South and West Sides of Chicago. I shake my head in disbelief as another victim is taken away to violence. The more troubling thing about this is that these victims are far too young and they are mostly Black and Brown men. Young men with potential. Young men with hope. Young men who could’ve changed the world for the greater good; but we will never know it because they were taken from us far too early.
I see the hurt in the families’ eyes; I see the hurt in the communities. However, this violence has hit our Black and Brown communities worse than a disease, worse than an epidemic; it has become a black hole. Black holes are never ending and so devastating that light itself cannot escape. Black holes swallow and destroy everything in its path and that’s exactly how the violence is working in our Black and Brown communities. Even people who are trying to make their lives better are plagued by others who have taken on a reckless lifestyle therefore endangering the lives of the good and decent. I fear that this will be a never-ending cycle that will consume and eventually destroy us. The devil is laughing at our self-destruction because he feeds off this type of madness and evil.
I experienced violence firsthand when I was 15 years-old. It was a warm May day and I was walking home from school down Marquette Street towards St. Lawrence Avenue. As I was walking, I saw a huge group of kids across the street holding bricks, sticks, and bottles. I was a good kid; I had no gang affiliations and I made it a point to avoid gangs because I knew what troubles could lie ahead for me. A girl who was part of the group ran across the street and told me to run. At that moment my life flashed before my eyes and the group rushed across the street and jumped me. I got punched in the face first which caused me to land on my left wrist and break it. Then I was stomped in the face one good time until somebody who was with the group stopped them. In the midst of my pain I was thinking "Why?" "Why me?" I was just walking down the street minding my own business and these kids attacked me for no reason at all. That moment taught me that some of our young Black kids lack heart and consciousness. There is a lot more than just the gun violence in our communities. The jumpings and beatings are also far too real and the Derrion Albert beating death exemplified the raw violence and terror our Black neighborhoods have succumbed to.
As I gradually approach college graduation next May, I will most likely be returning to Chicago. I will most likely be returning to fear. Most likely returning to despair and hopelessness. Most likely returning to the killing fields. Even more importantly I look at my younger family members; my nieces and my lone nephew and my cousins who are growing up in this environment as well. I pray to God that nothing happens to them that have happened to too many of our young Black and Brown children already; but many families have prayed also and tragedy still made its mark.
When I go back home (and yes, I will forever call it home because it is still a beautiful city), I want to do something about it. I want to stop talking about it and make a change for the good myself. Whether it’s volunteering at community centers or just genuinely saying a few encouraging words to somebody who may have lost their way, I want to help because I genuinely care. It’s hard to help five hours away from home. However, I think I may be finally starting to realize by calling in this world; what God has planned for me to do. And if this is it, God willing, I want to carry through on it. If everybody else in our Black and Brown communities loses hope I never will. There’s always light at the end of a dark tunnel. And I refuse to believe this unmerciful violence will continue to take its toll on our Black and Brown people.
Gregory McPherson is a 22-year-old resident of Chicago, Illinois. He is from the South Shore neighborhood.