Violence in Chicago has been the subject of national discourse for over a year. The number of homicides in the city in 2012, 508, stunned people across the nation. How could so much tragedy take place in a world-class city? In the home of a sitting president?
Despite the national headlines the increased interest due to the Obama connection and the relatively new 24-hour news cycle, 2012 was not a record year for murders in Chicago. The final count of 508 homicides is a marked increase from 2011, which saw 435 killings. But did you know that there were 513 murders in 2008? 601 murders in 2003? What about the 704 people killed in 1998? How about the 931 victims in 1994? The city’s all-time high of 970 killings was in 1974.
I cite those figures not to dismiss the significance the recent spike in murders, but to make it clear that those of us who are from Chicago know this violence all too well. It is tragic, heartbreaking, maddening—but not at all new.
Black death and Black pain are far too familiar to the city of Chicago, a city that should not be viewed through the lens of tragedy. A city founded by a Black man, John Baptiste Point du Sable. A city that has cultivated Black icons and Black excellence, from Lou Rawls to Derrick Rose, Gwendolyn Brooks to Jennifer Hudson. From Harold Washington to Common, Lorraine Hansberry to Michelle Obama. Chairman Fred Hampton, Nat King Cole, Redd Foxx and the list goes on…
In fact, it was in Chicago where a young Arkansas transplant by the name of John H. Johnson became one of the most successful Black men in history with the founding of the Johnson Publishing Company. For EBONY, Chicago is and will always be home.
And for far too long, our home has been in peril.
Just today, a six-month-old baby died as a result of gunshot wounds she sustained when an unknown shooter fired into the car where her father was changing her diaper. What kind of world do we live in where even the youngest of lives are not safe from this sort of attack?
Gun control advocates point to Chicago as evidence that stricter laws are needed to keep guns off the street. Gun rights activists counter that the state of Illinois has very tight possession laws and that most of the firearms used in these crimes have been obtained illegally. Some folks blame the tragedies in Chicago on fatherlessness, while other cite poverty as the greatest catalyst. In reality, this is not a 140-character problem. There are many causes for these tragedies and many challenges facing our people in Chicago. And without understanding them, solutions will remain elusive.
For that reason, we have created ENOUGH: Chicago and the Tragedy of Urban Violence, EBONY.com’s latest series. Launching on Wednesday, March 13, ENOUGH will examine the factors contributing to the crisis in Chicago—educational disparities, unemployment, the ever-shifting gang culture, mental health issues, etc. We will talk to survivors and those who have lost loved ones, while also exploring the other violent crimes taking place in our hometown that don’t garner the same level of attention as the homicide rate. We’ll take a look at just where the violence is taking place and how so many guns make their way on to Chicago’s streets. ENOUGH will also highlight the activists who are working to make things better. And yes, we will discuss solutions.
Chicago is not "Chi-raq." We can't own or embrace that. Our city is an epicenter of Black culture and Black life. It is a reflection of our people not just in the Midwest, but across the country. Chicago is home and it is time to say “ENOUGH."
-Jamilah Lemieux, News and Lifestyle Editor, EBONY.com
#ENOUGH Stories to Date (this list will be updated weekly):
- Public Education: The New Civil Rights Struggle
- Black Students Overwhelmingly Affected by Chicago Public Schools' Proposed Closures
- Chicago Students Face Massive School Closures (ED: The number of proposed closures went from 10 to 54 in the days after the previous article was published.)
- Black Star Project Hosts "Educate Or Die" College Fair
- Father Michael Pfleger on Bringing Jobs, Hope to the 'Hood
- SAFE STREETS: Community Leaders Focus on Collaboration
- Why Doesn't America Care About Dead Black Children?
- Chicago's Gang Culture Remixed
- Black Girls: Caught in the Crossfire
- Babies Should Have Birthdays, Not Wakes
- Homegoing for Jonylah Emani Watkins
- Mental Health Disparities Endanger Chicago's Youth
- A Teen Hero Speaks
- 'People Can Stop the Violence if They Want To'
- 'I've Witnessed A Lot'
- 'Blair Holt: Gone But Never Forgotten'
- 'He Told Me Goodbye and He Died'