"I can no longer be silent and work in the background on
the issue of violence. I must step out,
raise my voice
and take action.
I invite you to join me
in raising your voices
and taking the actions
that are necessary
to bring hope back
into our communities.
I invite you to join me
in working on the
action plan of hope—
the vaccine—that will inoculate us against
the disease of violence and usher in a
brighter, better future."
ARE YOU READY TO TAKE ACTION?
On September 24th, 16-year-old Fenger High School student Derrion Albert was beaten to death. This incident brought back vivid memories of my own son Ronald’s violent death and its aftermath—memories of seeing pictures of my son after he had been shot nine times, the victim of gun violence.
I have grieved for years in my lonely silence. Not marching, not speaking out, but trying to help young Black men in my own way. For, you see, I’ve had to walk the long halls of 26th and California for justice. And later, because the higher court overturned the perpetrator’s conviction, I walked those halls for one year for injustice.
Nevertheless, I write not about me, but the violence that is killing our families. I think not just about the children who die from the violence, but about all those young men and women who are incarcerated for their acts of violence. They too are dead—the living dead.
The victims and the perpetrators—they are victims of violence. But they are not the only ones. Their parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends and schoolmates are all victims. But the list does not end there. The community, the city, the nation, the world—these are victims, too.
I remember going to court when my son’s murderer was convicted. I looked into the face of the plaintiff’s mother and saw her deep sadness. I remember, also, the State’s Attorney calling to inform me that the higher court had just honored the plantiff’s appeal and ordered a retrial. I remember so vividly the verdict of not guilty by the judge at the end of that retrial. This time the mother’s face was happy, but tinged with uncertainty over her son’s future. I remember stopping and walking up to her. Her lawyer and her family became silent, thinking that I was going to cause an altercation of some kind. I said to her, “Take care of your son.” They just looked at me and I walked away not waiting for a response. That woman had the gift of another chance to help her son become a productive citizen. I no longer had this gift. An act of violence had stolen my son from me. I was left with memories. There are happy memories of Ronald’s life, of course. But there are also vivid and disturbing memories of his violent death. And there are vivid and disturbing memories of a broken court system that allowed my son’s murderer to go free.
Derrion’s mother and his family have embarked on the journey that every victim’s family must take. They, too, will walk those lonely halls at 26th and California. My heart goes out to them. But my heart also goes out to the youth and families of those who participated in Derrion’s beating.
They are all victims of the disease of violence which has infected our communities and our nation. It is a disease just as dangerous and lethal as the Swine Flu that currently threatens us. And the disease of violence is not just a threat. It is a disease that is already epidemic in our nation. Something must be done about this disease of violence.
As an individual, I don’t have the answer—and neither do you. However, by working together we can develop an action plan of hope. Together we can develop a plan that keeps our children alive and prepares them mentally, physically, spiritually, and educationally to be the productive citizens of tomorrow. This plan will act as a vaccine, protecting our young people, our communities, our cities, and our nation.
Mr. President: The violence in our communities is as dangerous as the violence in Iraq and Afghanistan. You have pulled together the brightest minds to develop strategies to deal with the violence overseas. You have also pulled together the brightest and best to develop strategies and vaccines to deal with the H1N1 virus threat. Now it’s time to tap the brightest minds to deal with the disease of violence that is infecting and threatening the United States.
Mr. Mayor: You have pulled together the brightest minds to ensure that Chicago gets 2016 Olympics. Now it is time to put the same type of energy into making sure our young people are safe.
Mr. Governor, the President of the Illinois Senate, and the President of the Illinois House: You are working with some of the best minds in Illinois to balance the state budget. Now it is time to strategize in order to bring balance and safety to our communities.
Community residents: It’s not enough to react to acts of violence after they occur. It is time for each and every one of us to get involved with the organizations that are working to stop the violence and bring hope to our communities.
Parents: It is not enough to love your children. You must monitor their actions and make sure they are productive in school and in life.
After many sleepless nights, I have decided that I can no longer be silent and work in the background on the issue of violence. I must step out, raise my voice and take action. I invite you to join me in raising your voices and taking the actions that are necessary to bring hope back into our communities. I invite you to join me in working on the action plan of hope—the vaccine—that will inoculate us against the disease of violence and usher in a brighter, better future.
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