Monday, June 05, 2006



Two years ago to the day, June 3, 2006, my 20-year-old nephew, Radames Rivera, was killed by gun violence. He left behind a grieving mother, my sister, Janet, a loving little brother, and countless uncles, cousins and other family relatives. I didn’t know my nephew very well because I met him late in life after discovering that I had another sister and brother. His death nonetheless affected me as if it had been my own child. Whom among us hasn’t feel a mother’s pain at the loss of a child.

Last Saturday morning, I participated in the Alliance of Logan Square Organization’S (A.L.S.O.) 11th Annual Walk for Peace in Chicago. Each year, this walk commemorates the lives lost to gun violence in various police districts in Chicago. As the walk wound through the streets where I once lived, across the streets where I drive through every day, and into the faces of the old residents and new yuppies who are oblivious and ignorant of the destruction occurring in this old vs. gentrifying neighborhood, I couldn’t help thinking about how sad it was that the 31 murder victims we were remembering were only a slice of the countless victims who were killed in our “beautiful” city in ONE YEAR, just a small portion of the numerous victims killed every year in our “great” nation. I repeat, 31 people, mostly children, were killed in just two police districts.

Homicide is the NUMBER ONE cause of death for Chicago residents between the ages of 1 and 34. Not disease, but homicide. In Illinois, homicide is the leading cause of death for Blacks between the ages of 15 and 34. Eighty percent of the killings in Chicago are the result of shootings. Most of the victims AND offenders in Chicago homicides are under the age of 30. Put that in your chamber of Commerce brochures Mayor Daley and Governor Blagovich when you're trying to attract businesses and new residents to our fair city and state. Think about that when you’re grappling with the city and state budgets.

I cried as my sister spoke of a mother’s pain, anger and hope. I prayed for all the mothers who have had to endure this unnecessary trauma. And I prayed that I would never feel such pain. I cried as the names of the victims were read one by one, as other children hung a ribboned nametag on a white cross. When the name of two-year-old Shyania Crittle was read, my heart almost gave out as I struggled to control my emotions.

What is the solution? Stricter parenting? Better schools? More money for social programs? Bigger police presence? God? I wish I knew. I do know that there is no one solution but a combination of all of the above can’t hurt – especially God.




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