Chicago Police Have Made Young Black Men “Enemies of the State”
On Friday of last week, as a woman was coming out of the neighborhood Bronzeville Starbucks, gunshots were fired. Two people were shot. The older woman, a city employee, died. The younger man, who worked at a sandwich shop, was coming from a bank where he cashed his check for working the past two weeks.
Multiple media outlets announced that the young man was “a documented gang member referred to his job by The Black Star Project (TBSP).” It was also announced that the woman was killed in a “crossfire”. Someone is caught in a crossfire when they come between two or more people shooting at each other. There was no crossfire; only two victims shot by one gunman. Why did the police and the media widely, inaccurately report a “crossfire”?
While I do not know the older woman, I do know that no one’s life should ever end that way. I hope that whoever did this will be quickly arrested, tried, convicted and appropriately punished for this horrendous, heinous crime. I personally know the young man who was shot. He was a former mentee in The Black Star Project’s mentoring program. He is like so many of the thousands of young men The Black Star Project has worked with for more than 20 years.
He was young, quiet, and desperately seeking a path to success. TBSP showed him that path to success and put him on it! We introduced him to a local sandwich shop that needed help. He earned a part-time job, and then a full-time job, and he became very successful in the world of work. Unfortunately, the program that he benefitted from was not refunded, which eliminated the same opportunities for so many other young Black men, possibly even the shooter in this case.
Does TBSP work with gang members and work to get gang members out of gangs so they can live positive, productive lives? We proudly say, yes we do! The employer for this young man said about his gang involvement, “Maybe when he was 15 or something. He is a great guy! He never missed a shift (in 3 plus years), and he was always picking up shifts for other people. We never had anyone coming into the store looking for him or anything, or any problems at all. He is just a nice guy.”
A Black woman who knew the female victim told me that before she heard all of these good things about the young Black male victim, she wished that he had been killed instead of the woman. Because of faulty police reporting and lazy journalism, are there others who might wish him dead or might act on their feelings?
At the very precise hour that these shootings took place, across the street in police headquarters, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson boasted of his success at taking gang members off the streets. No doubt he was a little angry that his press conference was interrupted by this real-time shooting so nearby.
Chicago police officials claim to have a list of documented gang members. I want to see that list. How many young Black men who have changed their lives for the better remain on that list? How long does a young Black man’s name stay on this list and what besides death, are the criteria for getting off the gang-member list? Am I on that list? In fact, the young man shot could have been the victim of a robbery or retaliation for rejecting gang membership! But because he is a young Black man with some issues maybe 4 or 5 years ago, he was on the city’s active list of documented gang members.
The Black Star Project has been accused of working hard to save young Black men, to educate young Black men, to help them become good fathers and setting them on track to live positive, productive lives. We are guilty as charged with much success! The Chicago Police Department has been accused of killing young Black men, destroying their young lives, stigmatizing them and demonizing them! Are they, too, guilty as charged? Superintendent Johnson owes the young man, his family, the Black community and the city of Chicago an apology. All young Black men are not enemies of the state! We are waiting for Superintendent Johnson’s apology.
Founder and Executive Director
The Black Star Project
3509 South King Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60653
May 23, 2016