Diary Of A Mad Black Teacher

April 15, 2012


By Marilyn Rhames
March 7, 2012 

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Somebody just tried to kill my little sister! Like most of us, she works hard to put food on the table. She has a son and daughter, both still in diapers. She has a mortgage, student loans, and a greedy little dog named Sir. Everyday she pounds the pavement in and around Chicago, trying to make a living doing real estate.

At 9:45 a.m. last Friday, she found herself parked on a residential block in the city’s notorious Roseland neighborhood on the far South Side. Having just wrapped up a phone call, she put her hand on the door handle to get out of her car. That’s when all hell broke loose.

A car pulled up in the middle of the street, just in front of her. Two guys in black hoodies and masks jumped out, guns drawn. She watched a young man, who she later learned was 26, come out of a house. Seeing the gunned men, he immediately began to run, but there was nowhere for him to go except down the gangway of the house. It turned out to be a tunnel of death. The men sprayed him with bullets.

Then they saw her, my baby sister who had absolutely nothing to do with any of this. Now looking into the barrel of a gun, she flipped her car in reverse and sped down the street backwards, praying and hiding below the steering wheel. Her 2004 Mercedes-Benz was her shield, her bulletproof vest. It took the six rounds on her behalf, busting up its radiator and air conditioning unit. Miraculously, she didn’t crash the car into anything or anyone in her escape.

The police told my sister that the Roseland community is a war zone. That the young man who was murdered had drugs in his pocket, and he was most likely killed over it. They cautioned that the killers might never be caught, that they see this everyday. They marveled that she wasn’t dead, too.

She told me that she was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I corrected her using the words of Father Michael Pfleger, an outspoken Catholic priest who is leading the charge against gun violence in Chicago’s poor black and Latino neighborhoods. “Don’t ever say you were at the wrong place at the wrong time,” I said, paraphrasing his words. “You did nothing wrong. The shooters were at the wrong place at the wrong time!”

This is my diary, the diary of a mad black teacher. I am hurt. I am frustrated. I AM ANGRY! It was my sister last week, but it could be me the next. Worse, it could be my own child. It’s common for school children to get gunned down while playing on their block, so many parents force them to stay indoors. I came to work on Monday wondering which one of my students has to live in fear of getting shot in their neighborhoods. The answer is most of them.

I remember hearing gunshots from outside my classroom window when I taught at a school in Englewood, another dangerous Chicago neighborhood. It seemed that the thugs purposely waited until dismissal to start shooting. What a horrible chaotic sight it was to see hordes of students running down the street in a panic trying to get back into the locked school building.

I am mad that a few years ago a man was shot across the street from that school in the morning. He ran, bleeding, across the school’s playground where all the children were playing and then collapsed in the neighboring vacant lot. This is how the kids started their school day.

I am mad that almost every weekend, one of my former students’ relatives or friends had gotten shot.

And I am mad that one of our eighth grade students was arrested and charged with murder at that school.

Pastor Corey Brooks took the radical step of camping out on the top of a vacant motel for 94 winter days in Chicago to raise awareness of the violence epidemic and to raise funds to build a community center on the site. From Nov. 23 to Feb. 24, he braved the cold weather on the roof, coming down only twice to eulogize two young black men at his church across the street from the motel. Movie mogul Tyler Perry gave Pastor Brooks the last $100,000 he needed to come off the roof and buy the property.

I am thinking. I am praying. What can I do to help stop the violence? The marches don’t seem to work. The makeshift memorials with candles and teddy bears make me sick to my stomach. I am open to your ideas.

I am just grateful that I got to hug my sister, kiss her cheek, and tell her that I loved her—and that she was able to hug me back. Too often it’s just a one-way conversation.

12 Responses to Diary Of A Mad Black Teacher

  1. Cyrus Dowlatshahi on April 16, 2012 at 3:36 am

    Powerful and well-written. I wish I had an answer for the author: what can I do to help stop the violence?

  2. Brian Stanley on April 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    I too share in the frustration that plagues are community.

    Last spring, one of my former students was shot to death as he was heading home about 10:30 in the morning.

    Last summer, one of my students was shot in the head at point blank range while on his way to summer school at 9:20 in the morning.

    Two weeks ago, another one of my former students was killed in Gary, Indiana in a robbery.

    The marches don’t work. The vigules, don’t work. I believe it takes the leadaership of our Mayor, school and community leaders as well as the many people who make up our neighborhoods. Also, the music that our young people are inundated with on Power 92.3FM and WGCI 107.5 encourages, drug dealing, stripping, sex, making fast money…if that’s what they hear and then walk out of the school buildings and into their communities to see; that’s what many of them without 100% grounding in Education and the history of our people will gravitate too.

    Long gone are the days when someone had a fight and it was over after someone had gotten the best of another. Our fights in our school now lead to devestating consequences. I was just told of a family fight over the weeekend.

    I wonder, I just have to wonder…what other groups are saying about our people?

  3. Gwendolyn Hicks on April 16, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Chicago is not the only battle zone. Baltimore is also. As a Professional School Cousnelor, I have buried more male students than I care to remember. I have tailored my guidance lessons to character education with a little history thrown in to give my students a perspective that us killing us is now a psychological form of slavery that we now perpetrate among ourselves. I work constantly to expose our students to what they may encounter as persons of color and I use every example of students whose funerals I have attended to drive home the point. In some cases, it has been effective but this generation feels that as adults, we have abandoned them. We are more focused on fashion and fads then working to afford them a better education or more exposure to life’s lessons. Parents work to provide a roof, food and fashion but ask them to pay for a tutor or other academic enhancements, they cry broke. To often I see cases of self-loathing and we attempt to develop a lesson to engage our students in esteem building exercises but we miss the mark because we are not focused on what is relevant to them, what is germane to where they are now and what they feel their priorities are. I cry inside when I hear about drug-related killings, profiling deaths (Tayvon Martin), and severe bullying incidents. How do we as adults serve this generation when we can’t even get ourselves together to adequatley rear (raise) our children to believe that they are more than fashion,tech toys,or gangs of youths to strike terror in others? Aren’t we responsible for closely monitoring what our schildren do and who they associate with or are we allowing them to raise themselves? Can we be so invested in self gratification that we lose sight of our role as parents or do we feel so isolated that we forego the “village concept of child rearing”? As educators, we are partially responsible for being a part of this village however, we encounter parents that want us to raise but not discipline or give consequences to their child if this child exhibits inappropriate behaviors. Usually, these are the children that grow up to become adults with no sense of humanity or civility. I pray for them, we all need to pray for them as well as the young men who shot at your sister.

  4. theda everett on April 16, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Start organizing young men to write letters to Congress. Air their concerns
    by the hundreds whether they think it is helping or not. Try to xerox and
    archive each and every letter under any assumed name they want to use. Ask them to have Congress and the DOJ coordinate more openly with police departments. And try to get churches to organize more family reunions. Family reunion, according to The Wall Street Journal, was at one time worth
    billions each year of business from the black community. That was about ten
    years ago. If churches do this, they can funnel a lot of the work to recent
    male high school grads. The girls will naturally apply!

  5. Irvin on April 16, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    The church and members must get involved more. We need to praise God but work in our communities together. Walk the streets. Do drive by prayer with several cars following each other.

  6. Wil Richardson on April 16, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Violence prevention is a difficult task in which divine help is needed. I suggest that you pray to God and ask for guidance. I believe children who have hope for the future are less inclined to engage in violent destructive behavoir. Our school district recently had a career fair which hopefully provided our students with a vision of what they could become with proper goal setting and training. Also, we need to do more to instill some common core values ( Thou shalt not Kill, Thou Shalt not steal, Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you, etc.). I can think of no better way of instilling these values than displaying them in the home and reinforcing them in the church. Furhtermore, a child that has a strong relationship with God is never hopeless.

  7. jerjorju on April 17, 2012 at 6:51 am

    I can’t think of what to say. I am just shaken by your story and that of Bryan Stanley.

  8. Gee on April 17, 2012 at 4:46 pm

    When our Men take the time to walk the streets in our community, and stand up to these young boys, and tell them how to be a man. When woman walk down the street, and groups of our men are standing and leaning on cars, buildings, lightpoles, etc. no respect, will not move, and all the liquor stores open up in the poorest neighborhood. Where the lottery is like a bank, the only difference is we put so much money into it, and it’s one chance in 100,000,000.00 that we will win. while we are trying to get rich on the lottery, take that $1,5,10,20,50,100, and start a bank in the hood where we can borrown from our own banks. Now everyone wants to get in on the debt card trade, Why because tne majority of blacks will not put, and do not have bank accounts. So now this new market come to get our money another way. Wake up men, and know that it is time for a real change, not for Obama, or Rommney, but a change for you. Take back: YOUR LIFE, YOUR FAMILY LIFE, AND LOCATE ANY LOST FAMILY, AND PRAY FOR,AND WALK FOR PEACE IN THE HOOD. I DARE YOU TO TAKE A STAND FOR FREEDOM OF FAMILY, IN YOUR COMMUNITY… We wonder why our older men walk pass really fast, with their heads down. The churches won’t come out in the field, and the field players will not go into the churches. Just remember what Jesus said: I hope it get this correct, The foxes have holes,the birds have a nest, but the Son of God has no place to rest… MEN… REAL MEN COME OUT, AND TAKE BACK YOUR FAMILIES, DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE PRISON SYSTEM HAVE THEM, WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE ANYMORE CONTROL, SLAVERY IS THE NEW PRIVIATE PRISON WHERE YOUR FAMILY WILL NOT RETURN.

  9. Andre Ellis on April 17, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    “Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish…This is a prescription for economic decline…” Barack Obama- President of the United States.

    From the desk of Andrew Holmes, Director of “Communities Against Guns and Violence”

    Liberty High School provides vital assistance to those who wish to change their lives dramatically by completing their high school education, and indispensable leading- edge life and job skills training to qualify for higher education and improved job and career opportunities.

    We know that most people who dropped out of high school earlier in life would jump at a second chance to earn their high school diploma.

    The sad reality is that some people, no matter how motivated they are, simply don’t have the financial resources to meet the payment terms of legitimate distance learning high schools. So they do nothing…and nothing changes… or they enroll in low-cost bogus programs and totally waste their time, energy and money.

    Because the fundamental drive behind “Communities Against Guns and Violence” is to create personal and social value, stop the violence and prevent crime. We are having a

    High School Diploma Drive. Held at St. Sabina Church 1210 W. 78 th St. Date: Saturday May 5 th , 2012 Time: 11:00am until 2:30pm

    Vendors Welcome (registration required)

    If you, a family member, a friend or a client is 18 or older and in need of a High School diploma, ” there is a second chance and your goals can be reached ”.

    we want to see you there.
    For more info Call 773-994-1244

    Look forward to building effective coalitions for a Better Educated America


    Andrew Holmes, Director

    Communities Against Guns and Violence

  10. Tracy on April 18, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    It’s hurtful, it’s digusting and at one point it was unbelievable – now it’s become apart of the norm. I am 32 and was born and raised on the south-side of Chicago. It seems like then it was gang wars over territory, now it seems like they almost shoot for fun. I wouldn’t know where to start. I try and speak to the fellas in the hoodies, with pants saggin’ maybe even smokin’, because sometimes they just need direction. Not blaming this epidemic on fathers not be present in the homes, but I can’t tell you how many times I got a confused look just b/c I said hi! I saw them, I recognized them, and their hard looks didn’t scare me. I wonder how those same boys would have turned out if they simply had direction.

    Stumped on a Solution

  11. Loretta Graham on April 19, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Prayer in schools in one answer. The Creator of life, has been silenced by His creation, we have no respect for God, no love for one another.

  12. Alie Rhodes on April 21, 2012 at 5:40 am

    It starts with the parents and continues with education.Parents seem to have just given up and so have the teachers and everyone else in the community.

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