Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Trying to combat a "Legacy of Violence"

Yesterday I wrote about Dawn Turner Trice's article that was featured Monday in the Chicago Tribune and the comments section where Dan Bassill and I both posted comments. In today's edition of the Chicago Tribune, Mary Schmich writes about the shooting death of Dantrell Davis that Dan has written about several times in his blog. In it, Ms. Schmich talks about how students at Jenner Academy, where a good majority of our 7th and 8th graders attend school, commemorated the shooting death of a little boy 16 years ago. At the end, Ms. Schmich interviews the local Alderman, Walter Burnetts, who was raised in Cabrini Green. She asks "if he thinks a 7-year-old black child is safer in Chicago now than when Dantrell Davis was shot to death." Alderman Burnett's response "No . . . I don't."

This is the reality that we are working against. Cabrini Connections essentially started in the wake of the aftermath of Dantrell Davis's shooting. Many positive things have occurred here at Cabrini Connections, dozens of kids from Cabrini Connections have grown up, gone to college, and have gotten jobs. But we can only help so many kids and there are still way too many who are joining gangs, becoming addicted to drugs, getting pregnant while still a teen, going to jail, and dying way too soon. I appreciate both Ms. Turner Trice's and Ms. Schmich's efforts to raise awareness about how too many of these kids are falling through the cracks. They are asking tough questions that deserve tough answers. However, they aren't highlighting enough the role tutoring and mentoring programs can impact these communities where children are dying.

As a followup to my earlier blog post, Ms. Turner Trice pointed out that the media's main focus is on the economic crisis. There is a good reason for it, but the media isn't exploring all the different ways that people are going to be impacted. The only mention I've seen of how non-profits are going to be impacted in the local media has been in the Chicago Reader, where they highlighted the difficulty of arts non-profits to get money in tough economic times. If the media were really wanting to make a difference, they should encourage people to donate to non-profits that serve these communities because these communities are being hit the hardest right now.

On a positive note, the New York Times has highlighted the efforts of the Denver Broncos football team to be mentors and work with at-risk youth. Their Coach, Mike Shanahan has done a commendable job of encouraging his players to serve their communities - especially those players who have had run-ins with the law themselves. Does anybody know if the Chicago Bears do similar community work and if so, why haven't we hear about it. Just a thought.

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