Chicago - 150+ children SHOT during school year

Violence in any form is disheartening especially when it involves our children. By now, most Americans should be aware of the frightening problem in Chicago, Illinois. For those here in Sweden and around Europe, the details of the happenings have not been as widespread.

A portion of the chilling article from Bob Herbert of the New York Times is below:

Right there, on South Manistee Avenue, is where a 7-year-old girl riding her scooter was shot in the head and critically injured a few weeks ago

And here, on East 92nd Street, is where a toddler, just 20 months old, was shot in the head and killed in the back seat of her father’s car.

During a meeting with about a dozen men and boys on Thursday, some of them violence outreach workers on the South Side, I asked for a show of hands. “How many of you have been shot?” I asked. Five raised their hands.

When I asked how many knew someone who had been shot and killed, they all raised their hands.

The crazed, almost apocalyptic violence that is destroying the lives of so many young men, women and children here and in other major cities across the country is a crisis crying out for national attention. But, so far, it’s been met mostly with a shrug.

Dozens of children school-aged and younger are murdered in Chicago every year. More than 150 have been shot (but not all of them killed) during the current school year.

This is occurring in a city that, in terms of its murder rate, is not even near the top of the list of most violent American cities. (In 2008, for example, Orlando, Fla., home of Disney World, had more murders per capita than Chicago.)

That we tolerate this incredible carnage, that there is not even much of a national outcry against it, is a measure of how sick our society has become.

“It’s so different now,” said Ester Stroud, a hospital worker who lives in Northwest Chicago. “When I was young, if a child was murdered, it was a big deal. Now, I’m sorry to say, it’s somewhat routine.”

Mrs. Stroud’s son, Isiah, a 16-year-old who dreamed of dancing professionally, was stabbed to death a few days before Christmas in 2008. He had just won a dance contest and was planning to use the prize money to buy presents. He never made it home from the contest.

I would think the most important question in a situation like this is - Who is helping to improve these heinous actions? The aforementioned columnist wrote a follow up article about a group whose mission has been successful in taming a horrific problem in Chicago. The unfortunate thing is that the group needs more money or its impact may be minimal at best.

These violent behaviors are learned,” said Dr. Slutkin. “They are largely formed by modeling, the almost unconscious copying of one another. And then they are maintained by the social pressure of peers. It becomes normal to reach for a gun.

“What happens is these guys have a grievance, just like everybody has a grievance. Most of it is interpersonal. It’s not so much gang-related or the stuff of television dramas. They’re shooting each other over things like, ‘He looked at my girl,’ ‘He disrespected me,’ ‘He cut in front of me in line,’ ‘He owed me money.’ And then, of course, there is the retaliation: ‘He shot my brother or my friend.’

“These grievances require that they shoot somebody, primarily because ‘my friends expect this of me.’ ”

With an organization that he formed in Chicago called CeaseFire, Dr. Slutkin has been trying to intervene in potentially violent situations to ward off tragic outcomes. Individuals who are most likely to be involved in violence, either as offenders or victims, are personally engaged, talked with, counseled, cajoled — whatever it takes to prevent bloodshed. Those who intervene know the streets firsthand, and in many cases are former gang members and convicts themselves.

Dr. Slutkin’s immediate goal is to stop the killing. Longer term, he wants to change the violent norms of big-city environments.

Funding for CeaseFire has been erratic, but its record has been impressive. The neighborhoods in which CeaseFire has deployed its cadre of “violence interrupters” and outreach workers have seen significant decreases in shootings and fatalities.

A study of CeaseFire’s efforts in Chicago by the U.S. Department of Justice found substantial reductions in homicides, ranging from 41 percent to 73 percent, in nearly all of the neighborhoods in which CeaseFire was operating.

With two of the world's most popular and influential figures (President Obama and Oprah Winfrey) having spent most of their lives in Chicago, maybe they can lead the effort to help raise donations for CeaseFire or similar forward thinking organizations.

If you are looking to give to a worthy cause, this organization is not only a good way to give back to the community but will also help to stem the growing tide of violence amongst children in Chicago.

If we ignore this problem, it wouldn't surprise me to see more communities across America being ravaged by these senseless acts of violence and murder.

Do what you can by giving yourself or spreading the word and encouraging others to give. I will be making a personal donation in 2010. The web link on how to contribute is below followed by the CeaseFire "Who We Are" web link:
Strengthen the Effort to Stop Killings
The Chicago Project for Violence Prevention

The Chicago Project for Violence Prevention is an umbrella organization with two primary goals:

1)  To work with community and government partners to reduce violence in all forms.

2)  To help design interventions to be included in a community or city anti-violence program.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

2007 - Gswede, Roland Williams and "American Basketball Coach" Steve Freeland spent an entire morning teaching a 5th grade class in Stockholm, Sweden.

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