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By: Lawrence Wilks-Roger for The Youth Project
I am a young black man from the Southeast Side of Chicago, and I want to express my views about Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old boy who was shot 16 times. The dash cam video of his death was released last night, but it took a whole a whole year.
Nearly every news headline I see is about a young unarmed African-American male being gunned down by a white police officer. I am sorry it has to be black and white, but that’s what it is — a racial standoff — and it speaks volumes about the problems in Chicago and this nation and the need to do something, anything, to rectify it.
Living as an African American in a middle class urban community, I’ve seen my share of heinous and unjust things. But this killing — 16 shots — and others like it has to end. It’s the same cycle perpetuated, and no matter what we do, it seems we can’t stop it. And dialing 911 won’t fix this problem.
The police are sometimes so neglectful of my community’s actual needs. Officers too often toss cases that matter to my neighbors.
I hate that it has to be that way and how black lives don’t seem to matter.
Some people call my city Chi-raq. There are some who want to call this place home. Others want out through schooling, opportunity, but time and time again that fails. The Chicago public school system is suffering because the education is mediocre, its finances are in disarray
In Chicago, we have neglected our communities and ultimately our children. The mayor and state policymakers simply haven’t done enough to support young people. We are so disadvantaged, yet could, with the right tools and the amplification of our voice, achieve so much more.
I look at where I grew up and where I’ve been in Chicago, and it scares me that very little productive or beneficial is being done for our youth. If you put a youth center in neighborhoods with a high violence rate, gave the young people something to do — tutoring programs, workshops or even job placements — I can guarantee there wouldn’t be as much criminal activity. I just want to help out in any way.
Somewhere inside me, I’m hoping this gets read, that it resonates and causes anger, or better yet that it inspires hope. Hope that the thoughts of a young man of color could reach the mayor’s office or the governor’s mansion in Springfield, and beyond. One person, one community, one city, can’t face these problems on their own.
I would like to see a figure or even a group to guide the youth and sit down with them to show them that there’s more to life than the streets and crooked police.
Lawrence Wilks-Roger is 18 years-old from the South Calumet neighborhood in the south side of Chicago. He studies digital film and video the Illinois Art Institute – Chicago.
This story was originally published by The Youth Project, part of Chicago-based The News Lab.