Not everyone looks forward to summer

April 26, 2010
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Opinion

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Big, shiny, expensive and freshly waxed vehicles will flicker in the sunlight to the cadence of Jay Z, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj obnoxiously blaring from their speakers.

Adolescent girls will show off body parts that should remain exclusively for showers. They will parade around with babies joined at their hips while gossiping incessantly about their multiple sexual encounters. They will nonetheless affirm stereotypes of ignorance and misogyny while catering to the ill-natured misconceptions of black male masculinity.

And someone will die.

Summer is almost here.

Someone will die at the hands of a boy or man who was never taught how to love or express his concerns in more edifying ways. Someone will be a victim of heinous terrorism that rings at the blast of an assault rifle because of black and brown men’s frustration with society.

This deep identification with masochism interwoven with second-class citizenship will cause him to measure himself against the cloudy-white newness of Airforce One’s and pearly plain white T-shirts. He will crotch grab, spit, cuss and drink in the blaze of corner assembly — all before the police cuff him.

The police will patrol in search of someone “fitting the description”. They will probably hug their children a little harder before work in case they don’t make it home. Wives of these street soldiers in urban combat will increase the pleas in their prayers to bring him back safely.

Some of these officers will knowingly shoot first and ask questions later in fear of missing their families. Detectives will once again investigate murders and inform families of the deceased amid the scorching brimstones of hoods across America. Emergency sirens will pierce birthday celebrations and block parties, and mothers will make funeral arrangements.

Some mothers will unknowingly, before the summer is out, bury their sons. They will pick out a suit while his friends imprint his picture on a T-shirt. Funeral parlors will go into a peak season. Hospital emergency rooms will be littered with visitors of multiple families sharing in the same catastrophes.

Tears will fall, but life — the same happenings — will continue. This is the summer’s tale of the inner city. It is an almost exclusive occurrence where impoverished people struggle to ascertain the value of human life.

My summers in the Austin area of Chicago’s West Side were filled with this. I cannot celebrate the arrival of summer knowing that many of my brothers will die.

Sure, I will go to the annual Blues Festival in Grant Park, take in a movie at River East 21 and scour through my reading list, but I will not pretend as if these atrocities do not take their toll.

Newspapers will report on the most brutal occurrences; a local preacher will protest. But neither will offer solutions. Summer should symbolize the contrast of winter’s grasp, but the cause for celebration is often at the cost of lives for many black and Latino men.

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6 thoughts on “Not everyone looks forward to summer

  1. Good article! Appreciate your realness of the Chicago summer and the truthfulness of Chicago becoming the murder capitol of the United States.

  2. Your representation of Chicago is your truth but not accurate for all of Chicago and not even all of Austin. Where I live in Austin the streets are leafy, the yards are tended and the neighbors are friendly. I don’t worry about murders in my area although I am concerned about property theft. I drive the streets of the city and I love the neat houses all lined up and the manicured lawns. I love being close to downtown Oak Park and I take advantage of the resources there such as the library, parks, and shopping. We have community meetings where we discuss how to make our part of Austin a better place. I don’t want this article to be what people think of when they hear about our neighborhood because the article is not true for all the whole neighborhood.

    • Neal, I am glad that you live in a part of Austin that enjoys such plush landscapes. I am also enthused by the fact that you take pride in Austin. The picture I painted is a reality for other parts of Austin that do not share in the same quaint scenes. There are places in Austin where the reality of drugs and gangs engulf much of everyday life. This is the truth for many of people in Chicago and other inner cities across America. The fact that summer weather does mean a spike in violence does not over shadow the beautiful treasures that you described. I thank you for reading and taking time to respond. It is only through discussions like this that Austin can be a place everyone enjoys.

  3. I have lived in the Gladys-VanBuren townhouses for 40+ years and return home once a year to check on my daughter and mother who still live there. Year after year , my neighbors work hard at trying to keep thier property up. What is intensely sad and negative for me is the young men who hang around there change every year, they are most likely dead or in prison, the new faces are old , worn out and threatning. Now we are face with so called entrepreneur selling snow balls on the street, the streets drug dealers sit around staring at you when you leave, when you return, when you are working in your yard etc. day in day out. Upon asking for cameras in the area (alley way to the townhouses) they reply we need more neighbors to complain, the number of these drug dealers standing around, sitting around I guess count for nothing. My neighbors invest limited funds into improving thier property only to have these people dismantle it , throw garbage in the immediate street or on your lawn. Some even say Possibly the ones who rent Why bother? It is a small area holding on desperately and as someone noted before, once a month , or once a year meeting are useless. Some people are afraid to come out for personal journeys because the hoods stand and block your way . I had persons come over to speak on business and they march up and down as we talked, meanacing my contact and my self. WE MUST STAND UP AND BE UNITED. I am tired of hearing we live here so we have to sit it out. That SIT out will only make these people stronger. Listen they are coming in from out the neighborhood and eventually will be if not already threatning the school kids and anyone not willing to let them walk over the people there.

  4. Gloria, I do understand the frustration. I am thoroughly convinced that the police department does not really care about the concerns of us. I believe that mayor Daley only listens when its time to vote because most black people in Chicago only vote democratic. This changing of the young men that stand at the corner is part of a larger issue of society’s failed attempt to rehabilitate lost souls.

    If you are looking for a solution, I cannot give you one. I can say for certain that there will be a batch young men standing at that corner for a few more generations to come unless there is a collective confrontation toward the ills facing our community. We need better jobs, health care, quality education and more than words of hope from preachers in a pulpit.

    I don’t know if there is an immediate solution to your problem. It took a while to get to this point and very few people recognized the signs. Now that we are here it will take more than just a group of angry citizens to get us out of this problem.

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