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I used to watch the sunrise while perched on a metal bin at Chicago and Lavergne avenues. Empty alcohol bottles littered the sidewalks, huge white birds picked away at any leftover food lying in the streets, and an occasional wino or prostitute passed through. I sat there as cars whizzed by and the sun peaked over the skyline of downtown Chicago. For a few moments, there was hope in the midst of a brand new day.
The future seems to grow dim with each new generation.
Black rage replaces the black pride of the 1960s. Black and Latino youth grow more and more careless, unafraid of the consequences for their actions. The murder rate is steady, and many elected officials from outside of the community place blame while offering theoretical solutions.
So, at first notice of State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (D-8th district) and Rep. John Fritchey’s (D-11th district) call for the National Guard to assist the police, I was livid. The 8th district includes Austin, Oak Park, Forest Park, North Riverside, Proviso Township and Berwyn. I only thought about the negative consequences and repercussions to declaring martial law. My sister and I considered several scenarios.
We discussed the possibility of a complete ceasefire between the gangs where the troops become the focus of fury. What if the troops mistakenly shoot an unarmed man or child? We went so far as to ponder the mental ramifications stemming from these troops being on domestic soil, many of them joining the military to escape the nightmares of the same ghetto they would be deployed to combat. I wanted to compose an open letter deploring this appeal to Gov. Quinn, but on further review, I digressed.
Only a small percentage of people who make it out of the ghetto of Austin return to do courageous things.
I don’t know him, but I pass by his office almost everyday. State Rep. Ford’s office sits at Chicago and Leclaire Avenues, the same corner where he once lived and one block away from my morning sunrises. I’ll spare you the bio, but he is no stranger to poverty and hard work. He remains in constant battle over various legislation that benefit Austin residents. He is an entrepreneur, his job fairs draw hundreds, he continues to advocate for a new Austin High School and he runs on the platform of social justice.
The call for troops may not have been the most agreeable speech in dealing with the violence in Chicago streets, but ears are listening and other elected officials are talking. A national spotlight once again shines on this neighborhood. The focus of another bloody Chicago summer remains among the top priorities on agendas.
Today, I managed to once again see the sunrise on an Austin corner and I still felt the same hope. I believe State Rep. Ford feels it also. We all are hoping for a new day.