West Side teen’s death affects many for years to come

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When Antonio Fenner was gunned down Jan. 26 on the West Side, he left behind a group of friends and four younger siblings.

It is those young people left to deal with his death who Tali Raviv, a staff psychologist at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago,  most worries about after a shooting like the one that killed 16-year-old Antonio.

They are the ones who are affected by the trauma, often in ways unseen by their parents and teachers, for the rest of their lives, she said.

“We know that the impact of trauma and violence exposure on youth is really huge. Part of the consequences of violence are not just for those teens and families affected, but for the community,” Raviv said.

Clarence Steen, Antonio’s stepfather, said he sees his children struggling with their older brother’s death, although he said the two boys, 7 and 9, try to act tough.

“My boys are dealing with it … They understand with all the talking, people been coming up to me and showing me sympathy, and they will holler out because they’re kids, ‘Yeah, ‘Tonio dead, he ain’t coming back no more, he ain’t coming back because he was shot,’” Steen said.

Raviv heads the community-linked mental health services at Children’s Hospital. She also does outreach in West Garfield Park – where Antonio died – and other Chicago neighborhoods by training school teachers, counselors and community members about the signs of traumatized children and ways to speak to them.

Without that adult support, she said, children who are exposed to violence are prone to becoming violent themselves.

“Very often the perpetrators of violence are also the victims of violence,” Raviv said. “When you look at the rates of people in the juvenile justice system who have trauma histories or who have been involved in the child welfare system, you really see how the system is creating this multi-generational violence loop.”

Steen sees that cycle of violence outside his front door.

“It’s just displaced anger in the neighborhood. Instead of going somewhere else like [Antonio did] and go play basketball or something like that and get the anger out, they pick up the gun or something like that,” Steen said.

One of the many groups that focuses on youth outreach on the West Side is Father’s Who Care, 4540 W. Washington Blvd.

Father’s Who Care hosts a monthly youth council, which allows West Side teens to express their concerns and hear from adults and mentors from within and outside the community. The group also hosts healing events after violence occurs in the area.

David Elam, 22, is president of the youth council and a West Side resident.

Elam came to Father’s Who Care through a mentorship and job training program sponsored by the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative he joined when he was a teen living in West Garfield Park. When he looks out at the children of the West Side, he sees a group in need of more adult intervention.

“We need to just keep them engaged,” Elam said. “We need to be on the youth the way we used to be on them. It’s discipline, and staying on them about the right things and wrong things to do.”

That sort of guidance and intervention could go a long way toward stopping the cycle of trauma and violence happening in too many communities, Raviv said.

“The angle on Hadiya Pendleton is really because she embodied so much of the promise of youth, but all of these youths should be viewed that way,” she said, referring to the the death of the 15-year-old honor student that’s received national attention.

“No matter what path they went down, they all were a life that had something to offer if we could have intervened sooner.”

Read more about Antonio’s case and how it compares to Hadiya’s.

This story is part of an ongoing collaboration between Columbia College Chicago and WBEZ (91.5 FM) tracking homicides in Chicago. The project is being funded by The Chicago Community Trust.

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