Austin congressman says reducing poverty best way to reduce violence

April 14, 2017
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Last weekend, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and other West Side officials held a press conference lamenting yet another shooting, this one outside a store just steps away from the busy Central El stop in Austin.

A 24-year-old man was shot to death and five others injured, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. That brings the total number of killings so far this year in Austin to 20, according to Chicago Tribune data. (There were 88 homicides in 2016.)

What is needed in Austin and other neighborhoods rocked by violence is simple, the congressman said a few days after the press conference.

“What they need is to reduce poverty, not another press conference,” Davis said Tuesday at a City Club of Chicago lunch at which he was the featured speaker.

“If you don’t do anything about (people’s needs), it’s like trying to get blood from a turnip.”

Quoting one of his heroes, Frederick Douglass, David said, “If you don’t pay one way, you will pay another way.”

And that’s the reality, the longtime Austin lawmaker said: If we don’t find a way to reduce poverty, the violence will continue.

Davis said as he travels around downtown Chicago, the fellows with him sometimes count the number of black people they see. They don’t see many, yet that’s where all the jobs are, Davis said. Too many young black men don’t have a job Downtown or anywhere else in Chicago, too many are shooting each other, he said.

“We cannot afford to throw up our hands,“ he said. “Somehow or another, I don’t know how we do it, somehow or another, we have to figure out a way.”

The congressman thanked the audience for their support after the recent and unexpected death of his 47-year-old son Stacey Wilson. Wilson died just a few months after Javon Wilson, his 15-year-old son (and Davis’ grandson), was shot to death in Englewood.

In November, as the family was preparing for Javon’s funeral, the congressman publicly offered his support of the teens facing first-degree murder charges in his grandson’s death.

“I had said I had as much feeling and empathy for the kids who pulled the trigger because they were going to miss Thanksgiving dinner with their families, their families were going to experience pain and frustration.”

Shortly after Javon’s funeral, Davis said he and his son were in the car together, and his son turned to him and asked if he really meant what he had said.

“Yes, Stacey, I did mean it. And I mean it because we can’t just be concerned about ourselves. We have to be concerned about the world.”

Each of us is inexplicably bound, just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told us, Davis said.

He told the City Club audience that everyone has a decision to make: “Am I helping to shape and mold, or am I following along with society, knowing that the decisions we make are not those that are going to make the world a better place in which to live.”

During Tuesday’s City Club appearance, Davis touched on other topics, including:

* The presidential election: He said if just a few million dollars more had been spent in Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Detroit, the outcome could have been different. “Had we shifted $3 or $4 million . . . then in all likelihood we would be talking about President Clinton and not President Trump.”

* Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal to require all CPS seniors to show they have a plan for post-graduation: While not directly criticizing the idea, Davis simply said, “Of course, you also have to have a school.”

The challenge facing Democrats: “We need young Democrats. Chicago has very few young Democrats, and we need to help people understand that politics is about more than you scratch my back and I scratch yours.”

 

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