Nearly a thousand public school students and officials marched yesterday in downtown Chicago to protest a plague of student deaths on the city’s south side. The rally began in response to the slaying of Chavez Clarke, 18, in the parking lot of the Simeon Career Academy. As the Chicago Tribune reports:
Violence has claimed the lives of the 22 district students so far this school year, 20 of them by gun violence, a tally that does not include dropouts such as Shannon Brown, a former Fenger High School student who died hours before the rally, after a shooting on the Far South Side.
Chanting “We want futures, not funerals,” and displaying sign that read “Don’t Shoot. I Want To Grow Up,” the high school students and public officials marched around the James R. Thompson Center, which houses state offices.
The victims are often underprivileged kids who have turned to neighborhood gangs to gain stability and security in their lives. Low income, inner city youths have few options beyond street lives.
Kandyce Dean, a Simeon 11th grader who said she was friends with Clarke, believes getting guns off the street is the first step police must take to keep them safe. But she added that students, especially gang members, need more options, including job training, after-school programs and counseling.
“It’s gang-related. These boys are losing their minds. They don’t have anything to fall back on. They just look toward the streets,” Dean said. “They just don’t care.”
The usual posturing occurred. A prominent South Side Reverend called for $5,000 bounty on the shooters. Chicago’s Mayor Richard M. Daley asked the students to call authorities when they see a gun. But the kids know whats needed:
Bayti Dowling-Brown, a 12th grader at Truman Middle College Alternative High School, … and said officials should work with parents to help them keep their children away from gangs and violence.
“Many of these gang members don’t have parents home 24-7. . . . Being in a gang, it’s safety. You have a group that is going to back you up,” she said.
Students also called on police to take a more active role. Many said they want more police at schools and more officers working to get gangs and guns off the street.
Who says inner city students don’t get an education?