You can't survive the gangs and streets of Chicago if you don't know the rules!
By Phillip Jackson
The Black Star Project
February 18, 2013
(This essay was greatly inspired by a radio documentary by Linda Lutton on WBEZ Radio in Chicago. Click Here and click on "Rules to Live By!")
With 513 people killed last year, do you know what it takes for a teenager to stay alive in Chicago? Most adults in Chicago or anywhere in America don't have a clue. Gangs are the defining social structure of too many Chicago schools and communities. There are no "neutrons" (youth who elect not to join gangs) anymore. You cannot simply "opt-out" or reject gang membership or affiliation.
If you live on that block, you are in that gang. If you travel with a small group for protection, you are in that gang. If you want to have friends, you are in that gang. If you want to play sports, you are in that gang. You are one of them. In previous years, adults could advise their children not to join gangs. But today, many youth in Chicago don't have that option. Today, youth don't join gangs--GANGS JOIN YOUTH!
In certain communities and at certain schools, being in a gang is like breathing air and drinking water--it is second nature. It is what you do to stay alive. In these communities, gangs, and their influence, are everywhere. You can't avoid them. Being in a gang is part of your address and part of your existence. "Where do you live?" And the answer is, "Hit Squad, J-Town, Hoodville, Low Block, Terror Town, Wild Wild 'Hunneds' (One Hundreds)," and everybody knows exactly of where you speak.
You are assigned a gang, clique, set, fraction, crew or mob if you live on a particular block or in a particular neighborhood, or attend a particular school. With this assignment, you can be shot for any reason-girls, money owed, insults, being off your block, historical retaliations, having the wrong friends-or for no reason at all. Some Chicago youth live in warzones more violent than Iraq or Afghanistan. For many, being in a gang has little or nothing to do with drugs or money: it has to do with staying alive!
Here are the rules for youth to stay alive in Chicago:
- Rule number one - Know your geography and who controls what block.
- Rule number two - Never walk alone.
- Rule number three - Never walk with someone.
- Rule number four - Never walk on the sidewalk.
- Rule number five - If they shoot, don't run.
- Rule number six - You can be shot for no reason.
- Rule number seven - Don't have any friends.
- Rule number eight - Never go outside.
No longer are there large, centrally-controlled gangs or charismatic gang leaders. Gangs in Chicago have devolved into small, fierce, well-armed fighting units that might only control one block, or half of that block, with schools and parks as preferred battlegrounds. This new structure is similar to warlord-headed tribes in violence-torn Third-World countries.
Young gang members, some 9 and 10 years old, don't like the police, are not afraid of the police and are not afraid to shoot the police. They are not afraid of being arrested and they are not afraid of dying. Many of them have no hope of living past 18 years and have no vision of a productive future life. Without intervention, they are dangerous to society--but society created them!
Workable solutions to transform these endangered youth into thriving, developing, 21st-century global citizens depend foremost on strong family structures to govern the values and morals of children. And, this critical family infrastructure, in many communities, needs bolstering. Workable solutions also call for light workers--the mentors who nurture, guide and direct children; the educators who teach children better ways to realize their full potential; the business leaders who help children navigate the new global ecology and economy; and the faith leaders who share spiritual values and life-lessons that inspire children.
Building critical family infrastructure and supporting these light workers will reduce youth violence, youth murders and youth-gang activity. Cities cannot police, arrest or incarcerate their way out of youth violence. The only chance of success for stopping youth violence in Chicago and across this country will require three new operating rules from us: 1) Declare families and children struggling to survive in economically bankrupt communities as assets; 2) Implement strong, community-driven, partnerships between families, light workers and government; and 3) Invest in resource-rich, action initiatives designed to address the scale of need.
Unless we change our rules as a city and a country, the rules that govern our children will continue to destroy them!
Please click here to listen to one of the most outstanding radio documentaries on gangs and violence in the United States by Linda Lutton from radio station WBEZ in Chicago.
Where Are the
Black Tiger Mamas
Who will do anything to
protect and educate their children?
They are meeting on
Thursday, February 21, 2013
at The Black Star Project
3509 South King Drive, Suite 2B
With two young Black girls being shot dead in the streets of metropolitan Chicago in the past three weeks, with 108 youth killed last year, with schools destroying the minds of Black children, with drug dealing being the only viable job for many young Black men...Where are the Black Tiger Mamas? Real Tiger Moms will do anything to protect, nurture and educate their children. Frances Newman is the Lead Black Tiger Mama and will lead the agenda on actions that Black Tiger Mamas can take to protect their children.