I walk out the door, into the street.
Five or six young men are leaning against cars and a tall metal house-gate they all face toward a tree, around which candles, posters and flowers rest. Most candles, including the three my friends and I left last nice are long burned-out. I wonder if the young mens’ eyes are red from lack of sleep or crying.
In an attempt not to interrupt, I walk on the grass as I pass.
“Is this your car,” one boy asks me, thinking the car he leans on is my off-center destination.
“No, you’re fine.”
“Why you walk around like that?” a young man questions, from across the sidewalk.
“I didn’t want to interrupt….I’m really sorry about your friend.”
I stare at the picture of their murdered friend. Probably a couple of years younger than me, black, dreadlocks, smiling….I don’t know more to the story. Just that he died because of gang violence and a couple of his friends were also shot.
“Where you going,” the young man snaps me into the present.
“Starbucks?” He prompts
“No, I’m going to class.”
He mumbles something I can’t distinguish.
“Down the street?”
“No, downtown, National Louis.”
“So you’re taking the train, what stop you getting off at?”
“I’m going South…It’s in the loop.”
“I guess that’s where all the tall buildings are,” he says, shrugging. “What’s your name?”
“Lily. What’s yours?”
“You can call me T.”
“Nice to meet you T, who are your friends?”
A couple tell me what they go by, another couple have earphones in their ears and do not answer.
I wonder how long they’ll stand there. How long they’ve been in their gang. If they’re afraid. If they’re angry.
I wonder why I didn’t simply say “good morning,” as I walked by.
Artificial barriers–the unknown, fear, lack of education on all sides.
As I walk toward the L, T calls after me. “I like your purple shirt.”
Walking from the L (Chicago metro) toward home— a friend’s apartment where I’m staying this week— I immediately notice two police officers quietly conversing on our street corner.
Crossing the street, I see the road leading to Dylan apartment is blocked off with cones and yellow plastic. I remember the curious text she sent me before, asking me to come in through the back porch, i.e. walk through the long alley instead of the front door.
I’d imagined it was because of some new furniture or other house-related issue.
Dylan had witnessed a shooting a couple of hours prior. She had jumped up when she heard gunshots and seen a couple young men in our street ducking behind cars. One clutched above his chest. He was shot.Police came and questioned her in the moments that followed. The violence was gang-related. There had been violence the last few weeks.
Though we never expected to see this violence on our street, though it scares me, this is ultimately why we’re here. This is what we have heard stories about throughout the summer training to be teachers in urban, title 1 schools.
Sitting in the living room alone (Dylan needed to get out of the house after that but I have too much work) I wonder about those young men in the street. We’ve seen them every day since we moved here last Saturday. “I have a feeling I’ll get to know those boys pretty well,” Dylan had stated as we walked from the house a day ago.
Later we learn the young man died and another is hurt. Senseless loss. There are noises outside. They’re probably just lightning, but I wonder about gunshots.
Senseless loss. A reality for so many of the students I have already taught this summer and will teach in the Fall.
Senseless loss. Earlier today I witnessed an inspiring English class at a charter school. The students, who had all failed classes during the year, engaged in debate about the U.S. tax policy, evolution and creationism. They read and analyzed Arthur Schnitzler’s “Lieutenant Gustl,” and considered themes of morality, honor and religion.
There is no issue with their intellect. They are brilliant, inspiring, sharp and witty. They’ve simply been neglected by our system. Failed by low expectations, lack of individual attention and and an alien curriculum. Caught in a chasm– the violence, poverty, friends and family with low levels of education on one side and the massive, sometimes impersonal, system of state standards and overworked teachers on the other.
“Where are you? What is the context for this?” You might ask. Last time you blogged we were debating shot-up Macbooks and Israel/Palestine. In a nutshell, I returned to Boston and graduated from Northeastern University. I moved to Chicago where I’m training through Teach for America to teach special education in Chicago public schools.
I’ve resisted blogging for a while. I’ve been busy. Plus, I’m still unsure that I want any additional information about my life on this blog.
This blog that I wished as a vehicle to share experience but that became solely focused on one event, or more accurately, one continuous saga filled with hatred and anger. While there are many parts worth discussing, debating and of course resolving, it was not occurring productively here.
Yet my life goes on. I have other stories to share. This is a way to communicate with family and friends across the country and world. This is for anyone else curious for a single perspective. For myself because I enjoy writing, and posting pictures. I enjoy expressing.
I will continue posting. Most content will likely revolve around my experiences teaching in Chicago public schools.