A President’s Speech, A Child’s Life Lost, Another Day in Chicago
President Obama introduced a personal element to gun violence prevention initiatives late last week, drawing attention to the broken homes and financial hardship that perpetuate cycles of urban violence during an appearance at Hyde Park Academy, a public high school in Chicago's southside.
“No law or set of laws can prevent every senseless act of violence in this country,” Obama said. “When a child opens fire on another child, there’s a hole in that child’s heart that government can’t fill, only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole.”
Ceasefire Illinois Director Tio Hardiman, who works to mediate conflict and prevent gun crime among young people, said that Obama hit all the right notes.
“The president talked about how his anger about not having his father in his life could have led him in the wrong direction, but that he had positive people in his life to keep him on the right path," Hardiman said. "He can identify with the troubled youth and I think it really hit home with the youth out here today.”
The president also spent time before the speech in a private session with 16 young men from Hyde Park who are enrolled in an anti-violence program at the school.
Hip-hop artist and Black Youth Project blogger Jasiri X, who grew up in Chicago, said he was glad to see Obama tackle issues like gun violence—and all the hindrances young people face when trying to realize their full potential—but added it would take more than words to make a difference.
“When you talk about urban violence, it stems from this hopelessness that comes from not having direct access to things that you want, need, or should have,” he said. “The economy often times leads to the violence. The question is whether or not the policies that come from the speeches address real change. We’d like to see some plan for urban communities that addresses jobs, housing, and schools. We need some nation building in our own country.”
Hours after the speech, former Hyde Park student Janay McFarlane was gunned down as she walked home from a store.
“Hopefully [Obama's] message will trickle down to the brothers and sisters on the street so they will think about putting the guns down,” Hardiman said.
Marc Peters is a reporter at Campus Progress.You can follow Marc on Twitter at @rippleofhope.