CeaseFire: â€˜Thug Life is Over, Â Drugs are a Set-upâ€™
WE CAN INC.:Â â€˜Community has to step upâ€™
By Chinta Strausberg
CHICAGO, IL â€“ The normal bustling along West 79th Street came to a screeching halt Saturday afternoon when witnesses claimed two young men allegedly armed with Tech 9â€™s â€œsprayedâ€ the area leaving two dead and a teenage girl wounded in the Chatham communityâ€”an act that Tio Hardiman, director of CeaseFire blames on easy access to guns and Florence Cox, president of the WE CAN INC. Committee, saying the community must solve this problem.
Shortly after the shooting, an empty CTA bus blocked the streets at 79th and Rhodes and police quickly rolled out the yellow and black police tape marking several blocks a crime scene including the Chatham shopping center at 79th and St. Lawrence where several witnesses said the body of a man was still lying on the ground. A fire truck was at the scene along side of a waiting ambulance. Witnesses said the body of a dead man was still lying on the sidewalk of the shopping center.
Allegedly, after the shooting several witnesses said they saw Â two young men, who were allegedly just over five-feet tall, running and that they jumped into a black car.
Dead is 20-year-old Christopher Spraggins of the 300 block of East 76th Street. A 17-year-old girl was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center and is listed in serious condition.
A number of people gathered at 79th and St. Lawrence where the shooting took place. One woman, who asked not to be named, said she heard the shooting. â€œWe were coming from the store when me and my granddaughter and youngest grandson come through. We got in the house, up on the back porch and all of a sudden you hear gunshots. It happened so quick,â€ she said. â€œThere were about six shots.â€
One man said he saw â€œtwo young guys running. They sprayed, then they ran and I turned and ran. They were on foot. They said they got into a car. After I saw two guys spraying (shooting), I ran back this way,â€ he said pointing West on 79th Street. â€œThey were young guys. They were small about five-feet tall, little boys,â€ he said shaking his head.
Andrew Holmes, community activist and director ofÂ â€œNo Guns, No Violence,â€ said, â€œPeople told them to get off the streets because there was going to be some shooting and as soon as they said that, that is when the shooting started.
â€œFrom what I understand, they had some high-powered tech, automatic guns. I am hoping that some of these video surveillance cameras caught them or some of the people give them their license plate number,â€ said Holmes.
But, Hardiman said, â€œWhatâ€™s going on in Chicago lately with the young guys out here is very different than previous years. It appears somebody is giving guns to these young guns because never before have you had these 13, 14, 15 and 16-year-olds with these high-powered weapons. These guys are getting a hold of Tech 9â€™s, guns with silencers on them, machine guns, AK-47â€™s. This is rare especially for the younger population.â€
Referring to the 79th Street shooting, Hardiman said, â€œIt is a symbol of what has been happening all across Chicagoland. Gangsters are a dying breed. Thatâ€™s the reality because nobody is winning. These young guys end up shooting each other on these blocks thinking they are going to gain something and all they gain in reality is a heavy jail sentence or an early grave. Nobody wins.
â€œAfrican American youth have to get the message that we are one. As long as we think we are a divided people, we will continue to have shootings and killings snatching the lives of young people all across Chicagoland,â€ said Hardiman.
â€œHomicides are at an epidemic among African American people,â€ he said explaining that 85 percent of the homicides are black-on-black. â€œThere is a more systemic issue, chronic problem with black youth and the only way youâ€™re going to fix it is that young people have to know where they come from and the history of how they got divided,â€ Hardiman said.
â€œIf you unlock the mystery of what happened from the 1970â€™s to 2012, you will see why it is so violent in the city of Chicago right now,â€ Hardiman said.
When asked what is the answer, Hardiman said, â€œThe answer right now is overall unity amongst African American people in the city of Chicago and across the nation so we can begin to see each other as one culture, one race again so we can begin to organize on a political front and organize on an economic front to help these brothers and sisters to identify another purpose to fight for as opposed to killing each other for nothing.
â€œWe are Americans who live this country and we plan to stay here. When I say organize on a political and economic front, Iâ€™m not saying that we need to become anti-system. Iâ€™m saying we will always be within America, but we need to carve out an America for ourselves where we can live in peace and unity in all these cities across America and become part of the overall fabric of America,â€ Hardiman said.
â€œRight now, a lot of these young brothers are living their own lives in these ghettoes and theyâ€™ve been ostracized by the overall society so theyâ€™ve made their own society and in the young brotherâ€™s society they have created itâ€™s all about their rules so killing somebody is just another day in the ghetto. Hurting somebody is business as usual. Selling narcotics, buying guns, shooting dice the overall criminal lifestyle is just a way of life in the ghetto,â€ said Hardiman.
â€œOur young brothers and sisters have to start thinking a different way,â€ he said like the ancestors of African Americans who worked to free them from slavery. Hardiman said blacks must know their history including the birth of the NAACP, the Black Panther Party and other civil rights organizations to â€œchampion the cause for the underdog.
â€œBut, right now the underdog is the African American youth out here thinking that the enemy is their brother and while they are killing one another, everybody else is taking vacations to the Bahamas, carving out big time business deals on Wall Street and these brothers are stuck on the block because they havenâ€™t been made to think beyond the block,â€ Hardiman pointed out.
Hardiman said there is no one answer to stopping the violence but it includes addressing domestic violence, inter-personal violence, drugs, gangs, kidnapping, extortion, robbery, everything. Itâ€™s all a ball of confusion. You stir that pot up and when the pot boils over, anybody can get burnt because the violence is all over the place. Thatâ€™s why you canâ€™t just identify one symptom of the violence as the cure.
â€œPeople are thinking violently for what ever reason because it has been passed down from generation-to-generation,â€ said Hardiman. â€œThe brothers in the 1970â€™s misled the brothers in the 1980â€™s. The brothers in the 1980â€™s misled the brothers in the 1990â€™s. The brothers in the 1990â€™s misled the brothers in 2012, and the beat goes on because people in the ghetto have to make a way out of no way.
â€œThey begin to design and create these false organizations that make them feel they are part of something so now they feel they are a part of something, they are willing to die for something they feel they are a part of,â€ he explained.
Hardiman said they carve out two or three blocks and believe â€œthese are my blocks. I am willing to live and die for these blocks because this is where Iâ€™m at. They learned that from other brothers who controlled the same blocks a decade ago and now they are trying to hold up and fight for something that is over. The game is over. Thug life is pretty much over.
â€œYou have more than 2.3 million people incarcerated in prison. A lot of non-violent offenders are doing hard time because they believe in the game. Everybody wants to make some money, but itâ€™s a big deception. The drug game is a set-up. These young brothers are losing their very lives and their freedom because they want what they really canâ€™t have.
â€œTheyâ€™ve been led to believe that a capitalistic mindset is the only way to go and that is why it is so easy to see these young brothers killing one another because their belief system has been placed in the wrong direction. What they believe in is not the right belief system. It boils down to â€˜Iâ€™m going to do what every I have to get mine.â€™ It if means they will have to step on little Leroy or step on little John John, I will remove them from the face of the earth in order for me to progress not realizing they can organize little John John and little Leroy and everybody can benefit from organizing in a progress way instead of killing people over little petty issues.
â€œThe majority of the killers in the black community are cowardly killers,â€ said Hardiman. â€œYou got guys shooting unarmed people. Anybody can shoot somebody that cannot shoot back, someone unarmedâ€¦.
â€œYou got a lot of cowardly killings taking place all over the black community and the guys that are involved in the cowardly killing need to be dealt with because you cannot continue to kill your people expect to think you are going to keep getting away with it,â€ said Hardiman.
Saying the killing of teenagers is unacceptable, Hardiman said, â€œThe brothers need help. The killings come as a result of brothers needing help and not getting the help they need to avoid putting themselves in a situation to kill somebody.â€
On the violence, Cox said, â€œItâ€™s a very sad thing. As I was walking down the street, I heard people say including young black women say this is out of control and that parents need to take control of their children. Others were saying somebody saw this. It was (done) in broad open daylight. People need to cut the code of silence in the community as it relates to the violence. People need to speak up.
â€œPeople need to go to the homes of where they know these young people and start dealing it from that point,â€ said Cox. â€œParents need to be made responsible for the behavior and actions of their children. Some have said call in the militia, but the militia canâ€™t do this. The police canâ€™t do it.â€
Referring to former Chicago police sergeant Edward Howard, Jr. who in 2010 was caught on tape slapping a teenager who allegedly was going to spit at him and was convicted, Cox said she is outraged that Howard lost his job and pension because he slapped a kid. â€œI would rather that my child be slapped than to have to go to the morgue and have to identify my childâ€™s body,â€ said Cox.
â€œThe black community has to speak up, man up, woman up and stopped this. The police canâ€™t do it. The militia canâ€™t do it. Itâ€™s our problem. We need to solve our problem otherwise we are not going to have a future because our future is leaving us on a daily basis,â€ Cox said.
She called for the resurrection of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), established in 1933-1942 for men and created jobs for those who were not married but whose families were on welfare. â€œThey need to bring back the old CCC camp where young men went in, learned a trade, learned discipline and learned respect, and when they came through that they helped to build and re-build America.â€
If this Act is still on the books but unfunded, Cox, who is the former president of the Chicago Board of Education, said, â€œThey need to fund it. How can we continue to lose our future because the mandate has been un-funded. What is more costly, the funding of something like the CCC camp or continuing to lose your future,â€ Cox said.
Looking at the police yellow and black tape, Martinez Williams was visibly upset not just because of Saturdayâ€™s shooting but because his 23-year-old nephew had gotten shot more than a year ago. â€œHow many killers have they caught in this community since this violence has been going on? How many cameras have caught the killers? I know whatâ€™s going to happen, nothing,â€ he said as he began arguing with police.
Ironically, Tuesday, August 28, 2012, a 9:30 a.m. breakfast meeting will be held at the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, 4301 W. Washington, involving more than 100 diverse religious leaders who are calling for the reinstatement of the assault weapon ban and to support passage of HB 5831 which calls for the registration of all guns due to the escalation of violence. There will be an 11 a.m. press conference following the breakfast.
Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.