Category Archives: Youth

Links between domestic abuse and street violence

“Domestic violence is basically at the root of much of the violence that we see here on the streets,” says Father Dave Kelly of Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, who works with at-risk and gang-involved youth.

“Most of the kids who we deal with, youth who are locked up, speak of the violence they had to endure a big part of their life,” he tells Adriana Cardoa-Maguigad in a piece that aired on WBEZ recently.

Cardona-Maguigad talks with a 16-year-old who witnessed extensive domestic abuse in his early years  — his father is in prison as a result of it — about his struggles with anger.  He loses his temper regularly at home, and he’s been arrested at school for getting into fights.

His mother has managed to keep him out of gangs, with the help of a mentor, Chicago Police Officer Rafael Yanez.  In his spare time, Yanez runs Union Impact Center, a sports and mentoring program on the Southwest Side.  But “the lure of the streets” is always there.

The extent of the problem is hard to track, but social service agencies say they lack resources to treat more than a small portion of the young people in need.

On the West Side, a teen’s death gets little attention

Antonio Fenner was one year older than Hadiya Pendleton, and was shot dead three days before she was.

And while Hadiya’s death gained national attention, symbolizing the epidemic of violence that has swept Chicago, the aftermath of Antonio’s killing may be more typical.

President Obama spoke of Hadiya in the State of the Union Address, and Michelle Obama attended her funeral, along with an array of public officials.  A $40,000 reward was established for information about her killing, police set up a hotline for tips, and an intensive investigation yielded the arrest of two men suspected of involvement with shooting Hadiya within two weeks.

After Antonio was shot in what reports suggest was a random act, friends and community members decorated the site of the shooting, and his funeral was standing room only, according to a February 13 WBEZ report, part of an ongoing effort by Columbia College journalism students to track the homicides of young people.

But no public officials have spoken out about the killing, and with little media attention, police hadn’t even contacted Fenner’s family since his death.

A police spokesman told WBEZ that there are hundreds of murder investigations underway in Chicago, and investigating officers may not have felt it was necessary to speak with the family.  Police had no idea of a motive in the shooting and no leads.

Fenner’s stepfather, wonders whether police are even trying to catch Antonio’s killer.

He describes the attitude of police toward young people in Garfield Park: “They’re just going to kill each other, and our job is just to come by and clean up.”

In a related report, Austin Talks explores the impact of violence.  They talk with Tali Raviv, a psychologist at Lurie Children’s Hospital who trains teachers, counselors, and community members to identify and help children traumatized by violence.

Without such help, children exposed to violence are prone to becoming violent themselves, she says.

Noting the high rate of young people in the juvenile justice system who have trauma histories, she says we are “creating this multi-generational violence loop.”

Austin Talks also speaks with David Elam of Fathers Who Care, a group that holds monthly meetings where teens can explore issues and connect with mentors.

“The angle on Hadiya Pendleton is really because she embodied so much of the promise of youth, but all of these youths should be viewed that way,” says Raviv.

South Side youth speaking truth, confronting power

In the final two installments of  the Chicago Reporter’s “Too Young To Die” series, Kari Lydersen looks at young people struggling to find positive directions in communities torn by violence.

In Woodlawn, Fearless Leading by the Youth (FLY), organized by Southside Together Organizing for Power, carries out direct-action campaigns around housing, health care, police brutality, and other sociall and economic justice issues.  They recently joined a sit-in at the mayor’s office to defend the city’s mental health clinics.

And motivated by the shooting death of a founding member, 18-year-old Damien Turner, they’ve fought for a trauma center at the University of Chicago Medical Center.  Turner died at Northwestern Hospital after being shot blocks away from UCMC.

Rappers Carlos and Young DBoy Low work with Project Spitfire, which uses music to help young people break free of the cycle of gangs, drugs, and violence.  It’s not at all easy, says DBoy, especially since “rival gangs don’t care about you wanting what we call ‘out.’ They don’t care about you changing your life and wanting to raise your kids in a different environment….

“See, you can try to erase your own past, but you can’t erase the pain someone else has suffered due to the hands of your gang sign.”

DBoys songs tell the stories of his life, featuring “delicate images mixed with harsh realities.” Check out the lyrics to “Too Young To Die.

The impact of violence, and some causes

In the second installment of the Chicago Reporter’s Too Young to Die series, Kari Lydersen talks with Ondelee Perteet, a 17-year-old West Side resident paralyzed in a 2009 shooting.  Ondelee and his mother talk about the tremendous personal costs of violence: Ondelee struggles to maintain his positive attitude, and his mother struggles to care for him and pay the bills.  Photos are by Carlos Javier Ortiz.

(Classmates of Ondelee interviewed him for a video by the Westside Writing Project, another Local Reporting Initiative participant, in 2010.)

Last week the first report in the series showed that Chicago’s homicide rate is double that of New York City.  At Chicago Magazine, Whet Moser has a fascinating piece looking at differences between the two cities that may help account for that fact.

New York has less than a third the number of gang members that Chicago has, and various experts suggest this could have to do with public housing and incarceration policies.  The CHA’s Plan For Transformation displaced a hundred thousand people, while a massive public housing renovation program in NYC was the “exact reverse,” carried out without displacement.  Chicago’s approach ended up replicating the segregation that was originally built into the CHA high-rises.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s incarceration rate rose sharply in the early 90s and has stayed near that level, which New York has seen a marked decrease in incarceration.  (The greatest expansion of gang activity here was a result of increased incarceration of youth, according to sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh.)

That creates what one expert calls a “feedback loop.”  “Young men were shuffled back and forth between two environments that were ideal for the organization and growth of gangs.,” writes Moser. “While New York was rebuilding, Chicago was continuing the shuffle.”

Another Reporter piece looks at the mechanics of incarcerating teens as adults; Illinois is one of the few states that does so.  In gun possession cases, most teens were imprisoned without having been clearly identified as having a gun; indeed, guns were actually recoverd in less than half the cases.  Now the General Assembly is considering legislation to incarcerate 15- and 16-year-olds as adults.

Chicago leads in youth homicides

Chicago leads the nation in youth homicides, with a rate more than double that of New York or LA, according to a new article at the Chicago Reporter.  Nearly 80 percent occur in black communities on the South, Southwest, and West Sides.

Efforts by police and politicians – ranging from tactical gang squads to the CPS “Culture of Calm” program – have failed to signficantly reduce shootings and deaths.  Advocates say curbing youth violence will require addressing underlying causes, inclucing extreme segregation, lack of jobs, and violent, underfunded public schools.

Kari Lydersen and Carlos Javier Ortiz profile groups that are working against violence, including the rap group Spitfire and Fearless Leading by the Youth, and the Reporter features Ortiz’s photos of communities dealing with violence.  (See our post on The Sorrowing City for more on his photography.)

Entre Nosotras

Entre Nosotras, a multimedia blog by Radio Arte, has been publishing posts on Latina youth artists, activists and issues since September, focusing on news from Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards, Bridgeport, and Brighton Park.   Portions have also appeared in Hoy and Extra, and several programs have been broadcast on WRTE.

Topics covered range widely.  There are interviews with artists like young painter Angelica Atzin and photographer Jackie Oroczo, videos of local artists and musicians participating in Little Village’s Villapalooza, and a report on young designers in the Latino Fashion Show.  There’s a report on El Cilantro, a blog for young environmental activists, and an interview with educator and activist Veronica Arreola, producer of the Viva La Feminista blog.

There’s an interview with a survivor of domestic violence, discussing her new-found freedom, and a piece with members of the Vida Fidei youth group discussing spirituality.  There are pieces on STDs and how fast food industry marketing targets young Latinos.

The series is produced by a team of young women from Radio Arte’s media training program, which gives the basics of journalism and radio production to hundreds of local youth each year.  Broadcast on 90.5 WRTE FM since 1997, Radio Arte is currently transitioning to digital broadcasting and programming; it will be one of the first Latino media centers in the nation.

Entres Nostros plans further coverage of a range of health isssues – from breast cancer and obesity to teen pregnancy and mental health – as well as efforts to encourage girls to enter the sciences, and a feature on young Latina bloggers (and how to blog).  So stay tuned.


Thanks for Diana Pando of Community Media Workshop for translation assistance.

Youth unemployment and violence

Does youth unemployment lead to violence?  Charles Jefferson, a journalism student at Columbia College and member of the youth advisory board of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, talks to staff members at Street-Level Youth Media who believe it does.

In a new article at North Lawndale Community News – part of a series on youth violence issues coordinated by the Illinois African American Coalition for Prevention – Jefferson surveys neighborhood and global youth unemployment levels as well as state and federal efforts to address the problem.

And he identifies one new reason for higher levels of youth unemployment: adults taking jobs traditionally held by teens.

Cyberbullying, and bullying and disability

A recent study found that young people of color use media significantly more extensively – averaging 13 hours a day, 4.5 hours more than white youth.  But their experiences with cyberbullying get little attention.

Chain of Change reports on the stories told by black and Latino teens during discussions following screenings of the new video, Your Social Life.

“Youth learn what is acceptable and safe face-to-face behavior, but as our society is relying more and more on digital technology as our main form of communication, it is imperative we start adapting and teaching these skills for online interactions and to educate youth about the emotional, social, and legal repercussions of digital behavior,” writes Lynda Lopez.

Students with disabilities are often targeted for bullying at higher rates, according to an article from the Neighborhood Writing Alliance.

One Humboldt Park teen who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair tells of being ridiculed and threatened.  Her grandmother says she’s spoken with school authorities, but administrators sometimes suggest the girl should just ignore verbal attacks.

Latina Teens and Suicide

Rates of suicide attempts among young Latinas are startlingly higher than other youth in the U.S., according to a new report from Latina Voices and Mujeres Latinas en Accion (Part 1 and Part 2).

Added to the usual stresses of adolescence are additional issues over ethnic identity and acculturation.  And for immigrant families, parents have often had very different experiences growing up than their children, according to the report.

Some of these issues will be explored at at panel discussion tomorrow, as youth and community organizers join researchers and practitioners to explore the unique mental health challenges faced by young people whose careers and dreams are thwarted by their immigration status.  It takes place Tuesday, November 1, at 3:30 p.m. at the Adler School of Psychology, 17 N. Dearborn.

Among the presenters is Dr. Roberto Gonzalez of the University of Chicago, who was recently interviewed in another Local Reporting Initiative project, a report on the state of undocumented youth by The Gate newspaper in Back of the Yards.

By the way, don’t miss the video created by The Gate along with the community newspaper report posted here earlier.

The Sorrowing City

The photo-documentary work of Carlos Javier Ortiz, part of his work-in-progress “Too Young To Die,” will be presented at five churches on the South and West Sides next week as part of “Urban Delarosa: The Sorrowing City,” a program of sacred music, performance and art to memorialize children killed by violence.

The program is sponsored by Urban Delarosa, a citywide ecumenical anti-violence witness that provides care for survivors of violence, promotes peacemaking through sacred music and arts, and works to mobilize the religious communities and civic leadrs of the city to address the root causes of youth violence.

The program features the world premier of “Urban Delarosa,” sacred music by Fr. Vaughn Fayle with libretto by Rev. Susan Johnson, both of Hyde Park Union Church.  It features the Chicago Community Chorus along with youth choirs and instrumentalists from Johnson College Prep, Holy Cross Parish, and North Park University, along with spoken word poetry by Mama Brenda Matthews.  Artistic direction is by Steppenwolf for Young Adults.

“Too Young To Die,” available at Facing Change and on Ortiz’ own website, depicts the human impact of violence on the South and West Sides and a variety of responses – anti-violence murals and street memorials; the funeral of a 19-year-old killed on the West Side; friends mourning a 13-year-old shot and killed on a Bronzeville basketball court; the mother of a murdered Woodlawn youth marching for a trauma center on the South Side; Bronzeville youth enacting a shootout while producing a rap video; anti-violence marches on the South and West Sides; the daily life of a 16-year-old paralyzed at a shooting at a birthday party.

The program will be presented Tuesday, November 1 at 7 p.m. at St. Sabina, 1210 W. 78th Place; November 2, 5:30 p.m. at Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington; November 3, 7 p.m. at New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, 4301 W. Washington; November 4, 7 p.m. at Holy Cross IHM Parish, 46th and Hermitage; and November 6 at 5:30 p.m. at Hyde Park Union Church, 5600 S. Woodlawn.