Newtown, Connecticut isn’t the only community suffering the loss of young lives due to unnecessary gun violence. For decades now, the South and West side of Chicago has been, at times, worse than a war zone when it comes to the lives of young, black men and women. According to reports, last year, Chicago’s homicide rate exceeded 500 for the first time since 2008, surpassing larger cities like New York and Los Angeles. 80 percent of these homicide victims are African American.
A sharp reminder of this issue came to the forefront this weekend as mother, Shirley Chambers, lost her last surviving son, Ronnie. Before Ronnie, Shirley had lost three other children to gun violence in the city. Her son was one of 7 people killed this past weekend in unrelated shootings around the city. Ronnie Chambers, a 33 year old former gang member, was in the process of turning his life around. In fact, he was also trying to encourage others to do the same. Last month, he appeared on the “Ricki Lake Show” to encourage aspiring rapper, YK, and dissuade him from getting involved in a life of crime.
Ronnie had just come from a promotion and listening party for YK’s music the day the shooting occurred. At around 2 am, Ronnie and another 21 year old man were parked across the street from the Safer Foundation North Lawndale, an Illinois Department of Corrections transitional facility for adults with criminal records when the shooting occurred. The other man in the car managed to get in the backseat after shots were fired and was later taken to Mount Sinai hospital with a gunshot wound to the leg.
Ronnie, who had tattoos dedicated to all of his deceased siblings, died at the scene, the last of Shirley’s children. In 1995, Shirley’s son, Carlos was killed at 18. Then five years later her daughter, LaToya, 15 was killed in April. Her son Jerome was killed later that year in July. Back in 2000, when The Chicago Tribune interviewed Shirley Chambers, she said: “I have one child left, and I’m afraid that [the killing] won’t stop until he’s gone too.”
Tragically, her prediction was correct.
When Chambers spoke to NBC this past weekend she was naturally distraught.
“Right now, I’m totally lost because Ronnie was my only surviving son.”
And in an interview with the Tribune, she wondered why her family had experienced so much loss: “What did I do wrong? I was there for them. We didn’t have everything we wanted but we had what we needed. They took my only child. I have nobody right now. That’s my only baby.”
In light of the gun violence, that continues to plague Chicago, many in the black community are wondering and even expecting President Obama to speak out for this community, like he’s done for Newtown, considering he was an activist, lawyer, professor and politician in the city for over a decade.
What do you make of what’s going on in Chicago? What can be done to address this issue? Should the president speak on Chicago more as he fights for stricter gun control laws?