If you read my most recent Huffington Post article or just stay current with the news, you know that the violent death toll for Chicago public school children is breaking records. As other competing stories unfold - the Olympic visit, parking meter revolts, bailouts and so on - #30 is a bit below the radar.
His name was Rakeem Robinson. Last May, Rakeem and his friends were handling a loaded gun that misfired. At the time, Rakeem was a 14-year-old freshman at Dunbar Vocational Career Academy. He died this past Thursday at a Harvey treatment center where he lay for months in a coma. Rakeem is the 30th Chicago public school student to die violently this school year. And the school year's not over.
Last time, I shared a map of locations of these deaths with our "deck-stacked-against-you" indicator that shows Chicago tracts with the highest concentration of African Americans, Latinos, burdened mortgage holders, high school dropouts, and lowest household incomes.
To view an updated map with a few more variables, including the exact location of the shooting incident involving Rakeem and the public school he attended, go to www.marigallagher.com/projects/.
A simple map cannot predict or prevent these deadly patterns. But statistical analysis using robust block-level police and other data might point us in the right direction. That's what we hope for at the National Center for Public Research. We'll keep you posted of our progress.
Meanwhile, the street violence that plagues certain locations in Detroit, Miami, Memphis, Los Angeles, Chicago and many other cities, towns and suburbs continues. Although it still feels like winter in the Windy City, summer is coming, and warm weather turns up the volume. When the temperature heats up, so do existing conditions.
In my neighborhood, it means more time outside waving to friends and neighbors, planting flowers, and attending barbecues. It means longer walks with my husband and our dog. But in other neighborhoods, it means step outside and linger at your own risk.
Like attracts like. Location, location, location. Two phrases. Both say a lot.
Back when I was a community development practitioner, I worked on affordable housing development in a pretty tough location. One project was the restoration of a beautiful old building. In its glory days, the first floor was commercial. The second and third floors were apartments. The forth floor was an old Croatian dance hall and the fifth floor its magnificent balcony. But that was twenty years prior. When we worked on restoring the building, all that was left in the dance hall was a beat-up piano and our only tenant - which we were desperate to evict - was a liquor store with an ironclad lease. I'm not against liquor stores per se, but the street already had quite a few. Liquor, public drinking, loitering, harassing passersby, swearing, urinating, and so on set the tone. The project, with its Low Income Tax Credits and layers of financing, was already really hard. Our particular location made it harder still. One day, while the rehab was still underway, kids - or maybe gangs, who knows? - set fire to the piano, and the top floors went up in flames. Amidst screaming sirens and firefighters cordoning off the building, the liquor store never closed. All of the regulars stepped over the yellow tape, continued with their purchases, publicly imbibed, and watched the show. I would not believe such a story if I didn't witness it with my own eyes. It would never have occurred to me that any human being would enter a burning building to buy a fifth of Jack Daniels or a quart of Schiltz from a storekeeper who would go on with business as usual.
We were ultimately successful with our affordable housing project and we rid ourselves of the liquor store and its troublemakers, but it was against all odds and with begging and the scraping together of all possible financing. Considering all the federal money being spent these days, I wonder if any will trickle down to the most troubled locations?
Let's review the numbers:
The stimulus bill: $781 billion
The housing bailout: $200 billion
Fannie Mae: $200 billion
Bear Stearns: $30 billion
AIG: $85 billion
AIG #2: $65 billion
AIG #3: $30 billion
The auto industry: $25 billion
The auto industry #2: TBD
Troubled assets relief: $710 billion
Citigroup: $247.5 billion
Federal Reserve: $2.95 trillion
A total of $5.32 trillion.
We need to help the economy get back on its feet, but it'd be great if these investments also stabilized our most troubled locations. This is not an advocacy position. It's the cold, hard data.
Death by street violence and open access to guns is a daily reality for many.
Who will be #31?