Sorry, I'm behind the times. Just spotted this story from the Chicago Sun Times. The link will stop working by Friday April 24, so the gist of it is below.
Juan Cazares, 14, was shot and killed Thursday night at the corner of 50th and Wood, near Cornell Square Park, where he had just finished playing a basketball game. I appreciate reporter Annie Sweeney's pains to make clear that this kid was a human being and that this neighborhood is working hard to reduce violence. She's done a lot of reporting on this neighborhood and it shows.
However, I do have to make a comment based on my experience with kids who have left school for one reason or another. Juan was a student at Richard Milburn Alternative High School. Last I knew it was primarily serving students who had been expelled from Chicago Public Schools, so although the piece portrays Juan as a nice kid, I'm sure he was a complicated kid, too. Don't get me wrong; that doesn't mean he should have been killed. Nobody, especially nobody 14 years old, deserves to die. But if there's one thing I've learned from living her for nearly five years, everything is a lot more complicated than it looks on the surface.
My prayers go out to Juan and his family. I'm sure he was a lot like Joey and the other boys I know over here on our block, which isn't very far away from his home or from the corner where he died. It's stories like this that make me really nervous about raising a kid, especially a boy, here. It's so easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It's also easy for teenage hijinks to get out of hand with terrible, even fatal consequences.
That last point is what it turns out the pushup showdown on Saturday was all about. After the pushup contest ended, I went to the barbecue next door and Peter Pan's uncle told me how it all got started. The older men in the crowd, Yup-yup included, were trying to make a point to the young boys about staying out of trouble--that tagging and gangbanging are not how you prove your manhood. "It's not like I'm a saint--I did my little things when I was their age, too, but somebody has to show them right from wrong," Peter Pan's uncle said.
A woman sitting by the grill told me she has a seven-year-old son. She said, "I already told him, if I see you trying to join a gang, I'm going to take a baseball bat to you myself. If anybody's going to hurt you like that, it's going to be me, not some little gangbanger." She was referring to the gang initiation rite known as "violation in," where to join you have to endure a beating from the gang. It's like frat hazing on steroids.
I'm just fascinated that Yup-yup got in on the "don't do it" message. It's too bad most of those young boys probably aren't connecting the dots between what they're up to now and guys like Yup-yup and even Tony. Those thugs who live to be old thugs never die, they just end up hustling and washing cars and doing other people's yard work, when they aren't locked up.
- ▼ April (10)
- ► 2008 (217)
- ► 2007 (142)
- ► 2006 (105)