Telling the whole story – listen to what people say, join us on June 28th

Sometimes it seems as if nobody is listening.

Or maybe nobody is asking enough questions. Or just different questions.

This is a problem with reporting on violence. How much of it tells us what folks in the community are saying and doing? How much gives us a pulse of what’s happened over time? How much tells us how lives are lived and what energies are spent in places where violence is a cancer?

Too often that’s not part of the story.

So, here are some examples of questions asked in stories that are worth considering.

Looking at West Humboldt Park’s state of seige, Mick Dumke in an excellent article in the Chicago Reader writes that the mayor and police officials called upon neighbors to step forward.

Then he adds:

Whether out of ignorance or political convenience—probably both—the mayor and police chief neglected to mention a key point: members of the community have been standing up for themselves for years, since long before Emanuel and McCarthy were on the scene”

He goes on to report on heartbreak but also guts and resistance. He tells about neighbors who haven’t resigned themselves to being imprisoned in their houses. The results of their struggle do not diminish the terror they face, but it says something about their spirit and the spirit of those like them.

My sense of that whenever public officials heap blame on neighbors for falling to step forward and do so without celebrating those who do, this adds to the sense that standing up doesn’t matter.

What do you think?

Neighborhoods traumatized by crime lapse into various states of survival.

When they are blamed for not caring or not having the guts to stand up for themselves, this would only seem to back up the thought that nothing more can be done. So you give up and move on. Take a look through the readers’ comments on Mick’s article and tell me what you hear.

Mary Mitchell in the Chicago Sun-Times touches on a similar note in a story from New Orleans on a conference on racism.


Writing about New Orleans mayor Moon’s Landrieu’s address to the group, she says:

“But like many others living with the horror of black-on-black violence, Landrieu asked this audience a question that has haunted me for months: “When we talk about racial healing — trying to find a way out — is it that we get upset about the injustice or the loss of life?” he asked.

“The answer is really not clear,” Landrieu ventured.”

It’s a question worth asking and one that I think, however, is asked widely. But maybe not heard.

This recent New York Times story on a conference of major city police chiefs makes this point. But from a different point.

“If there was a central message to be drawn from the survey, it was that gun violence is tightly concentrated in the poorest urban neighborhoods, its victims mostly minorities, who receive little attention from politicians and the news media.

“Nobody in this room, unless you’re from Sanford, Fla., would even know the name of Trayvon Martin if it was a black kid that had shot Trayvon Martin,” said Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey of Philadelphia, who is African-American.

“It happens every single day in Philadelphia. It happens every single day in cities across the country, but if it’s a black killing a black,” no one cares, Commissioner Ramsey continued, noting that the week studied by the forum was less violent than many other weeks in Philadelphia. “Our streets are bleeding, and they’re bleeding profusely.”

That’s a powerful theme to drive a story, but the article left me frustrated. Covering a conference is not easy. You try to snap up as much as you can and sometimes you sacrifice a critical issue as you pull it all together. I wish the reporter would have told me more about the Philadelphia’s police chief worries and what is happening today in black and Latino communities to deal with violence.

Reading Dawn Turner Trice’s column in today Trib, I am encouraged again as I hear about the kind of effort put out by people who haven’t given up. She writes about a TJ Crawford and an innovative effort to reach kids through hip-hop:

“I ran into Crawford a few weeks ago when I was visiting Fenger High School during a Peace Week celebration. I was standing in the school’s hallway when he and a shy young man walked up to me, asking if he could interview me.

The interview was part of a year-old project Crawford runs called Respect Ours Community Storytellers. It’s connected to Kids Off the Block, the amazing program Diane Latiker created that brings kids into her home to get them off the street.

With the storytellers group, Crawford helps youth in the beleaguered Roseland neighborhood learn more about their history, their community and ultimately themselves by telling their stories through print, film and music.

The stories allow them to sound off about poverty, steep unemployment, the high number of blacks in the prison system and, among others, police brutality — issues that were the cornerstone of the early hip-hop movement.”

Let’s talk about this more and especially on June 28th at our conference at Columbia College on telling the whole story about youth violence.





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