This Friday the 13th brings reflections of what is needed on the individual level to address the #CrisisInChicago
Fridays falling on the 13th are supposed to be unlucky. And as I drove away this week and looked back on the skyline of Chicago, looking at a city in crisis in regards to the conditions of many Black residents, it hit me: sadly, this is the one-year anniversary of everything that – to some – epitomizes the challenges and shortcomings of fortune for the Black community when addressing the crisis we face together.
About a year ago this week, little Nyeem Casaberry passed away suddenly and tragically. Two dedicated young parents – barely adults themselves – were left to grieve without parents to lean on themselves and a community that had little to say or do to aid them.
For those of you that know the story, you are aware that the tragedy was compounded when the father lost his job suddenly over having to make a simple, life-or-death choice: be at his prematurely-born son’s side while he fought for life or attend a minimum wage job and abandon his girlfriend of two years and little Nyeem. And, as best he could and against every stereotype (and sad reality) concerning young Black fathers as absentee fathers, the ROTC award-winner, full-time employee and 2.8 GPA college student juggled it all – including the job when able – through the most difficult of times for a man, let alone a 21-year-old man without his parents and little secular resources.
And the price of doing the right thing for his family, trying to be forthright with a Black employer, and working to hold it together through the unimaginable pain of losing a child? A lost job – the thing that would provide for unexpected funeral expenses and associated costs with the tragedy for the young couple and their circle of loved ones.
The community would soon learn the price of doing the right thing – both behind the scenes and in the public sphere – to support this young father that has spent his life trying to be an upright man. Should a Black man support another Black man – one that, despite the harsh realities of growing up on the west side of Chicago, maintains a dedication to being a positive influence in Black America? Perhaps. And the price for such advocacy? A lost platform – a position that provided a sense of advocacy and support for Black people trying to escape decades of status quo despair and hopelessness in a Black mecca of the nation, all over high-rung loyalties and inconsistencies between our rhetoric and our actions.
And the price for all of us wondering if either one of these actions was part of “doing the right thing” on the individual scale? In the quest of trying to change the dynamics of Black Chicago, a true area in crisis, we find a lost opportunity. We find a lost chance to begin a trek back from complaining to accountability and from fear to functionality, even when it meant taking on the dysfunctional hands that strangle our communities from within.
As I sit here on this Friday the 13th, I wonder how unlucky we all are from that situation that played out 1 year ago. Anyone that has had a sick child knows that one of the very worst things to experience is the severe physical illness of one’s child, with that experience only being outdone in heartache by the loss of a child.
Yet, because of the symptoms of close-minded, clique loyalty, money-first mentalities such as the one exhibited in Nyeem’s tragic loss last year, we continue to face situations where some Black leaders are unwilling to break the binds of decades-long acquaintances for the sake of unhinging the chains that enslave our communities with poverty, unemployment, mis-education, and political weakness. Through rehashing the same tired responses to gang violence, political corruption, and business inadequacies in our communities, we collectively are guaranteeing that we will continue the same set of terrible results that our children increasingly suffer. Moving out of the comfort zone of rhetoric will move us out of the combat zones our children grow up in.
If we are truly willing to change the fortunes of Black America and, notably, Black Chicagoans that face the violence and other urban life challenges that hamper our communities, we must stop addressing the misfortunes within Black America with the same approaches. Playing it safe within the comfort zones of the Black middle class is not the approach that will break the “unlucky” cycles of being born into bad neighborhoods with bad schools and bad influences all around. Being unwilling to sacrifice for the next generations with what it takes – not necessarily what can be spared – will only serve to inch us further along the path when we are falling behind by leaps and bounds. Stepping out in faith to change Black Chicago and our communities requires stepping out from where we are now, not keeping in step with the tired modes that we embrace today.
Not to say that the actions from last year were heroic in any sense, but the methodologies and mindsets of our people moving forward must be willing to abandon the common man, status quo pace that claims “it’s not my place to act as I have too much to lose” if we are going to cast aside the misgivings in our communities and regain the future. To change our luck starting on another hot summer Friday night in Chicago, we must begin to change the egocentric approaches to self-preservation and self-interest that have too much of a role in how we address problems and who we hold accountable.
Like Lady Luck, Lady Justice is blind; therefore, our zeal to take stances that will reverse the fortunes of our youth and our communities cannot continue to stay contained within archaic models of leadership, comfortable yet ineffective tools of addressing the problems, and short-sighted vision for reshaping the future. Sadly, over the course of the past year, the winds of change have not improved the luck of those suffering both personal tragedies and community loses in Chicago, including those of the young parents that honor a horrible anniversary. Over the course of the days ahead, the will to change can make the difference in Chicago if the focus is on history-making transformation – starting at the individual level – instead of being on how to play it safe and play the odds.
LENNY MCALLISTER is a senior contributor to Politic 365 featured on CNN Newsroom, CNN’s “Early Start”, and “CNN Saturday Morning”. Catch Lenny on “Stand Up with Pete Dominick” on Sirius XM’s politics channel, P.O.T.U.S channel 124 Friday at 3pm EST. Catch Lenny’s latest via the new LennyMcAllister.com website.