This headline appeared in today’s edition of The Root, http://www.theroot.com, a web news and opinion magazine dedicated to African-American issues.
“Heaven and Hell in Crime-Torn Chicago
A girl named Heaven is one of the latest victims of the city’s gang violence. When will it stop?”
In my view people should take a closer and more nuanced look at the tragedy of Black homicides in Chicago. I think what passes for CeaseFire in Chicago’s most troubled communities is a distortion of a technique that has been shown to actually work. The PBS TV show about the “interrupters” is in my view a melodrama in which the real tragedy, about which the players in the melodrama can’t seem to do much, takes place away from center stage.
In April of this year, Chicago newspaper columnist and author John W. Fountain painted this picture of what he called “the human rights atrocity occurring right under our noses.” (Posted at that time In Corridor Conversations.)
“Imagine the United Center, Wrigley Field, U.S. Cellular Field and Soldier Field nearly all filled simultaneously with black boys, girls, men and women. Now imagine that twice over. Now imagine them all dead.
“As far as I can see, that’s at least 295,893 reasons to cry. And it is cause enough for reticent churches, for communities, for lackadaisical leaders, for all people — no matter our race, color or creed — to find the collective will and the moral resolve to stamp out this human rights atrocity occurring right under our noses.”
They need the real thing. CeaseFire at its best brings together individuals, families and institutions to pursue a common goal: “Don’t Shoot.” They are successful. That’s what the research says. Its practitioners are fearless, unstinting in their efforts, humble and incurably idealistic about the prospect of our democratic institutions — especially those involved in law, justice and public safety — to do right and great things.
A great explication of the history and techniques of CeaseFire can be found in a 2009 article in The New Yorker by John Seabrook. The work has given birth to the Center on Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College.