Saturday, October 17, 2009

A conversation with experts on street violence: the kids in the middle of it

Yesterday, at the request of Steven Levitt, author of the best selling book, Freakonomics, a group of us sat down with 10 young men from the neighborhood who are insiders to the escalating violence we have been seeing on the streets and in and around the Chicago Public Schools. We asked them what they thought about possible solutions.

They were eager to share their thoughts and ideas (especially since we paid them cash to do it!) Most seemed to agree there are no easy solutions.

Question: What if you were promised $5,000 if you stayed in school and got good grades?

Answer: I would use the $5,000 to buy myself some work (drugs) and turn it into $10,000 very quickly.

Question: How hard is it for you to get guns?

Answer: Very hard… later… sure I’ve had lots of guns. I need a gun for protection.

Question: Would more police help?

Answer: Sure if they did their job. They planted drugs on me and hauled me in. They picked me up for no reason and dropped me off in a community where they knew I would be in danger. They let us go if we give them a couple of guns and they use the guns later to plant them on us when they want to take us in.

Question: Are gangs a problem in the schools?

Answer: Yes, and not just the big gangs. It could be between floors. Like, don’t come up on the second floor unless you have a class, or don’t come over to the east side of the school if you don’t want to get beat up. There are little clicks and groups.

I wish I could capture the conversation better. There were times I could barely understand what was being said because of such heavy code language.

The “old heads”, former gang leaders, get out of prison and come back and think they can run things, but there are new leaders in place. That causes conflict.

Natasha, who was killed at a bus stop on Madison last week, happened to be standing next to a couple of guys who had killed Little Jim a few weeks earlier. It was retaliation and Natasha was hit by mistake.

Madison Avenue is the dividing street right now between the Black Souls and the Unknowns.

Hip hop sets the standard. If Li’l Wayne would rap the times tables that's what they'd be doing.

There are people out there who ain’t got no one.

Sometimes the streets show you more love.

Guys get bored. There’s nothing to do. We need jobs.

Question: What would you suggest as solutions?

Answer: More places like Breakthrough. (Honestly, I didn’t set them up!) Everyone loves basketball and we need to learn how to do stuff like woodworking, auto mechanics, how to build a house. If I knew how to build a house, I would build one for you right now. (He said to the guy next to him.)


Anonymous said...

OK, now what do we do?

Ask the same questions of the girls - what answers would they have?

Arloa Sutter said...

I was thinking that one idea would be for funders to incentivize homebuilders to hire and train young people to build affordable housing in neighborhoods like ours. It would serve multiple purposes: refresh the housing market, create affordable housing, provide real life transforming jobs, take the kids off the street and revitalize communities. And, of course, if we had just $100M we could build ten Breakthrough FamilyPlexes throughout the city with basketball, academic programs, and business entrepreneurship training, etc.
I wish there were some jazzy quick fixes, but really, I think, it is all about relationships, trust, love, etc. I think the girls would say they want their baby daddies to help them, but, of course, without jobs, that is difficult. The guys said lots of the violence is over girls, but when they go to jail, the girls abandon them.

Westy said...

Wow, fascinating stuff.

Was the conversation recorded? Will Levitt use it in his research?

Anonymous said...

How do we teach our kids, everyone's kids to have pride in themselves, have responsiblity for what they do and have respect for others?

I find the thing mostly missing is the RESPECT. Respect for ourselves deep down to realize what we can bring to the table. How can we instill pride and self respect?

My kid is grown up and still doesn't know how incredible they are. How wonderful, how powerful, how extraordinarily beautiful they are. AND how proud of them I am!

Anonymous said...

Arloa check this out.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

stupid bitch

Anonymous said...

evil hearted USER
you deserve all the bad karma that comes your way