As a teen, the attention I would get from suburban or out of town girls with mere mention that I was from Chicago was always nice. I never abused using my status as a Chicagoan, born and raised, as a way to get together with girls that were looking to slum with some guy they thought grew up in a bad neighborhood. I didn't grow up in the hood, I grew up on the nortwest side. However, if you really wanted a girl from out of town to like you, you would answer yes to the following question: Have you ever been shot?
I would always say no, and look at those girls with disdain, I wasnt going to play the bad boy. I couldn't stand the stereotype of Chicago being a negative place to live; too many of my friends and neighbors had left me back in the neighborhood because of this stereotype. Guns never affected me or my friends where we lived in city.
I was scared of gangs; I made sure that I never wore certain colors, or a hat turned to the side, even for fun. It had been etched in my mind as a young boy that even playing around could get you shot.
My elementary school gym teacher scared me with a story of a student using sign language and gang bangers shooting him because they though he was flashing gang signs. If someone started with me, I would never dream of giving them any push back, in my mind, anyone could pull out a gun and shoot me, anywhere. Through this all, I stayed far away from gangs and anyone affiliated with gangs, never saw a gun, never heard a gun shot.
When I moved to North and Pulaski with Katie, Eric, and Emily, we were discouraged by some about the violence, we were given slack from some about choosing to live here because our future kids could likely get shot.
None of those things have ever happened, but neighborhood kids warned us about certain parks, they informed us about the gang territories and how kids from our block were trapped because they would get jumped or harrassed if they walk in any of the four directions. They were kids however, we were adults, we knew the statistics; the likelihood that we'd get shot was slim to none. We would walk around the neighborhood with impunity. In our head, there were a few priveledges we had enjoyed from not growing up around here, one of which was the priveledge of thinking we could not personally be touched by the violence that affects so many others in our community. on Labor Day we snapped back to reality.
The whole house went to Kedvale Park after our wonderful Labor Day Party. Eric, Eleanor, and Edith, Katie, myself, Liam and Ava, Charlie, Luke and Faith. I made a mental note of the three thuggish teens scheming on the side of the park house, when we arrived. I made a note of the neighbor kid smoking weed with another boy and about six girls in the middle of the park, I took in the basketball game to the right of me, the soccer game to the right of that. I watched my Liam and Luke ride bikes around the perimeter of the park, saw Ava crawl to the swings, Katie went after her.
The largest one of the thuggish boys call to one of boys smoking weed. They went north on Kedvale through the park, the neighbor boy put out his blunt on the concrete, met up with the two others, they walked up to the cul-de-sac, red and black covering their bodies became a blur next to a red, abandoned Honda. The largest boy leaned against the side door and pop,pop, pop pop pop, pops burst out towards Grand Avenue. Once I realized what was happeneing, everything turned into slow motion; the basketball players disappeared, the soccer players were one with turf, everone grabbed a child and headed towards the back of the field house.The shooting was over, the only one walking with impunity was the trigger man. He brushed past the crowd of victims as if nothing had happened. We called the police, the park cleared out, we walked home silent; somehow we managed to convince all of the children that everyone was running from fireworks to not get burned. Almost every child bought the story.
I don't like stories from people about the gun shots they hear every night or how they know someone who got shot or has been killed. I don't care for individuals that intentionally move into the hood and try to compare notes on who has experienced the most effects from gun violence or who has experienced the most trauma, as if that makes them harder or better than another person. I will not be that person to act as if this is, my, neighborhood and no gang banger is going to scare me into keeping my kids from that beautiful park. Nor will I be that person that gives into I told you so... thinking by others. If this incident has taught me anything is that I can't walk this neighborhood proud or haughty, feeling comfortable and street smart enough. The greatest reality check for impunity, is a good old fashion random act of violence.