A Mother’s Cry

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No one should ever have to hear, or maybe everyone should have to hear, a mother’s cry. The deep-rooted, primal, heart-breaking, inconsolable sound of a mother’s helpless cry on the loss of a child to gun violence.

A few Saturday’s ago, my wife and I went to pay our respects at a church on the west side of a gentleman we know who lost his son to gun violence. The purpose of this column is to attempt to call attention and attach the pain and anguish to what has become an otherwise too-familiar statistic. How many killed and how many wounded in Chicago weekend gun violence? Have we become that desensitized? Was the young victim male? Yes. Was the young victim black? Yes. Was the young victim from the south or west side? Yes. Was the young victim in a gang? No. He had many friends and family members and they were all there together that Saturday morning. Hundreds of people payed their respects that day. The pews were full. The line went on seemingly forever. Young, old, all there to offer some level of comfort, of respect, of shared anguish and yes, still, disbelief, that in this day and age, in this city, a young man can have his life taken away from him all too soon, leaving behind a family forever without this young man full of vitality and who knows what level of potential.

The church itself it many ways symbolized what has been happening in many parts of our city. A one point, and still today to a great extent, a beautiful and ornate house of worship, with intricate stained glass, and paintings reminiscent of the work of Renaissance masters, yet tired from years of deferred maintenance and lack of upkeep showing the passage of time from days when resources were more readily available. Yet that Saturday, the morning sun was bright, and it shined dilliberately through the east side of the stained glass windows on a day where is was hard to see a bright spot in the senseless reason for our gathering.

Maybe if there can be any bright spot, maybe it is when enough of us ask when is enough, enough? When enough people become outraged and say enough to the easy-access of illegal weapons, when we say enough to the continued disinvestment to our communities that need safe streets, and access to good schools and good jobs in order for them to thrive.

I hear people say “It’s not my problem”. “It’s about good parenting”. “It’s about personal responsibility - pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”. That last one is all good and well, but it assumes everyone has boots to begin with. And that’s not always the case.

I also hear “Well, what can I do about these problems in our city?”. There is no one answer. But there are many good things happening. PUSH Excel is one of them. PUSH Excel provides real opportunities to young people in our community.

The goals of PUSH Excel are to:
- Increase science and math literacy
- Increase financial literacy (parents and high school students)
- Develop interest in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math
- Provide students with an understanding of the value of science and math by exposing them to information on the impact of science in everyday life
- Provide in-depth technology training
- Prepare adult learners for a future in technology through Cisco training
- Prepare students for college and career success

I have had the privilege to spend some time with Dr. Martin Pieters who is a driving force behind the PUSH Excel STEM program. His passion for technology is only surpassed by his passion for wanting to help empower young people be their best selves. His focus is clear. His energy is contagious.

According to Rev. Dr. Janette Wilson, the PUSH Excel National Director of Education, “We must thrust into the minds of students that whoever they are and wherever they live, they can achieve quite literally whatever they can dream, no matter what anyone else may say to the contrary”.

PUSH Excel helps young people realize their potential in meaningful ways. As Rev. Wilson said “PUSH Excel is committed to providing arenas where young people dream big dreams and live to see their actualization.”

Of course there is no one simple answer to address the problems of violence in our city. But we all can play some part in advancing our communities in a positive way. A young person with dreams and aspirations is less likely to make a decision that will have negative lasting impacts on their life, and the lives of the victims and their families.

And just think, you can help be a part of that. PUSH Excel takes on-line donations for their scholarship fund at pushexcel.com.

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