Today, I turn my blog over for a guest posting from my South Loop friend Jim Borman, who provides insight into the tragic violence we see day after day in the news. He knows some of the perpetrators/victims because he had them in his class at a Bronzeville Charter School (that so happens to have a branch in the South Loop). He explains in his post a little bit about what they were like as students. And he fleshes out a bit the real people and the real heartbreak that these tragedies entail. He also says there are things that can be done to help prevent this awful situation--and some of those things start in the classroom learning environment.
by Jim Borman
After living the northern suburbs for almost 15 years, we made the big move to the lovely South Loop neighborhood last August. We’ve begun to enjoy everything the area has to offer--especially the simple wonder of walking through Grant Park on a temperate and sunny Spring Day.
Recently, I’ve begun a nighttime ritual that brings me into the deep, dark, trenches of Chicago; I’ve begun to listen to the Chicago Police Scanner.
Last night, I heard with frightening predictability, a call to the Austin neighborhood to investigate a murder. This time, the dispatcher specified not only the location of the incident but also the name. Travolus Pickett. Since the name sounded vaguely familiar, I googled it and discovered that Travolus was one of the young men arrested in 2011 for what was described as “mob action” in Streeterville.
All of this brought back many memories for me. I taught students with special learning needs in regular education classes at a charter school in Bronzeville several years ago. One of the students arrested was one of my students. This was not just another hot June night of shootings in Chicago; I taught this young man. In fact, he was one of the brighter students in the Algebra class. He was also said to be a talented baseball player. Unfortunately, he made a very poor choice that evening and threw a baseball that hit an innocent person in the head--and he was arrested.
Now it is a few years later and his colleague is dead at 20.
This brought back even more memories of my teaching experiences at the same school. I decided to look up the Latino brothers who I taught at what was primarily an all African-American school. One boy was quiet. He seemed to only want friendships--especially with those of the opposite sex. He was challenged by school. I knew that he was learning disabled and had made it to eighth grade without proper diagnosis to help him succeed academically, behaviorally, emotionally, and socially. I gave him work both in math and in English at his academic level that was near first or second grade. He was so far behind that I wasn’t sure he’d ever reach his grade level.
Last night, I googled his name. He was arrested about a year ago and was in jail for murder. I knew that he was not cognitively capable of knowing the impact of his horrible actions. Now, he’s going to waste his life in jail.
I also googled his brother, who was much higher in academic ability than his younger brother. I’d say that he may have been gifted, but suffered from what the special education community calls an emotional/behavior disability. His Dad was imprisoned as a gang leader in the Back of the Yards community; his Mom was absent. And he fell victim to the gang pressures of a young man living in a tough community. It turns out that not only had he been shot in early January--but he now resided with his brother in jail.
Another young life wasted.
As the weather warms, it is inevitable that the number of shootings and criminal activities are going to grow throughout Chicago—especially in the economically depressed neighborhoods. We need to remember that behind every raw statistic is a human being with a real life story
Let’s commit ourselves to making a positive difference in the lives of young people so that they can become safe and productive members of society—not another tragic statistic.
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