Message from Montie

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Chicago Public high school fight brings back memories of past rival high school incident, CTA hero

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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As much as I wish Chicago Tribune reporters Azam Ahmed, Kristen Mack and Annie Sweeney didn't have to report on stories like "Fenger kids tell why they fight" and that the Derrion Albert murder hadn't occurred altogether, I think it's a step in the right direction to let these kids speak up. This article gave these kids the opportunity to tell their side instead of the police brushing it off as "gang related." Fenger student Vashion Bullock's question, "How many times you want me to walk away? We've been running for so long and we're tired of running" struck a chord. But it was one sentence on the second page that really brought back my own high school memories: "Since Albert never claimed loyalty to either side, no one was sure with whom he was fighting, witnesses said."

 

And that's what I hope those who keep criticizing these kids understand. Although this particular fight was apparently neighborhood-related instead of gang-related, there are many similarities in attitudes. People join cliques (or gangs) for various reasons, and not all of them are these dangerous, crime-hungry children. I have known countless young men in my childhood and teenage years who joined for survival. They were tired of running home from gangs everyday. They were tired of being pulled out of cars and vans when sitting quietly trying to hide from the brothas on the corner. They were tired of being scared to go to school. And although they would complain to the principals, their teachers, their parents and family friends, these people could not be around them every single moment of the day. That's where the police come in, and oftentimes, once you left school grounds, you were on your own.

I remember a fight I saw on my way to high school (Morgan Park) between the years of '96 and '98. I don't even know how it started. All I know is two guys from my high school were upset that a guy from an alternate school (Percy Julian) was on the bus. The Julian boy turned to get off the bus, and one of the Morgan Park guys powerwalked behind me, reached out and slapped him on the back of the head. I shook my head, thinking, "Wow, how tough are you that you had to wait until this boy's back was turned to fight him?" The other Morgan Park guy stepped back and watched the two come to blows.

 

But in the meantime, the CTA bus driver apparently wasn't playing that kind of violence on her bus. So she moved everybody out the way who was standing around the one-on-one fight (read: no guns or railroad tracks were involved), stood in front of the two guys, turned around and sat on both of them. And this CTA driver was not a small woman. She had to weigh about 250 lbs. minimum. Both the boys gasped for air, especially the Julian guy who was on the bottom with his back on the bus floor. He begged the Morgan Park boy to get off of him, and both were so out of breath that they stopped fighting. The Julian boy got off the bus and took off running. Not even two minutes later, boys (one of which lived on my own neighborhood block and I spoke to regularly and would share an occasional joke or two) came flying down the street in front of the bus, with fence chains in their hands, holding them stretched out as if to choke someone.

 

With anger in their eyes, one of them yelled out, "Get your punk a-- off the bus. You want to fight somebody by himself. Fight us." And suddenly, those two Morgan Park boys had fear in their eyes and looked petrified. The police came soon after, so the Julian boys ran away. The police escorted the two Morgan Park boys off the bus and onto another bus. I don't know why another bus had to be called considering there was nothing wrong with the bus they were on. And then we went to school.

 

The crazy part about it was even though the two Morgan Park boys started the fight on the bus, one of them sat behind me in homeroom like nothing ever happened. I don't recall those two ever getting on the same bus route again, but I also don't recall them being suspended or even missing any classes. One of the boys was later suspended during my junior year for carrying a gun to school, and I don't know what happened with the other one. (In the interest of full disclosure, I was also suspended--for carrying a pocketknife to school primarily because I had an after-school job downtown and was coming home late nights.)

 

But I learned two things that day: 1) Even with a police station adjacent to my high school, nobody seemed to really care why those boys were fighting nor did they ask. They just looked at it like a commercial break and went right back to the program. This is why I appreciated that Chicago Tribune article so much, because the reporters took the time to hear the students out and at least try to find out what the issue was instead of blowing it off. However, from the Chicago Tribune article, this wasn't the first fight, and somebody should've talked to these students long before Derrion Albert was killed. 2) If not for that CTA bus driver stepping in, things could've gotten a whole lot worse because once that Julian boy got off the bus, the other guys didn't look like they had any intentions of the boys from my high school getting to school. All three boys should've sent that driver a "thank you" card for saving their lives.

 

 

Note: This blog is not meant to bring bad press to Morgan Park High School. I haven't been there in years, so I don't know if there is still tension between MPHS students and Julian students. It is solely to express how I felt while watching this fight, how important police are in stopping the fights before they escalate and how the bystander effect would've done these students no good. CTA takes a lot of hits for doing things wrong, but this was one time I had to applaud them for hiring a bus driver who had had enough.

 

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3 Comments

JennJenn503 said:

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Montie first I would like to say I appreciate your professionalism and seeing both sides to every story.
I currently live in Portland Oregon, the Derrion Alberts story NEVER hit the news here. I just found out about this on Monday while at working surfing the net. This story truly broke my heart and like many I did cry. I made it a point to tell and inform everyone I know about this story. When I first watched the video on YouTube they played music instead of the audio....Then when I watched the full video and heard the audio I was even more disgusted. What happened was nothing close to funny. The female saying " look look they're gonna kill em, look" as she watched a child being beaten to death; How is that funny? And yes they did the "right thing" by turning the tape over to police I will give credit for that. As a kid I was a "buster" and would call for help every time I saw a fight. I went from living in a gated community to living in Section 8 housing. It was a HUGE culture shock for me as a teenager. I had the type of mother that would let us a come and go as we pleased as long as we signed out on the "sign out log"...I was totally free to do whatever I wanted. At the age of 26 I can honestly say Ive never touched a drug or Ever been in trouble with the police... Everyone wants to blame the parents, as did I until I looked at how I grew up. I could have turned out really bad... I mean come on my mother was a single "hippy" mom on welfare. The one thing that really bothered me about this story was the mother of one of the kids charged was outraged and saying “that wasn’t my child on the tape” I could only imagine how hard it is knowing your child did something like this but damn “it wasn’t me” really?
I feel bad for all parties involved but all of this is just a waste of energy… Why do we need to fight each other? Love thy neighbor! My views might be misunderstood… but I am a 26 yr old white female with no children. I saw some bad things in my childhood but nothing even close to this. How do we help our youth? Yes I am a “Big sister” but will that really make a difference in a world that doesn’t care about their youth?
Thank you.

Message from Montie said:

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JennJenn503,
Thank you for checking out my work and commenting. I appreciate reading your interpretation of the situation. The most powerful line in your message was this: "I could have turned out really bad." It wasn't the welfare part, it was simply that you know that you had to make decisions to NOT turn out that way. We blame parents a lot, but the child has to be willing to meet in the middle. No parent can make their child a robot, outside of beating them into submission. Parents have to TALK to their children, be INVOLVED with their children, and their child has to feel LOVED.

There were girls who were "getting train ran on them" who knew me by name (and vice versa). I sat on porch steps with drug dealers and unfortunately a few people imprisoned for murder. I ran home from gang fights and seeing a gun isn't something I'm going to jump about. However, I was also the one who grinned at the thought of going to the library, who had my nose in a book, who loved to hang out with my grandfather and play pool and card games while eating Pot Pies. I could go to my mother and talk about relationships and go to my father to get men's advice. That type of quality time was what set me straight.

I think what you're doing by being a "Big Sister" is a step in the right direction. Some people are just not fortunate enough to have that foundation they need. Derrion Albert seemed to be on the right track, and I'm really sad that he was beaten so brutally.

If you're interested, you can also read my thoughts on the Derrion Albert case (the video is there too, and no, it doesn't have music, who does that kind of foolishness?). Visit Innocent bystander Derrion Albert killed, Chicago teenagers need alternatives to violence.

JennJenn503 said:

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I have read all of your "thoughts" and many others. I have been on Google all week reading stories of Derrion Alberts. Innocent bystander Derrion Albert killed, Chicago teenagers need alternatives to violence. the blogs on that one were a little upseting to me.... Why are grown adults argueing back and forth? What does that really teach their kids? Put your energy to better use. And the point you made about how our kids need to feel LOVE is on point! I had my angry phase back in middle school when I realized my father didnt want to be a part of my life, and sad to say I was a "bully" for a little while. I did some self reflection and found out that it is his loss not mine and that there was no need for me to hurt other kids up over it. My mother always told me she loved me and that made a big difference. Anger management is a big part of life...knowing when and how to release it is key. No sort of abuse is ok.... When Im really upset Ill get in my car, put on some Keyshia Cole... and SING IT OUT!!! That is what works best for me :)

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