President Obama is finally going home to Chicago. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the president plans to visit the city later this week as part of a national tour to promote his second-term priorities that he will lay out in tomorrow’s State of the Union address. The visit comes amid growing calls for the president to address Chicago’s onslaught of gun-related deaths.
Over the weekend First Lady Michelle Obama attended the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old girl who was shot and killed in Chicago just days after performing at inauguration events for the president. The slain girl’s mother, Cleopatra Pendleton, is going to be in the White House chamber as a guest during the president’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.
However, Chicagoans wants action, not symbolic gestures. Lynn Sweet at the Chicago Sun-Times put it this way: “To Chicagoans, whatever economic messages Obama wants to underscore Friday will take a back seat to anything he says about the slaughters on the streets of Chicago — 506 murders in 2012, up 16 percent from 2011 — all happening on Emanuel’s watch.”
The Black Youth Project, a Chicago-based youth group, has collected upward of 45,000 signatures on its petition to get President Obama to “come home” to Chicago to address the city’s gun violence. The group thanked the president for answering its call to action, but noted that it must be a significant address:
We thank President Obama for answering our collective call.
However, we urge the President to make his speech a substantive one that addresses the underlying factors that perpetuate violence in Black and Latino communities.
We hope his speech will detail how he will work with community groups, city and state officials to address the underlying issues leading to gun violence in the Windy City, and other cities across the country.
Namely, the illegal distribution and loose regulation of arms, the lack of living-wage jobs, the varied shortcomings of public schools, the disproportionate rate of incarceration for youth of color, the circumstances and culture that propels the cycle of violence, and yes, the misguided choices young people sometimes make.
Once again, thank you Mr. President for addressing the life or death issues facing our young people.
One of the things that the president will have to address is a sense that the lives of young black people in Chicago are just as important — and newsworthy — as those lost in mass shootings across the country. Here’s how the Black Youth Project’s petition framed the issue:
President Obama rightly went to Newtown to comfort the families who lost children in that horrific tragedy, and now it is time he come home to Chicago and comfort the over 500 families who have lost loved ones to gun violence in the past year.
Youth in my community face specific challenges that lead to gun violence — and these challenges require different solutions than other tragedies commonly invoked in current gun control debates, like Newtown and Aurora.