Lawmakers Seek Solutions from Public at Urban Violence Convocation
ROSELAND — In the cafeteria inside Chicago State University's student union, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Chicago) stood with a microphone moderating a discussion about gang violence in Chicago.
The group discussion was one of many at Friday's National Emergency Summit on Urban Violence held by members of the Congressional Black Caucus seeking solutions from community members.
The microphone eventually made its way to 19-year-old Jermaine Young, one of the only teens in the audience. Young told those in the group he didn't think they understood what "gangs" were really like in his neighborhood.
"All of this violence going on, it ain't about gang violence anymore...It's not about [Gangster Disciples], [Black Disciples], none of that no more," Young said. ""It's not about drugs no more. That was back in the 90s."
Nowadays, it was all about what block someone is from, at least in Young's neighborhood of Chicago Lawn, he said.
And most of the time, shootings are caused by "something stupid," say a disagreement over a girl.
A woman in the audience asked what Young thought would help.
"I feel like there should be more programs and more things for people to do," Young said. "If more kids had jobs and had people to look up to, there wouldn't be a lot of this going on."
Young's answer, although broad, is what lawmakers said they were looking for during Friday's summit.
U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago) said the problem of urban violence is one that plagues almost "every nook and cranny" of America but said Chicago can help spotlight the issue.
"Things are happening all across this country dealing with these issues," Rush told reporters Friday. "This is just the epicenter of it."
Rush, Davis, and U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Chicago) were joined by other members of the congressional black caucus as well as local leaders like Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Rev. Jesse Jackson at Friday's summit.
The goal was to put their ears to the ground and discuss the causes and possible solutions to urban violence with members of communities most affected by violence.
Kelly said the shootings over the Fourth of July weekend in Chicago were a "tipping point" for calling the summit. The rookie representative said the summit would "examine methods and best practices" shown to decrease violence, so lawmakers could then take those ideas back to Capitol Hill and push for meaningful legislation.
"We're beating the drum, and I know I'm not going to let this die because we're losing a generation of young people," she said.
And Kelly's statements may not be hyperbolic. A recent study in the American Journal of Medicine found that homicide is far and away the leading cause of death among young black men.
Davis told reporters Friday those numbers make this an immediate issue facing our country but said Americans cannot expect a quick fix.
"We don't expect to have a panacea, but what we do expect to do is to work consistently on the problems and issues to reduce the causation — the causes — and to find at the same time, some immediate redress so we can bring about change," he said.