In March, The Huffington Post began talking to teens and adults throughout the U.S. about their experiences with gun violence. This is one person's story. You can read others here.
Keith Warfield, 19, was born and raised in the heart of Chicago's Englewood neighborhood on the South Side. He was only 9 or 10 years old when he first saw a gun, as he watched his mother become the victim of an armed robbery. He was robbed again in November 2008 and knows about 10 people who have been shot at. Warfield is a poet and an active volunteer with Young Chicago Authors, an organization offering writing and performance workshops for youth:
The first time I experienced guns or had them on my radar, I was about 9 or 10 years old. I actually witnessed my mom get robbed at gunpoint, so that was the first time I'd even seen a gun in my life.
Me and my mother and my sister were coming from dropping my grandmother off at home. And we were heading back home, it was already late and it was dark, of course. We had entered the gate to my apartment, and as my mom turned around to close the gate, this guy just pops up out of nowhere and puts the gun to her stomach and he's asking for her purse.
That was the first time I had experienced even seeing a gun. I stood there and couldn't do anything. I was stuck.
In my head, of course, a whole bunch of things were racing. My stepfather at the time, he was upstairs and me and my sister were right at the door. I couldn't even think to press the door bell; I was just shocked.
It was a horrible experience, and that wasn't the last incident. I've actually had a gun pointed to me coming home from school at the train, getting robbed for my cell phone. There was a time I was stuck up again after that, more recently.
(Story continues below)
On the South Side, I mean, the problem is now I notice it's more youth than the adults. My first experience, I saw an adult have a gun, and now it's been people closer to my age with them.
Just knowing that you are in the situation where your life could be taken, so many things are just running through your mind. Right afterward it's the craziest thoughts. You're just sitting, like, "Thank God." It's just really hard to explain. It's definitely a very uncomfortable feeling -- nauseating.
I know multiple people [who've been shot at]. I mean, of course everyone isn't innocent. I have people that I know who are involved in criminal activities and stuff like that that come across these situations, but, I mean, more often it's people I know that aren't involved, the innocent ones. It can be people just minding their own business.
Like people say, "Wrong place, wrong time." However, when you're on the South Side and living in Englewood, that is the wrong place, period. So no matter where you are, it's just luck if it doesn't happen.
I've seen a lot of bad on the South Side; I've seen a lot of good. But with my poetry, of course, I do mention that and I tell the truth of what's going on.
I'd like to see people like [Chicago Mayor] Rahm Emanuel or whoever actually come into those [South Side] neighborhoods to understand. To actually fix situations like these, it helps actually being there and seeing what people who live in these neighborhoods, what they wake up seeing every day. What it's like traveling on a CTA bus through those neighborhoods.
Just the stuff people have to go through living in these neighborhoods, in order to help come up with a resolution for it. Because it's hard to solve problems that you don't really understand.
As told to Joseph Erbentraut.
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