Mr. President, after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, you made a solemn visit to the grief-stricken community of Newtown, Conn., and spoke passionately about their horrific experience with gun violence. Our nation mourned the young lives lost on that terrible day.
Black and Latino communities in Chicago know far too well the pain and sorrow felt by those left behind in the wake of shootings; in the past year over 500 young lives have been lost to violence in the Windy City. Chicago is facing a serious crisis that threatens the lives of my entire generation, and it is a crisis that demands the attention of our president.
You have not entirely ignored the rising tide of violence engulfing your hometown, but a mention here and a shout-out there, buried inside a larger conversation about an assault weapons ban and more stringent background checks, does not address the unique experience of black and Latino youth in Chicago.
They live in one of the most segregated cities in the United States, many attending substandard schools that treat them like hardened criminals to be babysat and funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline for the slightest of infractions. Many despair in soul-crushing poverty that robs their young hearts of hope and their emerging minds of a bright future to which they can aspire. Their communities, bled dry of economic opportunity, are flooded with the poisons of drugs and unlicensed firearms, offering the chance for some money in their pockets and oftentimes a cold, hard bed in the penitentiary -- or in the ground.
In other words, the problem is not a lack of gun control but the dashed hopes and shattered dreams that turn the American dream into a nightmare for the black and Latino youth of Chicago.
But you must know this already, Mr. President. You must have seen the struggles and incredible pressures shouldered by black and brown youth when you were doing community organizing on the South Side. I'm sure you've even heard a gunshot or two from your Kenwood home.
As a 24-year-old black man, I've been inspired by your journey. At a pivotal moment in your life and career, you chose to entrench your work in the needs of our community, something I intend to do as well.
We both call Chicago home, and that's what makes your silence all the more unsettling and disappointing. It's time to come home, Mr. President, and comfort the over 500 families who've lost loved ones in the past year alone. It's time to call the nation's attention to the need for a solution to this crisis.
The Black Youth Project has launched a petition asking you to come to Chicago and deliver a major speech on gun violence in the black and Latino communities. This speech must include specifics on the policies and programs that your administration will initiate to save the lives and improve the futures of black and Latino youth.
I urge everyone to join the chorus of voices demanding that the violence and systemic disadvantages that impede the life chances of our youth be recognized and addressed by the highest office in the land.