Our job is not to save anything or anyone. Our job is to survive the unraveling of the American dream.
When you realize this simple fact, you'll understand why the following story is absolutely hysterical and a reminder why the architects of Jim Crow are owed not just a huge apology, but will one day be celebrated for their foresight. [Chicago Woman Who Lost 23 People To Gun Violence Now Fights To Stop It, DNAInfo.com, 4-2-16]:
Less than 24 hours after this story was edited, gun violence claimed the life of yet another close friend of Williams’s. On March 26, Cordero Mosley, 27, was shot six times on Chicago’s South Side. The two had been friends since grade school.
CHICAGO — The first time I meet Camiella Williams, she pulls out her smartphone and calls up a Facebook album she created called “Lost but not forgotten.” It’s filled with pictures of mostly young African-American men, and serves as a kind of memorial wall to some of the people she’s known who have been gunned down on the streets of Chicago. “Martece,” she says, pausing at a photo of a young man in a neon green shirt and a baseball cap. “He got killed on 81st and Ashland, in the dollar store.” The caption on the photo notes that Martece’s little sister was killed six months later, in 2008. Williams, 28, has lost 23 close friends and relatives to gun violence in the past 12 years.
We’re sitting on a bright orange couch in the student union of Governor’s State University, a small state school in a suburb just south of Chicago. It’s November, and students rushing by on their way to final exams stop to say hello. Williams has a round face and a gap-toothed smile, offset by fashionable rectangular glasses. The following week she will complete her bachelor’s degree in criminology, and then begin a master’s program in January.
Williams’s interest in criminology springs from a childhood spent in poor areas of Chicago’s South Side — Englewood, Auburn Gresham, Chicago Lawn — where gun violence is common. In the last five years alone these neighborhoods have collectively seen more than 2,000 shootings, according to the Chicago Police Department.
Scrolling through her Facebook album, Williams points to a photo of a grinning teenage boy with short dreadlocks. “This is my friend Johnathan,” she says, a weariness in her voice. “He was killed at a nightclub in 2008. He was shot in the head by the security guard.”
Another photo, another young man, this one singing into a studio microphone. “Tony was like my big brother. He was an artist.” Tony was shot in the face outside an apartment complex in 2008 and died at the hospital a few hours later.
More faces float by: A middle-aged man. A few adolescent girls. A young man named Deonte, fatally shot during a spate of shootings over July 4th weekend in 2009.
“Imagine,” Williams says. “They’re your friends on Facebook one minute, and then they’re gone the next.”
Williams has more than 3,000 Facebook friends. Amid the reminders of loved ones she’s lost, periodically she comes across people that she knows have carried out a shooting. Some of those same people circulate stop-the-violence messages, to her disbelief. “I’m like, dude, you’re killing people,” Williams says.
Not so long ago, gun violence could have consumed her life as well. Williams joined a gang in elementary school, bought her first handgun in sixth grade, and began dealing drugs in high school. It wasn’t until she was 19, when she was pregnant with her child, that she decided to break away from the dangerous trajectory that she had set herself upon as a girl on the city’s South Side. Her path from street life to graduate school has taken 10 years.
“If I didn’t have my son,” Williams says, “I don’t know where my life would have been.” But she can guess. Either the gang disputes she often encountered might have lead her to kill someone. Or someone would have tried to kill her.
Williams was born in South Shore, an economically struggling neighborhood in the city’s South Side with stately red-brick apartment buildings that recall more prosperous times. Even as a young child, she was aware of the area’s problems. But until she was seven, she says, “life was perfect.”Odds those stately red-brick apartment buildings were once "white only"?
Life in 2016 Chicago, courtesy of blacks, is the exact reason why they were designated that way long ago.