A Turkey Day discussion you'll be thankful for

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By Arlene Jones

Columnist

Happy Turkey Day! Normally around this time of the year, I do a column asking the adults in the household to hold a discussion with their young people about life and how your young people should not put themselves into situations that are life altering. 

The average age for criminal activity used to be when men were in their early 20s. It then changed to men in their late teens. Now the age I often see in news reports on major crimes like shootings and carjackings is 15 and 16. It is still predominately male but females are also involved, especially with group or mob attacks. 

Our young people still need serious guidance. But as the criminal gets younger and younger, I wonder if their parents' ages are also getting younger? The old adage, "I wanna grow up with my kids," is tempered by the reality that young parents frequently lack many of the skills needed to successfully rear a child.

Besides, talking about crime and criminal behavior around the dinner table is a downer. So although I still advocate at least touching on the subject at some point, I'd like to suggest a different subject this year that should be more appetizing with turkey and dressing. 

The subject? Which relative first came to Chicago and from where?

I was reading a news report about Puerto Ricans leaving their island after the devastation from Hurricane Maria. The writer titled it, "The Great Migration," and that bothered me. That label is the historical tale of blacks leaving the South in search of economic opportunities and to get away from Jim Crow laws and the economic devastation of sharecropper living. It was not due to any natural disaster. I have much empathy for the devastation that occurred in Puerto Rico. But those leaving the island weren't decimated for decades like the blacks who fled the South heading North. Anyway, I digress.

My family is rare in that they didn't migrate directly from the South. My grandfather left the South in the early 1920s and moved his family to California. When his marriage to my grandmother ended, he came to Chicago via a route that first took him to Detroit. Like all the others who migrated, my grandfather's route runs parallel to the railroad. He worked for them, but I'm not sure if he was a Pullman Porter. 

My grandfather, upon settling down here, immediately brought three of his six children with him. Black men in those days didn't walk out on their families like this current crop so readily does. My grandfather was among that first generation born after the end of slavery. He was reared, like many were, by former slaves who appreciated family and took total responsibility for the children they created. 

Does your family know the first person who left the South and came to Chicago in search of a better life? My family roots are on the South Side because that is where the train dropped them. Westsiders, meanwhile, ended up on this part of town because of the trains arriving from Arkansas and Mississippi.

So have that talk and let your family know the rich history that abounds in it. There is too much knowledge that oftentimes gets taken to the grave, which should have been shared. 

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