I hadn’t planned on writing anymore about the union of Chicago and Oak Park into an area called the “Greater Westside.” However, over the Memorial Day weekend, we had a crime so heinous it could have been right out of a “B” movie.
Sixteen-year-old Damon Price died because he chose the wrong person to rob at the Madison and Austin branch of the US Bank in Oak Park. The 24-year-old victim was licensed and carrying a concealed weapon. Damon had a weapon, too. There was a shootout and Damon took a bullet to the chest. Instead of rushing him to a hospital, reports from some very reliable sources say his accomplice dropped him off in front of his house. Damon was subsequently taken to Stroger Hospital (and all the published reports say they are investigating how he got there) where he was ultimately pronounced dead.
Now I enjoy knowing that the bad guy got his just desserts like anyone else. But Damon’s death wasn’t funny. He was a kid in a man’s body. Sadly, his mind and behavior at 16 years old was already highly focused on criminal activity. The question that must be asked and answered is: How and why are we failing our children? I don’t need printed statistics to see that gun crimes are involving younger and younger children. A 16-year-old with a weapon who has had no training/skills on how to use it, along with an immature mind, is a disaster in the making.
One way to begin to tackle the problem is to teach our young people their family history. They may know grandma and grandpa, but how many know the name of the relative who left the South to journey North? With young men, the very essence that makes them male, the Y chromosome, is passed to them unchanged from their fathers. Their grandfather got his from his father. Go back 10 more generations and that Y chromosome remains the same. Yet many of our young males, as well as their fathers, don’t know their family history.
So what other way can we begin to establish pride in our young men? Unlike others, we can’t easily trace our ancestors back several hundred years. If there was a coat of arms or family crest that existed to identify the tribe from which they emanated, it has been lost. But I have an idea that can counter the word “forever,” which should have ended the previous sentence. There have been men since the beginning of time, whose exploits can make any man proud and have them say, “That could’ve been my relative!” Men like Shaka Zulu, Hannibal, Nat Turner, Robert Smalls, Joseph Cinque, Thurgood Marshall, Bob Marley, Rev. Dr. Martin L. King Jr., Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, Muhammad Ali, John H. Johnson, and a host of others too numerous to mention. I would have each of the young men pick a famous black person whose ideology best matches the way they would carry themselves in their life from this day forward. For example, if they picked the great orator Frederick Douglass as their family crest, they would speak out against injustice while acknowledging his famous quote, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Choosing someone like Malcolm X would be acknowledging his saying that, “To have once been a criminal is no disgrace. To remain a criminal is the disgrace.” Whomever they choose, the goal is to connect them to the positivity of that individual as opposed to aligning themselves with the negativity that has become so prevalent.
Damon Price’s death underscores one of the biggest challenges we face in trying to become one united area. His potential has been lost forever and he represents many others whose decisions to choose the criminal life can mean their deaths as well.
How we as a community begin from this day forward to address the issue is paramount to our becoming greater in more ways than one.