CHICAGO – As President Barack Obama returns home to Chicago Friday, many residents are coming off of an emotionally charged re-awakening of the violence issue plaguing the city’s streets.
After the death of 15-year-old honor student Hadiya Pendleton re-charged a national gun debate and turned her into the face of Chicago’s morbidly high homicide rate, and then Michelle Obama attended her funeral, residents feel the city’s violence issue is finally getting the attention it deserves.
“It’s a little late, but it is well-deserved,” said 57-year-old Alice Haines, who lives in Chicago.
Shirley Chambers, 45, who recently buried her fourth child, all of whom died as a result of gun violence in Chicago, said, “I’m very happy that [authorities] finally realized that it’s time to do something about this. We’re losing way too many of our kids. It’s just ridiculous. It’s out of control.”
In 2012, Chicago shamefully topped 500 murders. This year, the city experienced more than 40 homicides and 150 shootings in January alone.
Eight days after performing at Obama’s inauguration, Pendleton was fatally shot on Jan. 29 about a mile from Obama’s home. Some residents said the issue finally “hit home” then, but whether or not Pendleton’s connection to the president’s inauguration and her murder’s proximity to the president’s Chicago home helped bring attention to the violence issue, they’re glad something did.
John Thompson, 38, said something should have been done about the violence years ago. “It’s always been here, it’s just so now it happens to hit a mile away from the president’s home.”
“The connection is there. Maybe it helped. Maybe now we will have some light shed on things that are happening now on the inner-city,” said Chicago resident Corey Polk, 45, who graduated from Hyde Park Academy, where Obama will speak in Chicago Friday.
Obama has recently visited several cities campaigning his proposals for tighter gun control in the country, however, while in town, he is expected to give remarks discussing his proposals unveiled in the State of the Union Address. He will focus on strengthening the economy for the middle class and those striving to get there, according to the White House. But with Chicago’s grim crime toll, many residents say they hope to hear Obama continue his conversation on gun control and ideas on how Chicago residents and authorities can collectively create a safer city.
Chicago Against Violence, a local group aimed at preventing neighborhood violence, routinely visits victims in classrooms, courtrooms and community organizations hoping to help rid the city of the issue. A representative was present at a bond hearing Tuesday when two men were charged in connection with Pendleton’s murder.
“If not now when? When will we get the attention that [violence] deserves? Each and every kid that got gunned down in the city of Chicago deserves the attention. And just as they found those [charged in the Pendleton case], they should be able to fine each and every other,” a representative said.
The attention the city is getting on gun violence is welcome to some, however others, like Kourtney Williams, 30, say it’s simply embarrassing.
“I don’t like the attention, because it’s about gun violence, not about what Chicago’s about and what we stand for. It’s kind of heartbreaking. It’s kind of disappointing, I’m kind of embarrassed to say I’m from Chicago,” Williams said. “I just hope it’s not because of Obama’s connection. I hope it’s because people want to change and want to make a difference.”
Renita D. Young is a Chicago-based multimedia journalist. Follow her on Twitter @RenitaDYoung.