The Chicago comedian and writer Dwayne Kennedy has a pretty raw joke about summer being “shooting season” in Chicago that I’ve heard him perform a few times on stage. Kennedy says, “I don’t know what it is about the warm weather in Chicago that just brings everyone out. ‘Hey, it’s 79 degrees!’” and then makes shooting noises. “I haven’t seen you all winter, dawg! [pow, pow, pow] How’s your aunt?” You can hear him do a version over on Bandcamp on his album Who The Hell is Dwayne Kennedy? and if you listen to the track, you’ll hear the same response I’ve heard at Zanies to Kennedy’s joke—nervous but sustained laughter at a problem that seems to have no end. As we went to press this week, we were still reeling from the tragic mass shooting that happened in Highland Park that left seven dead. Some of us can still feel the pangs of memory from a mass shooting that happened in Englewood last June which resulted in five deaths. Different circumstances, both horrible. And with some distance, we find ourselves asking what is the solution to all of this? How do we make the city and our world “safe”?
Cities like ours often get “eradicating crime so everyone can enjoy themselves in peace” mixed up with “controlling the people that we think are committing the crimes so that everyone can enjoy themselves in peace—well, not everyone. Not y’all.” And it’s easy to see how BIPOC in Chicago have disproportionately been on the receiving end of a variety of mayors and police superintendents’ attempts to keep their jobs—thinly veiled in the form of mandates, blustery speeches, and, let’s face it, changing the curfew for teenagers for one specific city/private (oh, it’s public land all right—but tell that to the security guards) park that frankly they’d rather have only the white kids you used to see on 00s episodes of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition show up at. White teenagers from rural Montana or somewhere, who love Jesus and judiciously use the word “sick.” Yes, those kids are welcome in my city. But not any more welcome than teenagers who already live and work here, who need open spaces to catch up with their friends after school and jobs, who need to experience the city in the ways that we all did growing up—a crazy, busy place where there was ample room for adventure and discovery, and not the constant burden of living in fear of being prosecuted for “walking while Black teen.”
In this issue, Justin Agrelo, in a feature originally written for the nonprofit newsroom The Trace, shares with us the perspective of three Chicago young people who already work and live here, who are from here in the way that you and I are from here, who deserve everything the city has to offer. It’s always a long summer in Chicago, and the city needs to do better by our young people so they can spend the season and beyond enjoying themselves. And learning. And training to be adults. And let’s come back to joy—what will it take before all of us make a commitment to living together in not just peace but joy?
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