Mondays at Malcolm X College tend to be harder days for students because of the violence that happens in Chicago over the weekends. Three weeks ago was an especially hard Monday morning after the police shootings of two African American men that week (followed by the retaliation shootings in Texas).
Mrs. Latsu, the Director of the LevelUp program that supports students who need to learn more college-level writing and math before they can take college classes, gives Motivational Monday talks to the students and staff during this concentrated course. Many of the students are at-risk students. Instead of her normal talk, three weeks ago she knew she needed to help the students mourn the shootings that have been happening. She talked about resilience, which led the students to talk about how they felt.
What they didn’t know is that they educated me (I was one of three white folks in the room) and gave me a window into how it feels to be African American in the inner city, especially an African American male.
One student described how he felt when he was pulled over that weekend by a Chicago police officer. He shared, “I’m married, have three kids, own my house, work, pay my taxes…but you wouldn’t have believed how that officer treated me.” The student got so troubled that he had to leave the room for a bit. When he came back, Mrs. Latsu related how her husband, a tall, handsome, African American man, has to let her speak to the police officer if they get pulled over; it doesn’t matter that he is a well-educated medical doctor, he just has to stay silent and non-aggressive. She said, “There are certain things black males just cannot do–like raise their voices or act threatening.” Mrs. Latsu educates young men on how to act around police officers through the LevelUp classes and at a conference she leads.
Because of these shootings that have been happening, young African American men’s fear has been rising; sometimes when a person is afraid he tends to fight or run away, and neither of these are options that work with the police.
African American mothers in the room spoke up; one lady said this tears: “I didn’t know what to say when my thirteen-year-old daughter came to me to talk about this situation.” Another said, “My thirty-year-old son is scared and not sure what to do if he were to be pulled over.”
Mrs. Latsu shared precautions that inner-city men can take, but then the mothers kept talking. One said, “What we need is love. That is the answer.” Another one added: “We need to take back our children, love them, and keep them at home. We need to take back our neighborhoods and not let this happen anymore. Prayer is what can change this situation!”
As I sat in the back of the room, my heart moved from fear, sadness, and some apathy, to hope. These mother’s messages hold the answer to stopping the violence in Chicago. All I can say is, “Amen, Sisters!”
Prayer IS the answer. There is so much hope for Chicago.