So enriched has Latiker become through her experiences she recently felt empowered enough to pen a letter to President Obama where she graciously urged him to “make disconnected youth a priority” and “create avenues and resources within our communities” to combat youth violence.
“Mr. President, she continued, “as I watched you on election night say to the young boy on the South Side of Chicago who sees a life beyond the nearest street corner, I was so happy that you were thinking about those young people, that you know they exist… We need your help Mr. President.”
In the meanwhile, Diane Latiker will keep on keeping on with what she now views as her life’s work. Despite the building’s heat being turned off for nonpayment, Latiker tirelessly toiled over the last month to provide holiday meals to teens and community folk. She says she started the program more than five years ago when kids began coming to her and telling her they had no other means of securing such holiday trimmings.
And as for Aisha, the now 22-year-old daughter who sparked Diane Latiker into taking her life-altering stance, she herself now works as a KOB youth organizer. “It hurts me to see how immune my generation is to this violence,” she told Newone. “I feel hopeless, but at the same time what my mom is doing with us behind us, I feel there is a type of home that we can come together not to stop the violence, but slow it down a little bit.”
All through Roseland, testimonials of equal levels of compassion and heartwarming depths are readily heard when it comes to assessing the works of “Miss Diane.”
“She changed my life and I love her for that,” 15-year-old Maurice Gilchrist told CNN last year of the impact Latiker has had on his life. At age 12, he joined a gang and confesses to “always jumping on people” and “robbing everything.”
Three years late,r he wandered by Latiker’s home and less than a year later had improved his grades to the point of being able to try out for the school football team and setting his sights on attending college. “I would be locked up or dead,” he says of his life without such divine intervention. “Somewhere beat up in a hospital. You name it, I would be there.”
More than 80 percent of the programs now offered by KOB are geared toward males like Gilchrist with Latiker reasoning that the primary motivation behind that is since they are the ones most likely to be perpetrating or confronting street violence that also renders them most vulnerable to it.
Walk the streets of Roseland these days and most every male teen you encounter knows of Latiker and what she stands for, easily branding her as one of the neighborhood institutions they now find it hardest to live without.
Not to worry, chimes Latiker: “If the doors of this center close, I will take it back to my house. I have no problem with that. My husband might, but I don’t,” she laughed.
Glenn Minnis is a NYC-based sports and culture writer. Follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.