And, Jarrett added: “The president might say that at some point in his childhood he may have been at risk too so hopefully they will identify with him.”
Jarrett said the president chose to deliver his speech at the Hyde Park Academy High School because the neighborhood is a mile from his home — a predominantly black community of poor residents, urban blight, and unemployed black men, but it’s also an area that has seen progress in recent years with new housing and banks.
Next month, Obama is scheduled to deliver the commencement address at Morehouse College in Atlanta – an all-male, predominantly black institution.
Meanwhile, as the death toll rises in Chicago, my friend Michele Dowdy is still mourning the loss of her only child, Malcom Dowdy, 33, who was shot and killed nearly a year ago and his murderer still has not been brought to justice. Michele worries that police will never apprehend her son’s killer.
Malcom was not in a gang; he was not involved in a fight at the time of the shooting – he was simply a family man in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was shot by mistake – and he was not affiliated with a gang. A veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard, Malcom Dowdy was the assistant director of security at a Chicago company, a straight-A student at DeVry University, and the father of a one-year-old daughter.
But police are stymied because nobody in the South Side neighborhood is talking about Malcom Dowdy’s murder. The infamous “no snitch” rule that has permeated black communities across the country is widely in effect 24/7.
Malcom Dowdy was murdered on Memorial Day in Chicago last year, a particularly violent weekend where 40 people were shot and 10 died over three days. There were a total of 506 homicides in Chicago in 2012, the majority of shooting deaths involving black men.
“The shooter shot in the crowd at someone else and missed,” Michele told me. “To this day no suspects have been apprehended, a usual occurrence in Chicago. Someone saw something, someone knows something.”
In the meantime, as Obama continues to lobby a stubborn Congress to address gun control legislation, he is clearly aware that more black men and women are dying on the nation’s streets as a result of gun violence and, sadly, the bloodshed is flowing much closer to the president’s backyard.