Every time a black man is shot on the streets of Chicago, I think of my friend, Michele Dowdy, who lost her son to gun violence in 2012 and how justice continues to elude her. Malcom Dowdy, 33, 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. Dowdy was shot by mistake on Memorial Day 2012 and his murderer has still not been arrested and brought to trial, although the case remains open.
“It’s very frustrating,” Michele said Thursday.
Two years after Malcom Dowdy’s murder, gun violence on the streets of Chicago has reached crisis proportions. On the July 4 weekend, 82 people were shot, mostly young Black men, and 16 people were killed. The reports of these shootings – and violent deaths – seem so routine these days, so detached, so matter-of-fact. But we’re facing an epidemic that is sweeping through Chicago and taking hold of this country. We’re losing an entire generation of young Black men to gun violence and nobody seems to have a plan to stop it.
There have been countless meetings with police and residents; studies by educators and psychologists; and police claims that the overall crime rate is dropping. Last week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel blamed the federal government for the shootings, claiming the feds have not done enough to provide young people with after-school programs. That was a stretch by any political yardstick. So what will it take to stop these shootings? What will it take to stop the culture that glorifies brazen murders in public parks?
Rev. Gregory Seal Livingston, Illinois Chairman of the National Action Network, is calling for a summit on urban violence and criticized Emanuel for poor leadership.
“If Rahm can raise money for his campaign, he can raise money to replace resources that have been ripped from the disadvantaged and challenged communities where senseless violence erupted once again this weekend,” Livingston said. “School closings and union busting are just a few of the grave issues that affect this nature of violence.”
Livingston has a point, but it’s also a parental issue as well. What are parents teaching these black boys and can’t some parents do a better job of reining in their offspring? Michele Dowdy, she did all the right things: She taught her son right from wrong, raised him to respect women and family, she taught him the meaning of a solid work ethic and instilled the importance of serving his country.
“He was the first grandchild on both sides of the family, a proud father of a daughter … he had a fiancé, a new home, he was a veteran, a dean’s list student, a working man,” Michele told me. “He was well-respected by all,” she said. “But most of all, he was my son, my heir, my backup, my protector, my confidant, not perfect, mine. At the time of his death he was very, very happy and planning a wedding.” Black men like Malcom Dowdy are dying senselessly on the streets of Chicago and police can’t seem to close their cases.
It’s difficult for Michele to accept that her son’s killer is walking the streets of Chicago. If only someone –anyone — would talk. It’s a daunting situation for Chicago residents, many of whom do not want to be labeled as snitches for fear of repercussions from gang members. But if nobody ever talks, then killers continue to roam free and, perhaps, will kill again. “The shooter shot in the crowd at someone else and missed,” Michele said. “To this day no suspects have been apprehended, a usual occurrence in Chicago. Someone saw something, someone knows something.”
Last week, Tonya Gunn, 44, was one of those 82 people shot in Chicago. She was killed while sitting in a park while attending a family gathering. Gunn’s 11-year-old daughter was standing right beside her mother at the time of the shooting.
“Everybody was sitting out here and I was sitting over there. And I was getting ready to go in the house. And they started shooting and I heard them screaming. They saying, ‘Somebody call the police!’ But I didn’t know who it was. And then the ambulance came and they took her. They shot her in front of her daughter,” Krystal Scott, Gunn’s cousin, told The Chicago Tribune.
And there’s more: According to the Tribune, the July 4 weekend rampage also included two boys shot by police: a 14-year-old who allegedly pointed a long-barreled .44-caliber revolver at officers, and a 16-year-old who allegedly refused officers’ instructions to drop a .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun as he crawled out from beneath a car. The boys are 14 and 16 years old. Something is very wrong in our communities and we need to do a better job policing our own neighborhoods.
“The solution does not just include policing — although we’ll continue to look for ways to put more police where they’re needed,” Emanuel told reporters. “We also have to give our young people alternatives to the street, and as a community we need to demand more of ourselves and our neighbors.”
It’s a solid concept, sure, but Emanuel needs more cops on the streets to close cases so he should put more money behind those lofty words. Just ask my friend Michele Dowdy.