A week after performing at President Obama's Inauguration, 15-year-old Chicago student Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in my city -- another young life taken as the epidemic of gun violence in Chicago impacts another family. The news about Hadiya immediately triggered memories and feelings associated with my cousin, Leonard Truss, who was shot and killed by an AR-15 in front of his home just before his 18th birthday, only a few blocks from where Hadiya was murdered.
My cousin was joyful and considerate. I remember taking him to baseball games and youth events, and how he was always more than happy to carry elder’s grocery bags; but like Hadiya, and too many youth in Chicago and across the country, his life ended too soon.
That's why my family and I are joining with the Black Youth Project to ask President Obama to come to Chicago and honestly speak on the root causes of gun violence in Black and Latino communities. This speech must be a substantive one, that includes specifics on the policies and programs his administration will initiate to save the lives and improve the futures of our young people.
We know that President Obama cannot solve the issue of gun violence alone. However, he can call the nation to consciousness about the need for a response to this specific crisis that is affecting youth in cities like mine.
President Obama rightly went to Newtown to comfort the families who lost children in that horrific tragedy, and now it is time he come home to Chicago and comfort the over 500 families who have lost loved ones to gun violence in the past year.
Youth in my community face specific challenges that lead to gun violence -- and these challenges require different solutions than other tragedies commonly invoked in current gun control debates, like Newtown and Aurora. It is time President Obama talked openly and honestly with the nation about all the factors that threaten the lives of inner-city youth; namely gun violence and the illegal distribution and loose regulation of arms, the lack of living-wage jobs, the varied shortcomings of public schools, the disproportionate rate of incarceration for youth of color, the circumstances and culture that propels the cycle of violence, and yes, the misguided choices young people sometimes make.
We are facing a crisis that demands the leadership of our President and our country. Please stand up for and with Black, Latino, and inner-city youth by signing this petition.