Tuesday night President Obama gave his State of the Union Address. He turned to the topic of gun control at the end of his speech and used that opportunity to make an emotional call for a vote by the Congress on various pieces of legislation meant to strengthen gun control in the United States.
The President also discussed the senseless death of Hadiay Pendleton, the young 15 year old who was killed in a park only one mile from the President’s Chicago home. Without a doubt the President’s discussion of Hadiya’s life and her tragic and horrific death was incredibly moving. We at the Black Youth Project continue to keep Hadiya’s family and friends in our thoughts and prayers.
While we mourn Hadiya and all the young people in Chicago who are the victims of gun violence, the Black Youth Project is still waiting for the President to comprehensively address gun violence in the city. In the State of the Union address the President made a plea for his legislative agenda. We urge the President to go further on Friday during his time in Chicago, and make a substantive speech that addresses the underlying factors that perpetuate violence in Black and Latino communities across the nation.
Issues such as the illegal distribution and loose regulation of arms, the lack of living-wage jobs, the varied failures of public schools, the disproportionate rate of incarceration for youth of color, the trauma experienced by young people who live in under-resourced and violent communities, and yes, the misguided choices young people sometimes make. Some of these issues were touched upon in the State of the Union address when the President mentioned a need to invest in education, infrastructure, job development and training, and raising the minimum wage. We applaud the President for putting these critical issues on his agenda. We now need to hear a detailed plan of how such investments will be leveraged in cities like Chicago to stop the gun violence and fundamentally improve the opportunities available to Black and Latino youth and the communities where they live.
Thus, we implore the President to use his speech of Friday to unveil a plan of action that involves and builds upon the work of community groups, city and state officials. This plan has to move beyond increased background checks, increased law enforcement and the familiar response of incarcerating more Black and Latino youth, to instead address the underlying factors contributing to gun violence.
We want the President to remind the country of the worth of Black and Latino young people and call for the country to invest in these young people and their communities. Without an ambitious and comprehensive approach to revitalizing our urban areas, we will never save the lives and protect the future of all our young people. Finding answers to the issues that are fueling gun violence in Chicago can serve as a model for other urban areas and will help to ensure a healthy future for the nation.