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Laura Washington: What are we ALL going to do about slain kids?

A memorial for Hadiya Pendleton, who was shot and killed in under the capony in Harsh Park. Friday, February 1, 2013. l Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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The email plunked into my inbox last week. Journalists get these missives regularly. Anonymous notes, dispatched in frustration, anger and, sometimes, hate.

Generally, I don’t respond to rude and disrespectful correspondents. And it’s been a very bad time for black folk.

This time, I will.

Dear Sir/Madam:

I assume you are referring to the recent, horrific string of shootings of black children on the South Side of Chicago.

In the last two weeks, at least five children have been shot in Chicago, according to news reports, some seriously wounded.

Yes, our children are being shot, even murdered. Is it time? Yes, it is time. That time has come again and again and again.


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Every African-American journalist I know, and countless more that I don’t know, have been responding. We know that gun violence and street crime have become an inexorable fact of black life. For decades, with infinite heartache, we have been writing, reporting and condemning these crimes.

We didn’t start last Wednesday, when we wrote about the 4-year-old boy who was shot in the back as he sat on a porch in Englewood.

Or the night of July 4, when we reported that Nya Williams, 5, and her cousin, C.J. Williams, 7, were shot in West Englewood as they played with fireworks.

Or on June 28, when Kevan Collins, 4, was shot in the face by a stray bullet in Woodlawn.

We have typed, scrawled, blogged and videotaped stories about our babies, society’s utmost responsibility, as they are shot, maimed and killed, like animals in the street, by their own.

In 1992, we brought national attention to Dantrell Davis, the 7-year-old who was shot to death as he walked to school. He was holding his mother’s hand.

In 2007, it was Blair Holt, 16, killed on a CTA bus.

In 2013, April McDaniel, 18, was murdered in a late-afternoon drive-by shooting in Englewood. Hadiya Pendleton, 15, shot as she hung out with friends in a Kenwood park.

Tyshawn Lee, 9, executed in an Auburn Gresham alley last year.

From 2008 through 2012, nearly half of the 2,389 people murdered in Chicago — 1,118 were under age 25, according to an analysis by The Chicago Reporter. Nearly 500 were 18 or younger.

Thankfully, some survive, and may actually live to grow up. If you want to call it living.

They “live” in war zones, economically and socially bereft. They “live” to dodge bullets and suffer post-traumatic syndrome.

They “live” in fear of the police.

They “live” to be shuttled through failing public schools, places our own governor calls “prisons.”

They “live” to be lured into the gang life, and probably prison.

We report that, too.

Journalists are in the news business.

You, the reader, lash out at us for telling the bad news. You are frustrated, angry, searching for someone to blame, for someone to fix it all.

We are just journalists. We ask the questions. We don’t have all the answers.

You, reader, and all of us, must know that these are all our children.

Yes, it’s time. It’s time to ask this reporter’s question: What are we all going to do about it?

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