“I lost control,” anti-gun advocate priest Michael Pfleger told Sneed.
“My tears were in check when former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan asked our 221 grade school kids at St. Sabina Academy this question:
“How many of you know somebody who was shot?”
“They were still in check when all their hands went up in the gym,” said Pfleger, who was preparing to march minutes later in the nationwide school walkout protesting gun violence Wednesday morning.
“I was still numb when their show of hands reminded me of my anger and tears of sadness shed at crime scenes, standing before caskets, and burying children — and knowing kids are growing up in an age when it’s become the new normal to know someone who was shot and killed is unbelievable.
“But during the march, the tears began [and] I couldn’t seem to stop.
“I got real emotional walking to Renaissance Park at 79th and Throop Streets — where we met up with the kids from Leo High School and Perspectives Charter High School,” he said.
“Arne kept asking me if I was okay.
“But even though I couldn’t stop the tears, I knew it wasn’t about sadness,” Plfeger said.
“I was so touched,” he said. “These children were taking the lead. They were giving me so much hope.
“Violence may have been the same issue, but after all these years of protesting and marching and going downtown and going to crime scenes, I was watching these kids speak out and rise up.
“I felt like all the struggle and marching and protesting was somehow bearing fruit,” Plfeger added.
“Then Arne put his hand on my shoulder while we walked, and I felt this was what we had been waiting for,” he said.
Pfleger described Duncan, who now works for the Emerson Collective, an organization totally focused on reducing Chicago’s gun violence, “as a true authentic heart.”
“When Arne left Washington, he could have gotten anything — but he chose to work and walk with our brothers on the West and South Side and walk with the students.”
Said Duncan later: “Look, it was deeply emotional at both ends of the spectrum. Sadness — because our kids had grown up with so much pain and fear — and now tears of hope leading our city and country to a better place. We adults failed them. Our young leaders are going to shape and make history.”
“What a day,” said Pfleger.
“And finally tears of joy!”
And finally . . .
The 700 plus students gathering at Renaissance Park on Wednesday morning also unleashed a special balloon in honor of one man killed by a gun.
The balloon was blue.
And it was sent into the air in honor of the late 18th District Police Cmdr. Paul Bauer, who was shot and killed on the eve of Valentine’s Day while attempting to take a fleeing suspect into custody.
Music notes . . .
Kudos to someone who really knows someone.
• Translation: Thanks to Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) for making sure legendary gospel, blues and soul singer Mavis Staples personally autographed her biography: “I’ll Take You There,” which was delivered recently to Cook County Jail detainees participating in the jail’s literacy program ConTextos. The book was selected to be used in their next book club project.
• Backshot: Written by Chicago author Greg Kot, the book tells the story of the career of Staples, the Staples Singers, and their music, which is emblematic of the Civil Rights movement.
• Upshot: “I know Chicago’s WXRT Radio icon Terri Hemmert and she knows the iconic Mavis Staples,” said Tunney. “And Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who runs the jail, is my friend, and through those connections everything came together — and Miss Staples was happy to sign them.”
• $$$ Buckshot: The book is in the Chicago Public Library’s One Book, One Chicago selection.
Sneedlings . . .
Today’s birthdays: Eva Longoria, 43; Jabari Parker, 23; and Fabio, 59.