It was a beautiful day.
Then I read that another “Super Kid” was killed on our streets.
She’nyah O’Flynn was in the city to spend time with her dad, just as she has done every summer since she turned 4.
She was killed last Thursday when shots rang out in the West Garfield Park neighborhood.
The 12-year-old was an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire.
That’s just heartbreaking and should have brought this city to its knees.
How could we enjoy the barbecue, or biking or a snow cone or anything else after hearing that a 12-year-old girl has been fatally shot?
The tragic gun death occurred one day before students from Parkland, Florida, joined celebrities Jennifer Hudson and Chance the Rapper at St. Sabina to push for gun control.
Hundreds marched through the streets to send an urgent message to voters and elected officials.
But it only took one person firing a gun to turn a beautiful day into one that feels much too familiar.
In recent months, two other kids attending schools in the Southwest Michigan school district where She’nyah went to school, were also shot — not fatally — while visiting family in Chicago, according to the district’s superintendent.
It is abundantly clear.
We can’t save the “Super Kids” without intervening in the lives of kids growing up in environments that harden their hearts.
A retired public school teacher is trying to reach these kids by starting at the root.
Angela E. Davis-Lewis, along with her son, Jason A. Karriem and her granddaughter, Saniyyah A. Karriem, have written character building workbooks for girls and boys between the ages of 7 and 12.
“The parents are not teaching these traits in the home. Some parents say they don’t have time, but I was a teacher and I see the break down of appropriate role models. This is a national issue,” Davis-Lewis told me.
In the interest of full disclosure, Davis-Lewis is an old high school friend. I haven’t seen her in decades, but back in the day we were in the same clique.
We both grew up in large families and defied the odds by avoiding the pitfalls that snared so many other girls.
Being in a clique was different then.
It didn’t have anything to do with gangbanging, or trying to control a block, or breaking the law.
Our clique, “The Exquisite Ladies,” was about controlling ourselves, and making it through high school with good grades and no baby carriage.
By the time Davis-Lewis was in the classroom, the behavior was far worse than anything we witnessed growing up.
“They were disrespectful and I used to wonder who in the world is training these children,” she told me.
After teaching for more than 20 years, Davis-Lewis, along with her husband, Robert E. Lewis, a retired school principal, founded “All 4 Kidz Enterprises.”
The company produces character-building workbooks designed for use at home and in the classroom.
“There are recent trends that are affecting an overall moral decline in our youth: violence, inappropriate language, vandalism, destruction and a decline in civic responsibility,” the authors point out in a company brochure.
“Realizing that the influences of our environment greatly undermine who we are, All 4 Kidz Enterprises have joined the fight to infuse positive images and information into the lives of our young people,” the authors said.
The “Are You That Girl,” workbook, written with Davis-Lewis’ 13-year-old granddaughter, contains a character-building guide that highlights 27 positive character traits.
The “Proud to be Me!” workbook for boys contains lessons for 28 character traits, including “taking responsibility” for one’s actions, and is co-authored with Davis-Lewis’ adult son.
Both books won Creative Child Magazine’s 2018 Book of the Year Award.
“As a teacher, I saw the boys are broken. For many of them, no one is trying to give any direction. All of them are not going to turn out violent. But others are not being smart and respectful. They don’t know what it means to be worthy of respect or to be strong,” Davis-Lewis said.
It was a beautiful day until someone pulled out a gun.
I’m hopeful that this family’s effort will reach the hearts and minds of young people who need it most.
For more information go to: http://www.all4kidzenterprises.net
Mary Mitchell and educator Leslie Baldacci are co-hosts of a podcast on race relations called “Zebra Sisters.” Check out the first season on iTunes and Google Play Music — or find individual episodes on the Sun-Times’ Zebra Sisters page. Email Mary and Leslie at email@example.com or suggest topics for season two by calling the Zebra Hotline: (312) 321-3000, ext. ZBRA (9272).