What new words to write of Chicago gun violence?
Or a summer of horror that claimed six children no older than 10 years old?
Three were killed riding in a car with parents, executed by enemies gunning for the car owners.
Two were killed playing not far from the front doors of their homes.
One was inside her home. She was watching television when gang member bullets found her.
At the Chicago Public Schools they attended, we must acknowledge four virtual empty chairs.
The deaths of these six young children mark Chicago’s summer of horror as the sun sets on a killing season — Tuesday’s first day of fall spurring hope that colder weather might bring calmer streets.
Yet the pain of what should have been Chicago’s most enjoyable season lingers. For it is far from that for these children lost from neighborhoods held hostage to heartbreak, neighborhoods where guns claim the most innocent of lives in the annual four months of warm-weather carnage.
We weep for them, bemoaning a benchmark of 520 fatal shootings as we enter fall.
- 8-year-old Dajore Wilson, killed Sept. 7 in Canaryville on the South Side. She would have been a second-grader at Dewey Elementary Academy of Fine Arts.
- 9-year-old Janari Ricks, killed July 31 in Cabrini-Green. He would have been a fourth-grader at Ruben Salazar Elementary Bilingual Center.
- 7-year-old Natalia Wallace, killed July 4 in Austin. She would have been a second-grader at Crown Community Academy of Fine Arts Center.
- 20-month-old Sincere Gaston, killed June 27 in Englewood.
- 10-year-old Lena Nunez Anaya, killed June 27 in Logan Square. She would have been a fifth-grader at Frederick Funston Elementary School.
- 3-year-old Mekhi James, killed June 20 in Austin.
They are all of our children.
Hear our wails for these victims of Chicago’s inability to protect our children, our future, from the public health crisis of gun violence, mostly at the hands of gang members.
They have been the victims for so long of inaction to protect them from structural racism that has created ignored conditions which fueled lethal gang activity.
This, then, is our wake.
Dajore was killed during a bloody Labor Day weekend that saw 10 killed by gunfire and 50 more wounded.
She was riding in a car with her family that Monday evening, driven by her father.
When they stopped at a red light near 47th and Union, someone in a car behind them got out and sprayed their car with bullets.
Dajore was shot in the back. Comer Children’s Hospital received her small body.
Dajore was a little diva — evident in a beautiful photo of her in white gown and crown.
She loved fashion. Her favorite color was pink, and there was a sea of it at her funeral.
She’d been looking forward to getting her hair done and getting sparkle nails for the start of school the next day. She was a bit shy. She loved her dolls. And she loved school.
Dajore was buried in a clear glass casket.
Survivors include her parents Tracey Holmes and D’Andre Wilson.
No arrests have been made.
Janari was an honor-roll student, a math scholar.
After being inside the house all day, he’d come outside that Friday evening to play with friends in the 900 block of North Cambridge.
An ex-convict, Darrell Johnson, 39, is charged with spraying bullets from a nearby alley as they played. Janari ran, then collapsed.
Janari was shot in the back. Lurie Children’s Hospital received his small body.
Janari loved football, basketball even more. He was a left-handed shooter, with a crossover dribble that psyched out opponents, and he could quote sports statistics better than most adults.
He loved cars. His favorite among his model car collection — the Ferrari. And he loved video games, said to be the leading Fortnite scorer on his block.
He treasured his Hoverboard, received on his last birthday. It had a place of honor at his memorial.
Survivors include his parents Jalisa Ford and Raymond Ricks.
Natalia was killed during the other bloody holiday weekend, the Fourth of July, which saw 17 people killed by gunfire and more than 70 wounded.
Natalia was playing with other children in front of her grandmother’s house that Saturday afternoon in the 100 block of North Latrobe Avenue. Her family had gathered for a party.
Three reputed gang members — Terrell Boyd, 30, Davion Mitchell, 22, and Reginald Merrill, 33 — are charged with driving up to the home, exiting their car and spraying a hail of bullets.
Natalia was shot in the forehead. Stroger Hospital of Cook County received her small body.
Natalia was funny and outspoken for her age. When she was around her older cousins, she did not like to be babied by her parents. But she was always generous with kisses on the cheek and an “I love you.”
She loved to pose for pictures — exuding personality in a beautiful photo where she stares confidently at the camera in her beaded French braids.
Natalia was buried in a purple casket decorated with Disney “Frozen” characters.
Survivors include her parents Michelle Rogers and Nathan Wallace.
Sincere Gaston was riding in a car driven by his mother that Saturday afternoon.
They were on their way back from the laundromat. Sincere was strapped in his car seat.
A car pulled alongside them near 60th and Halsted, and someone inside sprayed their car with bullets.
Sincere was shot in the chest. St. Bernard Hospital received his small body.
Nicknamed Shin Shin by his favorite cousin, he was a sweet and happy baby. He loved to dance and also to eat, despite how tiny he was.
Sincere, who would have turned 2 next month, was buried in a tiny white casket.
Survivors include his parents Yasmine Miller and Thomas Gaston.
No arrests have been made.
Lena was supposed to be safe in her own home.
She was watching television that Saturday night with her brother, in the living room of her grandmother’s apartment in the 3500 block of West Dickens Avenue.
Stray bullets found her through the second-floor window.
A reputed gang member, Christopher Lara, 19, is charged with unleashing, from nearly a block away, a bombardment of bullets — aiming for a group of men in front of the home, including her father.
Lena was shot in the head. Stroger Hospital of Cook County received her small body.
She was a princess, so sweet and full of joy, with a beautiful smile and heart to match.
She was very close with her family, and had many hopes and aspirations for her future.
Survivors include her parents Deborah Anaya and Geovanny Nunez Soberanis.
Mekhi was riding in the car with his stepdad that Saturday evening, heading back from his very first barbershop haircut.
A car pulled up behind them in the 600 block of North Central Avenue, and someone inside started firing at his stepdad’s car.
Mekhi was shot in the back. West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park received his small body.
Mekhi was a handsome child with twinkling brown eyes whose smile lit up a room. He was well-mannered and very loving. He could embrace in the tightest of hugs.
He also loved McDonald’s. A Happy Meal had been waiting for him to return with his fresh haircut.
Survivors include his parents Myesha James and Charles Morrison.
No arrests have been made.
How long should we mourn the dozens of young lives purloined in Chicago’s summer of horror?
When will some parents acknowledge their children are at risk from the sins of the father?
Do we even feel any shame that the nation’s third-largest city this summer notched the highest number of gun deaths of children no older than 10 in six years?
These are the questions. Answer them for yourselves, as the sun sets on the killing season, and the pain of a summer of horror lingers.