A Christmas message on Chicago violence that could save a life

A Chicago media watchdog group is working with TV stations to launch an uncomfortable campaign. It’s one worth paying attention to.

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Dwain Williams (right) was confronted by three gunman in an attempted carjacking Dec. 3 after he left a popcorn shop.

Dwain Williams (right) was confronted by three gunman in an attempted carjacking Dec. 3 after he left a popcorn shop.

Chicago Police Department/Chicago Fire Department

We had the talk.

It is time to have the other talk.

Because I can’t think of anything worse than a 65-year-old man on a popcorn run getting fatally shot during a carjacking and a 15-year-old being charged with the crime.

The family of Dwain Williams, a former Chicago Fire Department lieutenant, has publicly expressed what so many families are feeling.

“I’m very disheartened that this was essentially a baby that has — I don’t even know if they understand the repercussion their actions have caused,” Williams’ daughter Dakeeda Williams-Barton told the Chicago Tribune.

On the same day the murder charge was announced, another 15-year-old boy was charged with killing Jaya Beemon, an 18-year-old nursing student, last February.

Jaya Beemon (left) was shot to death last Feb. 25 in Avalon Park. Police released images of the three shooters.

Jaya Beemon (left) was shot to death last Feb. 25 in Avalon Park. Police released images of the three shooters.

Facebook / Chicago police

In each instance, at least two other shooters, still on the streets, also were involved.

If such violent incidents involving 15-year-olds had happened just a few years ago, there would have been an outcry from elected officials, pastors, activists and civil rights leaders.

But the unintended consequence of the Black Lives Matter movement is that anyone who addresses the crimes being perpetrated by Black youth is often branded a racist.

We see the images that pop up every night on TV reporting a carjacking or fatal shooting, and we don’t see them.

Richard Redmond, co-founder and research editor of the Media Editing Group, a Chicago organization that critiques local television’s coverage of the Black community, is trying to change that. MEG has convinced four stations — Channels 2, 5, 7 and 9 — to run public service announcements that highlight the innocent victims of gun violence. Many of these victims are younger than the 15-year-olds accused of being the shooters in these two killings.

The TV stations’ “effort from the beginning was reactionary,” Richmond says. “We kept seeing crying mothers, but we knew very little about those families on the other end of the spectrum.”

It’s been years since I’d spoken with Redmond. The most recent time, he was trying to get policymakers to find a way to make parents financially responsible for the serious crimes their children commit. “We know there are activists out there working on these things,” he said. “We thought we would do an overall plea to the families of the suspects.”

The new 30-second spot has one message, which Redmond calls “family value.”

“We know as a fact families are not giving up their loved ones,” he says. “We thought it would be better to ask them to sincerely talk among themselves and ask themselves: What is the value of your own family member’s life?

“The reason why that question is so important is, if you have a family member living a street life, and you have no knowledge of this lifestyle, you yourself could be in danger.”

He points to the shootings involving innocent children that many of us have heard about on TV or in the newspaper:

The girl who was fatally shot while talking to her big brother on the porch. The boy who was riding in a car with his father when shots were fired. The girl who was showing her mother new dance moves when a bullet fired from the street tore through her house.

Redmond is asking families, particularly those who have relatives involved in the “street life’,” to have a conversation about what’s at stake.

“It is not like gang members have a shooting range,” he says. So any family member that is around another family member living that lifestyle is at risk. “You’d better talk to your family.

“We appreciate the television stations hearing us,” Redmond says. “They are always showing the hardships of Black people. This is a proactive role.

“Families talking, encouraging loved ones not to use guns — that is a solution that can save us all,” Redmond says of the PSA.

Silence is not a solution.

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