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‘How many murders of children does it take to make a city’s soul rot?’

Chicago is in the midst of its seasonal killing time.

Barbara Stevenson, 52, and her husband Michael, 52, add balloons to the memorial for 9-year-old Janari Ricks on the Near North Side.
Barbara Stevenson, 52, and her husband Michael, 52, add balloons to the memorial for 9-year-old Janari Ricks on the Near North Side.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“A riot is at bottom the language of the unheard… Despite the overwhelming odds, the majority of Negroes in the ghetto go on living, go on striving, go on hoping. This is the miracle. To be a Negro in America is often to hope against hope.” –Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This is the last in a series titled, “Until Black Lives Matter”

If heaven’s got a playground, then Janari Ricks is up there. Got his angels’ wings at just 9 years old ‘cause down here we didn’t care.

Murder in the air. Assassin’s glare. But that brother didn’t give a damn about kids playing everywhere.

Everybody knows bullets don’t play fair. So the bodies will just keep droppin’ here and there. Until Black lives matter…

Body snatchers stealing Black lives in their prime. Like picking daisies at summertime. Like it’s seasonal killing time. The Chi has completely lost its mind. Way past praying time. More than just a crime.

And we runnin’ outta time to right this wrong. Souls gone home. Souls gone wrong. Every summer it’s the same blues song: Bittersweet chaos. The cacophony of children at play mixed with semiautomatic spray.

How many murders of children does it take to make a city’s soul rot? How many more Black lives have to be shot? How many Black bodies to end this cataclysmic plot in what Dr. King called, “a battle against pathology within and a battle against oppression without”?

“Don’t shoot!”

“I can’t breathe.”

“When will the shooting stop?” By them. And by us. Until Black lives matter, in only God we trust.

Too much bloodshed. Visions of demons dashing inside my head. Flowers and teddy bears mark the spot where Chicago’s children bled.

Summer rain. Come wash away this pain and tears for the slain. Of souls gone home before their time. Of this soulless broad-shouldered city that has forfeited its conscience and mind. That daily sinks deeper into the abyss. As we gently kiss casket-filled deaths of dreams forever young while we pretend there are no solutions.

What we lack is the “will,” the moral constitution. To ensure that Black lives matter beyond a mere hashtag, phrase or bumper sticker. The “will” to reinvest in Black neighborhoods and restore the Black family — soul by soul, brick by brick — and to reconfigure this systemic racist design that conspires to keep Black lives oppressed, dispossessed, behind.

Until Black lives matter, there will be trauma upon trauma upon trauma. And every summer— indeed every season — the same old drama. Politicians and civic leaders hand-wringing and shruggin’. And do-nothing preachers acting like they lovin’.

Mothers mourning daughters and sons as their spirits drift toward the sky. And no sane answer to the question, “Why?”

Mekhi James was only 3. Lena Nunez, 10. Natalie Wallace just 7. One-year-old Sincere Gaston will never see a birthday again. Vernado Jones Jr. was 14, Amaria Jones just 13. And the slaying of our young: Chicago’s dreadful recurring theme.

Community devastated. Our babies forever gone. Whispering sweet lullabies, teary-eyed over life songs only half-sung. We sing. Cry. Moan. Long for an end to these tears and fears that overtake even the strong. And yet, we won’t do a damn thing to right this wrong.

So with another bloody summer lingering, I once again sing this song:

Little boy blue making summer mud pies. Little girls jumping rope, pigtails to the sky. Never saw it coming. Never heard the bullets fly. No time to cry before you closed your pretty brown eyes; No time to say goodbye.

So fly butterfly fly. Into the Father’s loving hands. To a playground beyond these misty, water-colored skies. To a play lot of peaceful golden sands. ‘Cause we didn’t give a damn. Wouldn’t even lift a hand. Couldn’t give a damn… Or you’d still be here instead.

I wonder: “Did Janari cry, as he ascended to the sky?” At 9 years old, he wasn’t supposed to die. Now this whole damn city should have to answer why. Until Black lives matter…

Email John Fountain at Author@johnwfountain.com

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