‘This is not the first student I have lost’

A Chicago Public Schools teacher loses student to gun violence and hopes for change. Again.

SHARE ‘This is not the first student I have lost’

Keshawn Williams.

Provided by Constance Campe

She has lost another one. 

“I am tired of the news in Chicago reporting these horrific events as statistics. I am also tired of having to console students and families of lost loved ones,” Constance Campe wrote to me on LinkedIn.

Campe is a Chicago Public Schools teacher and the daughter of an old friend.

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On Monday, May 24, around 9 p.m., a cherished student of hers, Keshawn Williams, 17, and a friend were standing on the sidewalk in the 500 block of South Oakley Boulevard.

Someone in a silver BMW drove up and shot both of them.

Keshawn was shot in the chest and died at Stroger Hospital. The other teen was hit in the shoulder but survived.


Keshawn Williams.

Provided by Constance Campe

They wanted to sell a pair of athletic shoes, so they had connected with a buyer on Facebook and agreed to meet up on Oakley that night, Campe says.

She is frustrated that no arrests have been made. The Chicago Police Department’s investigation is continuing. Police are “looking at every possible angle to solve this case,” said police spokesman Don Terry.

A 14-year veteran of the classroom, Campe teaches 11th grade history at Disney II Magnet School on Chicago’s Northwest Side.

“This is not the first student I have lost,” she wrote to me, “or the first time I have tried to have the story of a Black teenage, young man be told.”

Over the Fourth of July weekend, 104 people were shot in Chicago, and 19 died. At least 13 children were wounded.

Keshawn Williams’ death was a newspaper headline and an if-it-bleeds-it-leads TV new story. In one article, his name was misspelled. 

Campe said she was “frustrated when journalists asked if he was a gang member or did drugs.”

Keshawn Williams was a good kid. He was a “goof off,” she said, with “a big heart.”

He would practice the trombone in the school hallway. “He had these huge cheeks.” 

The teacher and her student often talked about the violence in Keshawn’s West Side neighborhood. “He would say, ‘I know it’s going to happen to me. Our city does not care about us.’”

Campe knew what “us” meant. People make assumptions about the young Black males who live on Chicago’s South and West sides. That they are undeserving thugs.

“As a history teacher, I feel like what is happening on these neighborhoods are due to the effect of Jim Crow and racism,” Campe said. Keshawn “struggled so much and saw the injustices, and felt like he couldn’t do anything about it.”

Her students “have so much potential,” she said. But “at least once a month I have students coming to me because of someone killed by gun violence.”

“I don’t understand why people can see this and move on.”

I wish Campe would talk to the taunters.

Whenever I write about race, the ugly emails roll in. The writers, always white and male, spew venom about “you Blacks.” They taunt me about the statistics, the murders and the shootings. We are “animals,” and worse.

I don’t respond. They are not interested in my response. They want only to excoriate and hate.

Campe is white. Perhaps they will listen to her. 

“I am at CPS because I care so deeply about my students and city. I do not think it is justifiable for our city to truly have two tales, depending on where a Chicagoan lives,” she said.

Thanks for caring about the lost ones. And those who want to live.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com.

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