Mitchell: Parkway Gardens ground zero for Chicago’s violence

Charges have been filed in the death of Takiya Holmes, 11, who was shot in the head near Parkway Gardens. | Sun-Times file photo

Parkway Gardens, a historic housing complex that stretches between 63rd and 65th streets on King Drive, is ground zero for Chicago’s violence.

The complex had more shootings than any block in the city between June 2011 and June 2014, a Sun-Times analysis found. It is so notorious, the New York Times sent a team of reporters there to try and figure out what was behind the horrendous killings.

As the first housing cooperative operated and owned by African-Americans, Parkway Gardens was a model for urban development.

Former first lady Michelle Obama lived in one of the apartments when she was a toddler.

‘THAT’S CRAZY’ — Mother who lives near Henderson Elementary says gunfire doesn’t make her flinch anymore

For many working-class families, Parkway Gardens was seen as an alternative to the Chicago Housing Authority’s Robert Taylor Homes and Stateway Gardens.

It is now a textbook example of what happens when hope moves out and despair moves in.

Now occupied by mostly low-income renters, the quality of life in the 35 privately owned buildings is every bit as bad or worse than what families endured in public housing.

Indeed, if Parkway Gardens was operated by a government entity, there would have been a public outcry over the dangerous environment long ago.

OPINION

There have been several senseless killings in or near the complex, including one in which a mother allegedly gave her 13-year-old daughter a switchblade to use in a fight at 64th and King Drive. De’Kayla Dansberry, 15, was stabbed to death in the melee.

Last year, a stray bullet killed Nykea Aldridge, the 32-year-old cousin of Chicago Bulls star Dwyane Wade, while she was pushing a baby stroller.

After so much mayhem, you would think the police presence around the complex would be crushing.

But once again, a stray bullet, allegedly fired by rival gang members near the complex, has shattered a family.

On Saturday night, 11-year-old Takiya Holmes was one of two girls shot in the head in separate incidents.

Takiya was in a car with her mother and aunt when gunshots rang out about 7:40 p.m. in the 6500 block of South King Drive. As of early Monday afternoon, the girl was still on life support.

The other child critically injured by a stray bullet over the weekend is Kanari Gentry Bowers. She was shot in the head while playing in the 1900 block of West 57th Street in the West Englewood neighborhood.

Thus far, 398 people have been shot in Chicago this year.

A number of the fatal shootings last year occurred somewhere in and around Parkway Gardens, mostly young black men in their 20s.

I can’t imagine the pain the families of these latest child victims are going through right now. But Takiya’s injury hit me hard.

I’ve driven past Parkway Gardens countless times, headed to Midway Airport with my granddaughter riding in the back seat, her head usually buried in a book.

The reality that a bullet could come out of nowhere and, well, I can’t even bear to think what that would mean.

Recently, “The Crusader,” a legendary South Side publication whose offices are across the street from Parkway Gardens expanded its “Heroes in the Hood” awards program to target young people in the complex.

And the Rev. Corey Brooks, pastor of the New Beginnings Church located down the street from Parkway Gardens, has been intimately involved in negotiating a peace between rival gang factions operating in the housing complex, according to the New York Times.

That’s all good.

But what’s happening in Parkway Gardens doesn’t give me much hope.

Because if the Chicago Police Department can’t stop the wanton violence in this one housing development, what real chance is there that it can get a handle on the violence that plagues the rest of the city?

RELATED STORY: The most dangerous block in Chicago, once home to Michelle Obama, Nov. 2, 2014

More from the Chicago Sun-Times