Now that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has shaken the dust from his feet, scores of aspirants are lining up to grab the mantle of leadership.
For you non-Bible scholars, to “shake the dust from one’s feet” is a scriptural teaching advising disciples that after they had preached the gospel and it was rejected, they could walk away with a clear conscience.
When Emanuel pointed out that “moral values” play a role in reducing violence, black leaders rejected his message, but he did his part.
Unfortunately, fearing a similar backlash, other mayoral candidates aren’t likely to take up this cause. But families impacted by the violence are crying out for help.
For instance, I met such a reader at an event sponsored by the Illinois Chapter of AARP last Saturday.
She was there with her 12-year-old grandson, and handed me a letter that she had hastily written on notebook paper.
This grandmother didn’t ask me to write a column or to make a phone call on her behalf. She just wanted me to know the struggle many mothers are having trying to keep the streets from swallowing up their teenage sons.
I am sharing her letter because I believe the voices of people like her are missing from discussions that take place after a particularly violent weekend.
“I am writing you because my son who is now in prison, has been there since he was 18. He is now 35 years old and has grown up in the system—Statesville, Menard and Pontiac,” after being convicted of first-degree murder, she said.
With the help of her mother, she raised her grandson after her son left when he went into prison. The boy’s mother had never been in his life,” she said.
That’s a concern we rarely talk about — absentee mothers.
But experts claim the lack of a mother figure can have major consequences on boys, including negative feelings that lead to anger, poor behavior, problems with relationships and emotional imbalances,” according to an article posted on the “You Are Mom” website.
An abrupt move to Indiana, and a short period of homelessness, sent her grandson into a downward spiral.
By the time the family found housing in Plainfield, the teen was getting into trouble at school.
“My grandson was going through a lot. My mother had died and his little brother (from his mother) drowned on his eighth birthday (a pool party). I tried to get help for him; tried to find a mentor. No help. Some people said they would help for a while, but didn’t remain with him,” she said.
After her grandson got into a fight at a high school in the Romeoville school district, “they sent him to an alternative school with children far worst than him,” she said.
The teen ended up dropping out of high school and hanging out with other young men who were also out of school and out of work.
It wasn’t long before he was standing in front of a judge being charged with assault and robbery.
It shattered his grandmother’s dreams.
“The last thing I wanted was for him to be in jail or in prison. I wanted him to go to the military and to get away from the friends and the area,” she wrote.
“I wanted him to find a new life. Now he is in jail and I can’t pay for him to get out or to get another lawyer. And now when he gets out, he will not be able to get a job or do anything else with his life,” she said.
Although Emanuel was soundly criticized as victim-shaming when he talked about “moral values,” this mother had this plea:
“I want you to do whatever you can to try to keep these young men out of the system, and I know that it starts at home,” she said.
“It also starts with the school system. We need more mentors. These young men don’t have fathers, grandfathers or uncles. Women are raising most of them. All of these people have time to march. But where is these young men’s help?” she asked.
“Believe me, we tried,” she said.
We can’t do this alone. It still takes a village.