Our Pledge To You


Orland Square Mall shooting on King Day wreaked terror and shame

Police say Javon Britten (upper right) was killed in a shooting at Orland Square Mall Monday. A manhunt is underway for the suspected shooter, Jakharr Williams (lower right). | Sun-Times/Justin Jackson; provided

Police say Javon Britten (upper right) was killed in a shooting at Orland Square Mall Monday. A manhunt is underway for the suspected shooter, Jakharr Williams (lower right). | Sun-Times/Justin Jackson; provided

Where is the love?

And how did we let it slip away?

That’s what black people need to contemplate in the aftermath of the deadly shooting at Orland Square Mall that claimed the life of 18-year-old Javon Britten on the day set aside to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

You can point to the senseless shootings that have been committed by whites who have killed other whites if that makes you feel better.

But that won’t lessen the horror of Britten’s murder allegedly at the hands of 20-year-old Jakharr Williams.

Quite often, black people have moved from the city to suburbs like Orland Park to get away from the violence.

You can’t blame them.

I pass the same boy on his way to school just about every morning when I’m walking my dog. The boy looks to be about 9 or 10 and he is walking alone, his face polished with a generous dab of Vaseline.

I smile at him and say a silent prayer that God will keep him safe from harm.

While shootings can happen anywhere, you just don’t connect this type of violence to a place like the Orland Square Mall.

It is every mall owner’s nightmare, and one reason why Water Tower Place established a policy restricting access to persons under 17 during evenings on the weekend –– although neither the alleged shooter or victim in Monday’s incident were minors.

Williams, who has already spent a year in prison on a robbery conviction, was  deemed “armed and dangerous” before he was taken into custody Wednesday evening.

Although the two young men knew each other, no one has yet said what led Williams to allegedly fire multiple shots, killing Britten and sending terrified shoppers running for their lives.

Once again, two black lives are lost.

Britten’s family is now part of army of parents who have lost loved ones to gun violence, and Williams, if convicted, is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison.

It is the same sad story.

What happened to the “Wakanda Forever” love that overtook many of us when “Black Panther” came out? Where did that go?

Recently, a white judge in Tennessee drew scorn from internet commentators after he scolded a black murder suspect accused of shooting another black man over a “stare-down.”

“I grew up at a time where people wore white robes and they shot at black people,” lamented Judge Wayne Shelton in his Montgomery County courtroom.

“And now we see young black men wearing black hoodies shooting at black men — and doing much more effective job than the Klan ever thought about doing,” he said, ending his tirade with “Black lives matter.”

Many of us don’t want to hear that even though it is true.

But in the ‘60s, young black men saw each other as brothers. Today, too many young black males see each other as the enemy.

Where did the love go?

Frankly, I think it started to disappear when black people allowed the N-word to flourish in rap music, and defended its use among African-Americans.

Not even the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People could bury the word.

While some have argued that the use of the word by African-Americans stripped the word of negative energy, there is no way to sanitize a word meant to strip a race of its humanity.

Moreover, there’s nothing about this racial slur that instills pride in either our race or our culture, and what black people need now more than ever is a renewed sense of pride.

That kind of pride stems from love.

I recently saw the power of that kind of love when I joined my son, Kevin Johnson, and three of his childhood buddies — Keith Fiala, Charles Baker and Aaron Janovsky–on an episode of their podcast, “The Echo Chamber.”

Mary Mitchell

Mary Mitchell at the taping of “The Echo Chamber” podcast on Jan. 20, 2019. Others in the picture, from left to right, are Keith Fiala, Charles Baker, Aaron Janovsky and Mitchell’s son, Kevin Johnson. The podcast discussion included the topics of R. Kelly and the Jason Van Dyke sentencing. | Provided by Mary Mitchell

They call themselves the “Brothers from the Wood” because they grew up in Maywood.

Over the years, these black men have supported each other through a lot of successes as well as disappointments.

This project gives them a chance to continue to strengthen their bond.

It was a joy to watch these men tackle important issues without any rancor or disrespect.

As an elder and a parent, I appreciate the love that has kept them linked into adulthood.

We need so much more of that if we are going to stop young black men from killing each other.

To listen to “The Echo Chamber” podcast go to: https://www.facebook.com/TheEchoChamber6