It’s such a lousy place to die.
Here in front of the grimy yellow-brick Stony Sub shack — (“Open 24 HRS”) — at 8440 S. Stony Island Ave.
Right next to the defunct, fenced-in Whips & Hips Apparel store, with its orange-and-black sign displaying a silhouette of a gangster-looking man leaning on a huge roadster, a half-naked woman leaning on him.
Across the street from not one but two churches — God’s House of All Nations and Zion Lutheran Church. There’s a message on the latter church’s sign, aimed from across four lanes at Stony Sub: “Jesus Proclaims The Good News And Calls Us To Repent Our Sins.” It’s doubtful Uchenna Agina — a k a Chino Dolla — got a chance to do that.
Agina, rapper Lil Durk’s manager, was shot and killed early Friday morning by somebody who walked up to the car in which he was seated and blasted away. Only 24, Agina was pronounced dead at nearby Advocate Trinity Hospital.
The story is such a common one on the South Side battlefield that it would almost fail to register in our minds, other than for a few head shakes and deep sighs.
Indeed, the helium-filled red-and-white balloons that are tied to the light pole next to where Agina was killed seem banal and cheap, celebrating, as they do, something as relevant as a young human’s life needlessly called to a halt.
There are some cut red roses amid the grit and dead grass, a few candles (unlit) and a hand-scrawled cardboard sign at the base of the pole, saying, ‘‘A Legend.’’
No, just a statistic, by the time real springtime comes and more murder and drive-bys and macho posturing have played out.
But if there was something unusual about Agina’s death, it is that just a few hours before his execution he was with Lil Durk and a few others at Joakim Noah’s downtown condominium.
They had come together to discuss the goals of Noah’s Rock Your Drop antiviolence campaign, a charitable gesture that the big man with the hair bun has been very passionate about.
In the photo, posted on Instagram shortly after the meeting, Noah towers over six other young men, with Lil Durk in the center and a blank-faced Agina on the right, flashing a two-finger sign on his white T-shirt.
Does that sign mean anything? “V” for victory? Or a message to, let’s say, the Black Disciples, the Mickey Cobras? The Gangster Disciples?
Alex Perris, Joakim Noah, Matt Rosenberg, Lil Durk, Cobe Williams, DJ Bandz and Chino Dolla on Thursday. | Via Instagram
Noah himself is doing the Hawaiian shaka ‘‘hang loose’’ sign. In all this city somberness, can there be anything quite as oddly, stupidly, surreally menacing as fingers held in a certain way?
Lil Durk himself is following in the footsteps of such rappers as Keith ‘‘Chief Keef” Cozart, up-from-the-mean-streets artists who either make it big in the recording business, get shot in the process or fall off the face of the earth.
The history of rappers is not a good one, and all you have to do is think of Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls or even legendary Suge Knight, the former Death Row executive who’s in jail on a murder charge, having run over one man with his car and tried to run over another.
Noah naturally feels he must reach out to the troubled but societally important African-American young men who form the nexus of the inner-city violence that just won’t end.
Agina and Lil Durk (real name, Durk Banks) were arrested on gun charges in the past, and the gun is the symbol of power that these marginalized people feel can protect them from being swept into the waste can of life.
Yet the gun is how so many of them get there, anyway.
Derrick Rose also has been outspoken, with Noah, about trying to bring peace to the inner city. But at some point, the disconnect between these stars’ glamorous, wealth-infused lives and the prospects of the neighborhood guys with little education or luck can just become too much.
Rose broke free from Englewood, but he has a talent so rare that it was identified when he was a child. And he had family protection.
There are fading street memorials all over the South and West sides of Chicago. Somebody was gunned down. Not senselessly —for there is always, at least, some twisted sense to the hail of illegal bullets, even as they hit and kill innocent bystanders.
Noah is trying to change that dynamic.
But even the best intentions take a step backward at times.