Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Cabrini Green in the news – The Rest of the Story

Today’s Chicago Sun Times front page headline was “ Fake Gun, Real Anger”. The headline was caused by the shooting of a 14-year old boy by Chicago police. The anger was caused by a long-term lack of trust between inner city youth and police, as well as the way residents feel they are being “pushed out of the Cabrini Green area by developers” and gentrification.

On page two, columnist Mark Brown wrote “Emotions run high in constant struggle between residents, cops.” The editors of Mr. Brown’s column highlighted one quote which read, “This was Cabrini in its natural state – raw and untamed as ever, a perpetual battleground between police and residents despite all the changes to the neighborhood.”

On page 14 and 15, the Sun Times devoted two full pages to this story. One part provided the justification by police. A second article talked about the frustration of residents who are being pushed out by the new development in Cabrini Green.

On page 37 the feature editorial headline was “Tension, anger, building up.” The editorial reflected the “air of apprehension” of residents who are not sure where they will be moved to, or if they will be able to return and live in the new, mixed income Cabrini Green. The editorial said, “Police have been taking steps to diffuse the tensions, holding meetings between police and local political, religious and business groups that are intended to reduce the risk of confrontation between citizens and police.”

This is what was in the paper. What comes next is “The Rest of the Story”.
If you want to get involved and change what's happening in inner city neighborhoods, please read on, and encourage your friends and co-workers to also read this message.

With school starting in a few weeks, it would be great if there were two full pages in the Sun Times, Chicago Tribune, Cranes, and other Chicago media focusing on the way volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs can help kids make better life choices, and have better success in schools.

Mr. Brown’s article focused on the sensational history of Cabrini Green. It did not tell the story of kids who have finished school, thanks to volunteers like those who are buying condos in Cabrini Green. The editorial could have suggested that volunteer-based tutoring/mentoring programs like Cabrini Connections, or Cabrini Green Tutoring Program, are places where the people buying these high priced condos, and the kids living in the neighborhood (now or in the future) , might meet to learn more about each other, and to build community and family type bonds centered around helping raise the kids living in this new mixed income village.

The SunTimes story did mention that the father of youth who was shot is a “former gang member with 33 arrests on his rap sheet and a conviction for misdemeanor battery” and that some of the boy’s siblings are ‘bad kids’, according to the father.

The people moving into Cabrini Green condos probably have not spent much time learning about poverty, other than reading news stories like today’s paper. If they did, they’d learn that some of Chicago’s neighborhoods are “dumping grounds for ex-convicts” meaning that the most common role model might be someone who has a rap sheet, or who is currently an active gang member.

If we don’t surround young people with mentors who don’t have “rap sheets” or who have gone to college and work in a variety of honest jobs and careers every day, how can we change the aspirations and expectations for these kids? If we don’t create informal places where inner city kids and people who don’t live in poverty can meet and build bridges of understanding, how can we expect to reduce the tension?

School starts in a few weeks and there are many high poverty neighborhoods of Chicago where kids like Ellis Woodland live. Tutor/Mentor programs in these neighborhoods, and in Cabrini Green are seeking volunteers. They are also seeking donors who will help provide the money to operate these programs.

This is the rest of the Story. It’s not what is in the media. It’s what you can do to change what gets into the media. You can learn more about tutor/mentor programs serving the Cabrini Green area by searching the 60610, 60611 and 60622 zip codes of the Tutor/Mentor Program Locator section of

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