Monday, September 08, 2008

“7-Year-Old’s Death at Cabrini Requires Action.”

The front page of Sunday’s Chicago Tribune Metro section headline was “I see that Danny died in vain” referring to the October 13, 1992 murder of 7-year old Dantrell Davis, as he walked to school in Cabrini Green.

The sub-head was “Latest child killings reflect ’92 Dantrell Davis tragedy”, and included photos of three Chicago kids killed in the last week.

At the left is a copy of the front page from the October 15, Chicago Sun Times, with a full page editorial, saying “7-Year-Old’s Death at Cabrini Requires Action.”

We started Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection in the month following the shooting of Dantrell Davis. The Cabrini Connections part was an extension of a 2nd to 6th grade Cabrini-Green Tutoring Program that I had led since 1975.

The Tutor/Mentor Connection was also something that had been growing for many years. From 1975 to 1992 as I lead the Montgomery Ward Cabrini Green Tutoring Program (which became Cabrini Green Tutoring Program, Inc. in 1990), I learned much from th leaders of a few other tutor/mentor programs operating in the Cabrini Green area, and the rest of the city. However, there was no master database showing all of the programs in the city, thus from an advertising perspective, there was no way the media could point resources to these programs when they were talking about "taking action" in their editorials.

I recognized that whenever the media went into an editorial frenzy focusing on the killing of a youth like Dantrell Davis, they focused on the human tragedy of a single person, or a single neighborhood, just like Sunday’s story. While I was the volunteer leader of the Montgomery Ward tutoring program, I was also an advertising manager, developing weekly print ads that were distributed to 20 million people telling them about our 400 stores spread over 40 states.

We used these ads to draw customers to all stores, not one or two. Nothing like this existed in Chicago in 1992 to draw volunteers and donors to tutor/mentor programs in all poverty neighborhoods on a weekly basis.

In 1992 there was no master database showing what tutoring and/or mentoring programs were operating in Chicago, thus when the media did write a “do something” story, they often only pointed to a few brand name organizations, or a few high profile neighborhoods. They did not point to a map like at the left, showing all of the poverty neighborhoods where good tutor/mentor programs are needed, or a Program Locator database that could be used by readers to find programs in every poverty neighborhood that they could support, or to find information to use to create programs in neighborhoods with poverty, but not enough youth services.

In this timeline you can see the growth of Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection since 1992. More than 500 7th to 12th grade teens have participated in Cabrini Connections for since we started in January 1993 with 7 volunteers and five teens.

More than 1000 different organizations have participated in Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conferences since we hosted the first one in May 1994.

More than $2.5 million new dollars have been raised to support tutor/mentor programs by the Lawyers Lend A Hand Program, since we began working with them in 1994.

We did not even know about the Internet in 1992, but were introduced to it by volunteers in 1998. Since then our web sites have provided information to more than 100,000 people. Since 2000 we've been documenting actions to achieve the goals of the Tutor/Mentor Connection.

Yet, as the headline in yesterday’s Tribune suggested. “It’s not enough.” We must do more. Much more.

Cabrini Connections and the Tutor/Mentor Connection did not start as a result of a Mayor’s Task Force, or a major donation from a big local or national foundation. It started because seven volunteers, with no sourse of funding, said “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

We have been helped by many volunteers, and many donors, but we have never had more than a few month's rent in the bank, and after 1999 when our major sponsor Montgomery Ward went out of business, and 2000 and 2001 when the dot-com economy went bust, and the war on Terror began, we have had even fewer dollars to try to help tutor/mentor programs grow in all parts of the Chicago region.

Yet we have not given up.

We keep bringing out the front page of the October 15, 1992 Sun Times to remind our selves of the commitment we made, and to remind everyone else that if we want to end this inner-city terror we need to be spending quality time, talent and dollars on a regular basis, not just at random times when the media decide to bring this to our attention again.

“Just don’t forget”. As the SunTimes editorial writer said in 1992, “Please don’t let this be someone else’s problem. It’s yours. It’s mine.”

You can help us do this work by sending financial donations to help us do this work. Send them to Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Connection, 800 W. Huron, Chicago, Ill. 60642. Our FEIN is 36-3893431. See our financial reports on Guidestar.

You can help by using the Zip Code Map to search for tutor/mentor programs in other areas, and picking one or two to offer time, talent and/or dollars.

You can help by adopting the Role of Leaders, to engage your company, your church, college or social group in this war on poverty.

You can help by passing this message on to someone else who also might help.

No comments: