A group of Chicago 5th graders wanted to the combat “the constant negative publicity their neighborhood receives” due to gun violence, so they penned an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune.
Linsey Rose’s students at the Bradwell School of Excellence, on Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood, succinctly expressed their feelings on how they’re perceived:
This is us.
We saw your news trucks and cameras here recently and we read the articles, “Six shot in South Shore laundromat” and “Another mass shooting in Terror Town.” We saw the reporters with fancy suits in front of our laundromat. You spent less than 24 hours here, but you don’t really know us.
Those who don’t know us think this is a poor neighborhood, with abandoned buildings everywhere, with wood covering the windows and broken doors. Those who don’t know us see the police on the corner and think that we’re all about violence and drugs. They see the candy wrappers and empty juice bottles and think that we don’t care. Uneducated, jobless and thieves. You will be scared of these heartless people. When you see us coming, you might hurry and get in your car and lock the doors. Then speed through these streets at 60 mph like you’re on the highway, trying to get out of this ghetto.
We want you to know us. We aren’t afraid. We know that man on the corner. He works at the store and gives us free Lemonheads. Those girls jumping rope are Precious, Aniya and Nivia. The people in the suits are people not going to funerals, but to church. That little, creepy dog is Saianis, Lamaur’s dog. We are the kids who find crates so we can shoot hoops. When the sun shines here, it’s not God saying he wants to burn us; he sees us all with bright futures. Those who know us look at the ones who want to go to college, not the ones who dropped out of school. If you listen, you’ll hear the laughter and the chattering from the group of girls on the corner who are best friends and really care about each other. Do you see the smile on the cashier’s face when the kids walk in? Why? Because this neighborhood is filled with love. This isn’t Chi-raq. This is home. This is us.
Recently two students from Bradwell appeared on NPR with their teacher to discuss their essay. “It wasn’t really hard to write it,” Rondayle Sanders said. “Because I always try to see the good things out of bad. As a class we wrote it, and it inspired a lot of people. So, I’m really proud of myself.”
Rose went on the express how hard the process was.
“It was hard when we started because when we started working on that first part of the essay, you know, ‘What do you think people know about you?’ the students were able to rattle off lots the stereotypes they know about their neighborhood,” said Rose. “But when we got to the second part, it took us awhile to think of, ‘What are the great things?’ And I think that’s a testament to the narrative that we hear so often.”
For the sake of the children in Chicago, I would love for people to stop referring to it as Chi-raq.