From Emmett to Hadiya: The Transformation of Chicago

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Originally posted at Nikki and the City

Today is Hadiya Pendleton’s wake. Thousands of people will line up outside a small funeral home on the South Side of Chicago to pay their respect to the beautiful girl whose life was snatched away from her. The city of Chicago will come out to witness how the spirit of hate has taken away another innocent soul. Hearts will break as broken teenagers enter the church, struggling to deal with today’s harsh reality. And as Cleopatra cries out for her lost daughter, Chicago will finally acknowledge that our heart is officially broken. While this pain may be something new for this generation, the eyes of our elderly affirms they’ve been here before.

In 1955 thousands of people lined outside of the A.A. Rayner Funeral Home in Chicago to pay their respect to Emmett Till. Mamie Till (mother of Emmett), insisted on having an open casket to show the entire world what racism did to her son. Young Emmett was excited to leave the city of Chicago and experience a summer in Mississippi with his extended family. Not accustomed to the deep rooted Jim Crow Laws of the land, and simply “the way things are” mentality, Emmett whistled at a White woman. Why did he whistle? Maybe he thought she was pretty or maybe he did it to impress his cousins. We’ll never know why, but that whistle cost him his life.

Let’s try to think of things these White men DIDN'T do to kill Emmett. Impossible. They beat him, shot him, cut his tongue, removed his testicles, gauged out his eyes, must I go on? Emmett didn’t deserve that, but it shows the current state of our country during that time. Black folks united to fight against the racism that tried to keep us down. As Till’s murder sparked the Civil Rights Movement, we worried who would be the next innocent victim of racism, and if our children would have to live in a constant state of fear. We never thought we’d reach the day when it would be our own children, killing each other.

In the spirit of Mamie Till, Cleopatra Cowley (mother of Hadiya), is having a open casket wake today from 2p.m.-9p.m. Let the nation see what hatred, guns, lack of jobs, and lack of guidance has done, once again. There is value to everyone’s life, however, I can almost understand when Leroy gets murdered due to his gang affiliation. But not Hadiya. I don’t understand it and I never will. I urge you Chicago, after you leave the viewing of little Hadiya, allow your hurt to be transformed into passion. May this be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Just like Emmett’s gruesome murder sparked an entire movement, may Hadiya’s unjust death be the push Chicago has needed to continually fight for change.

I may not be a mother, but as I look at the images above there is one thing I know for sure: A mother should never have to bury her child, especially if she loses her baby due to foolishness.

I’m not a mother, but I’m a Chicagoan, down to my bones. Born and raised here, Chicago has become the city I love and hate. Bursting with opportunity, yet lacking resources. Chicago has the most beautiful skyline one has ever seen, but the skyrocketing murder rates are beginning to override the appeal that sucks tourist’s in. “Sweet Home Chicago” has now been bitterly plagued as the number one murder capital of the nation.

From Emmett to Hadiya, the transformation of Chicago is excruciating to witness, but the city continues to cry out for help.

Do you live in Chicago? What are your thoughts? What needs to happen to improve our city?

Nikki and the City is a For Harriet Content Partner. Follow Nikki on Twitter and visit her blog.

For Hadiya: We Speak Your Name

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