Karen Lewis: If Takiya, Kanari and Lavontay are to be more than just names on an endless list, then we will need to do much more.


-Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis’ commentary in today’s Chicago Tribune. Karen Lewis spends an hour talking with us this week on Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers Podcast.

With every Chicago shooting, we get an earful from a politician.

Loudest and most disingenuous is billionaire President Donald Trump, now concern-trolling us with tweets and comments that he will “send in the Feds” and do so much for “our inner cities.”

And like his hollow budget address, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposal to deploy state troopers to “contain” Chicago violence doesn’t come across as a way to solve the problem, but to score political points against his wine buddy, Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Meanwhile, Chicago mourns the loss to gun violence of three children: Takiya Holmes, Kanari Gentry-Bowers and toddler Lavontay White Jr. Having dedicated my life to helping young people realize their fullest potential, my heart aches for their families.

For the Chicago Teachers Union members who have spent their lives serving in our city’s poorest neighborhoods, this is all too familiar. For years, we have dealt with the painful aftermath of violence in our classrooms, hallways and schoolyards.

While we are not typically thought of as first responders to violence, teachers and school staff are often the first responders to the trauma that violence brings, especially when it happens to the very students entrusted to our care.

At Henderson Elementary School in West Englewood, teachers helped students write notes to Kanari, their classmate, before she died in the hospital. Since November, seven Henderson students or former students have been killed or injured by gun violence.

Every shooting of a child brings confusion, sorrow and fear for their classmates. Left untreated, these emotions cast a dark cloud, affecting young people’s ability to learn and focus — and, in the worst scenarios, leading them down the path to violence.

At the time, Mayor Emanuel claimed that there was no money to pay for these demands. And even after signing the contract, the mayor has continued to starve our schools, with help from Rauner. Carson Elementary School, down the street from Henderson, will lose more than $200,000 in the millions of cuts just announced.

We live in one of the richest cities, in one of the richest states, in the richest nation in the world. Elected officials who line up to mourn the latest shooting while claiming that “there is no money” to pay for prevention, or that the wealthy already “pay too much,” are really saying that they care too little.

Enough with the talk.

CTU members were willing to strike to ensure that all Chicago’s children get the resources that they deserve. We’ve forced the mayor to put our tax dollars toward young people, instead of into developer slush funds.

But if Takiya, Kanari and Lavontay are to be more than just names on an endless list, then we will need to do much more.

We must eradicate the conditions that create violence. That means policy change and resources: fully funded schools and thousands of new jobs that pay a fair wage.

The members of the Chicago Teachers Union show up for our students when the cameras are off. We need our public officials to do the same.

2 Replies to “Karen Lewis: If Takiya, Kanari and Lavontay are to be more than just names on an endless list, then we will need to do much more.”

  1. Ohhhh… the agony by Republicans of (Chicago) gun deaths, their handwringing and tough talk about “sending troops,” or putting the blame exclusively on “big city” mayors may have a fraction of an ounce of sincerity, or even may appear a bit touching, if they weren’t on the NRA (gun manufacturers’) legalized bribery roll.

  2. “The emperor has no clothes!” said Napoleon.
    Our state/city government in a nutshell, emphasis on NUT.

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