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Dispatch From Chicago: Stop the Violence, but How?

Writing at Colorlines, Jamilah King takes a closer look at the devastating violence in the city — in particular the impact on the lives of Chicago's black youths — and the complexities of the work that's being done to combat it.

"There's a needed coordination on the national level at this point," Cathy Cohen, a political scientist at the University of Chicago and founder of the Black Youth Project, said on MSNBC recently. "People are trying to do whatever they can, from community groups, NGO's, to faith-based communities, but there's a leadership and coordination that's needed from the national level." Cohen was speaking to her group's petition to get President Obama to "come home" to Chicago to address the violence.

Locally, after Pendleton's murder Chicago Mayor Rahm [Emanuel] implored residents to take action. "It is incumbent on all of us who have a responsibility to see a stop to this. And all of us are responsible, all adults," Emanuel said. Yet the onslaught of death has begged difficult questions for those seeking to stop it. Can you address the violence without first dealing with its roots? And how do you even begin to work on the roots of violence while its tangling vines are spreading so rapidly?

Across the city, those who work directly with young people are walking a thin line between addressing immediate acts of violence and focusing on long term intervention. Bilal represents one approach, which has drawn national attention for its innovative way of thinking about violence: not as a criminal justice problem, but as a public health challenge. But others are asking an uncomfortable question about that innovation: Once a life is saved, what do you do with it?


Read Jamilah King's entire piece at Colorlines.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

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