Death in Chicago

Excerpted from an email to friends back home (video below):

When people in the Middle East ask where I’m from there are usually two things they associate with Chicago: Michael Jordan and violence. I’m always happy to hear the former and hope one day they’ll be just as familiar with Derrick Rose when he returns. And when I hear the latter reference I usually respond with something like, “yeah, but nothing like in this region.” But recently I’ve started to think that’s not really true.

I remember living in Chicago and not being affected by reports of violence that happened in parts of the city far from where I lived. It might sound odd, but now that I live on the other side of the planet, that violence feels much closer to home with every “Chicago” headline I read in various media.

While visiting home recently I wanted to tell the story of Darius McGraw, a young man gunned down last November in Chicago’s Marquette Park neighborhood. The multiple headlines of reports on his death mostly read something like, “4 dead, 19 injured in weekend violence,” none mentioned, for example, that he had a two-year-old daughter. I didn’t know Darius well, but I knew the area where he lived on the Southwest Side and the organizers at the now-closed Southwest Youth Collaborative who dedicated their lives to that community. Darius spent almost half of his brief 22 years at the center where he practiced break dance and other activities to organize young people.

My report isn’t much, and it can’t do anything to repair the insufferable tragedy the McGraw family and SWYC community have had to endure. It’s merely an attempt to give a face and name to one of more than 500 people killed in Chicago last year.

Watch our video report below, which can also be found on Al Jazeera’s site.

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