By Wendell Hutson, Special to the NNPA from the Chicago Defender –
CHICAGO (NNPA) - The last time Robert Freeman Sr. saw his son the 13-year-old looked happy and was full of joy. On July 28 the teen was gunned down in the 11500 block of South Perry Avenue.
“He was a good son and lived life to its fullest. I loved him very much and now he is gone,” Freeman said. Robert Jr. was the oldest of his three children.
According to Chicago police, the son was shot more than 20 times by an unknown assailant during the day as he stood with friends on the street. Freeman Sr. lives one block away on 115th Street and Lafayette Avenue and has lived there since 1970.
“Even though I have another son (and a daughter) there is something special about your first born,” he told the Defender. “I now know how other parents feel when they have to bury their kids. Parents should not out-live their children but when you live in a violent community things like this are bound to happen.”
On Aug. 2, Freeman, 44, joined the Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and two-dozen Black ministers gathered at the corner of 116th Street and Perry Avenue to pray for the community and call for federal intervention on the plight of urban areas.
Jackson said that Black-on-Black crime is a long standing problem in the Black community but reminded those attending the press conference that Blacks do not manufacture guns or illegal drugs.
“The Black community is a target market for drugs and violence,” he added. “As a community we must love and protect our children to prevent more Robert Freeman’s from being brutality murdered.”
Solutions offered by Jackson to slow down the escalating violence in many Black communities are more jobs and better public transportation.
“In this community the unemployment rate for adults is 30 percent and 50 percent for teenagers. We need jobs and job training so people can go back to work,” the civil rights leader explained.
The Rev. Walter Turner, pastor of New Spiritual Light Baptist Church on the South Side, said he agrees that Blacks suffer from more than just violence.
“This is more than violence with guns but violence with economics,” he said. “We need to find a way to make living in economically depressed areas safer.”
The young Freeman’s slaying and the violent weekend that came in its wake ¬– over 20 shootings, with six of them fatal – also had Mayor Richard Daley speaking out.
Daley announced new initiatives to deal with the violence, which he called “our most immediate and pressing challenge” and he agreed that the solution requires many answers.
“Violence is a complex challenge,” Daley said at a news conference held at 15th District Police District Headquarters. “As reasonable people understand, making Chicago safer doesn't have one answer, it has many. That's why we're working on many fronts and in many ways to make our streets safer.”
Daley said that the gang bangers and drug dealers who are responsible for much of the city’s street violence are a “small but violent part” of Chicago.
“The problem is that they believe they're above the law and they don't care about the consequences of their violence,” Daley said. “As a city, we must stand up to them.”
Chicago police report that there were 57 homicides in Chicago last July, and 43 this July.
“But numbers don't provide much consolation if you've lost a family member or friend to violence or feel vulnerable to its awful grip,” Daley said. “The fight to protect Chicago's streets, and especially our children, must continue.”
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