Thursday, February 2, 2012

An Open Letter To Young Brothers in Chicago

Late last year, I had the honor of having my book 'Street Angel' read by the Truancy Reduction Program in Chicago. The two program coordinators, Allyse Sturdivant and Dr. Darlene Perry felt very strongly about the positive impact the story would have on the youths in the program, many of who were gang members. Upon seeing this great impact, Dr. Perry and Ms. Sturdivant asked that I write a letter to the young brothers about my reasons for writing 'Street Angel' and my feelings on youth violence in general. Here is the letter I wrote to them:

New York, N.Y. 12/12/11

In the Spirit of Peace,

About a week ago, a 17 year old boy who played basketball for South Shore H.S. in Brooklyn was shot and killed after school. I immediately thought of my story, ‘The City Game’. Like the boy in Brooklyn, Shaquille Jones, the lead character in my story, high school basketball All-American Sam Johnson, also dies senselessly and tragically.

According to the latest CDC report, homicide is the leading cause of death of Black males between the ages of 15-34. I think this should be repeated--Murder is the leading cause of death of Black boys of 15 to young men of 34. The troubling second part to this statistic is that they are usually killed by another young black male.

There is a scene in ‘Street Angel’ where Moises is at Devin’s funeral and watches Devin’s mother hysterically try to get into the coffin with “her baby”. Many readers have told me that scene was one of the most vivid they had ever read. I purposely wrote it that way so people can understand that two lives were taken when Devin was killed: his and his mother’s. Every time a boy or girl is killed, the death affects everyone who loved and cared for that person--his parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, friends...etc.

I would also ask you to remember Moises’ graduation, when, before he gives the valedictorian address, he says to himself, “it doesn’t take any courage to pull a trigger.” I would go a step further and add “it doesn’t take any courage to be a gang-banger. Just like it takes courage to talk out an argument, it also takes courage to be a neutron. It takes courage to lead, and not be a follower. Remember, we all have the power to change our circumstances.

It’s up to you.

Peace and Blessings to you all,

Rob Batista

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