Shonkela was on her way to the second meeting (July 9) when she was caught in a traffic jam on the Dan Ryan Expressway. She had no idea why traffic was so bad, so she decided to Google it.
Turns out, a young mother had been shot while driving in a van. When the vehicle Shonkela was riding in approached the crime scene, she saw the young mother still slumped over the steering wheel hours after the shooting occurred.
Later, when Shonkela and the other three teens were talking about what had happened, Jabarria commented, “I can’t believe that girl got shot on the expressway. How do you get shot on the highway?”
Over the July 4 holiday weekend, 82 people were shot; 14 of them were killed; 5 were killed by police. All of the students were aware of the grim statistics even though they were trying to avoid it.
“I don’t watch the news because it’s too depressing,” Larry said. “Every time I turn on the news, someone is shot.”
As the meeting started, the students discussed their holiday weekend.
Shonkela went to Navy Pier but couldn’t get in. They weren’t fighting, but she said the police were giving them a hard time and refusing to let black families in. She didn’t see fireworks because she became so frustrated with the harassment that she left.
Larry spent the 4th with his ex-girlfriend; her family bought $7,000 to $8,000 of fireworks and set them off. He admits to drinking and made this discovery: “When you’re drunk you can’t see your feet. My daddy doesn’t care what I do as long as I don’t do crack.”
Larry recorded several videos, but his favorite video was when he was drunk. He was in a car with his family, and “we were talking a whole lot of nothing.”
Bryan said, “I saw more gunshots than fireworks.” He was feeling a little depressed because one of his homies was shot and killed by the police.
Warren Robinson, 16, was killed near 87th Street and Sangamon Avenue after he refused to drop a gun, according to the police.
Shonkela knew the 19-year-old man who was shot at Lake Street and Laramie Avenue. He attended Ella Flagg Elementary in Austin, the same school Shonkela had gone to.
The prevailing sense among these young people that day was: this is life. When you leave your house, there is a seed of doubt that says you might not make it back. When you answer your cell phone, there is a seed that says you are going to find out one of your friends is dead.
“I can’t imagine losing someone,” Jabbaria said. “That makes me feel so sorry. It makes me not want to live anymore.”
These four youth live with that doubt but still manage to be productive.