So far 2016 is off to a confounding start. Most people choose only to see the good and say that the year is off to a fantastic start, but organizations like Lost Boyz have to look at things in it’s entirety and say we are off to a mixed start. I guess where you live, work, and play determines what lens you look at society through; for the community of South Shore and others like it, that lens portrays a dismal picture of continued violence, poverty, unemployment, disinvestment, broken trust, families scrimping to get by, and politics doing more damage than help.
At Lost Boyz we too have mixed emotions. Our year has been off to a great start, we have drawn in more professional volunteers, elected a few new well respected Board Members, driven in new revenue in grants and individual donations, and seen an all-time high in registration and attendance for Winter Clinic. By all accounts we should be happy and dancing a jig at our organization, but we can’t because the grass is still not greener on the other side.
In the month of January we experienced and still are, a horrific almost near fatal tragedy. Quardell, one of the longest standing youth participants at Lost Boyz was seriously wounded in a walk-up shooting while drying off the car he had driven through a community car-wash at a local BP. It was the middle of a Saturday afternoon, we had to cancel practice because of paperwork issues with CPS, therefore our teen workers decided to plan a day out on the field throwing the ball around since it was around 50 degrees. However, they never made it to the field, instead covered in blood with one holding the other, they were transported to Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Trauma Unit. Quardell with his back turned drying off the car, was approached by several masked teenagers, in which two of them brandished 9mm fire arms and unloaded their clips at him. In all the police collected 14 spent shell casings, in all Quardell took six bullets to his back region including shoulder and buttocks.
When I received the call from his Mom I literally fell to my knees in prayer and weeping, asking God to not take this young man yet, his work had not even been started on this Earth. Many critics will say, “Oh he was probably in a gang, or sold drugs, or does diss raps on YouTube.” Throw your stereotypes out of the window with the bath water. Quardell is one of the most wholesome and focused kids I have ever had the privileged of coaching and mentoring. I have been coaching him since he was 9 and he turned 18 in a hospital bed with six huge holes in his body and a successful surgery on his stomach.
He is a senior in high school, in honors classes on his way to Alabama A&M this fall, an active member in his church, helps mentor the younger kids, a great worker at Lost Boyz, and has both parents at home actively involved in his life; by all means this kid is very representative of the American middle class.
This whole social mess hit me like a ton of bricks. Thinking of Quardell and the Martinez family that was slaughtered in their own home, and the young college kid who was shot and killed by the police, and I have to openly and honestly admit, “People of color have a hard time in this country no matter what they do.” How can people continue to be hopeful when all around them is destruction and despair? What do you do when no matter what you do things still turn out bad some how? To me that is where the creed of this country shines brightly and Lady Liberty stands tall. This Great American Experiment was never about doing things completely on one’s own. The Founding Fathers and the people who lived at that time were all about collective work and strong community, every accomplishment of that era came from cooperation and a shared vision to break away from a life in England that didn’t provide these individuals with the liberties they sought.
Now is the time for us to move away from partisan and polemic social discourse and envision that grand nation that ALL of our ancestors labored and died for and believed in. What I am saying is a problem on the north side is just as equally my problem as one on the south side is. No matter the color, religion, lifestyle, or creed if we are in a position to help others we should, our goal should be to pull all 50 states up by the bootstraps and make sure this country serves ALL people in matters of equality. As President Obama so frequently mentions and many before him that taboo phrase of a “more perfect union”, it should be our collective goal to move U.S. society to a place where we care for and about one another, then and only then will we perfect this Union.
To end this message positively, Quardell is back home and well, he comes to work with a smile on his face and is trying to move past that horrible day. Our other teen who was with him is dealing with the emotional trauma of not being able to help, but is coming along. All of our families are healing and still standing tall besides our children. But we need you, we need you to continue to support us financially, spiritually, and physically. We are grooming the leaders of tomorrow and we need your continued help. So show up to a fundraiser, an event, a game, come out and show these American children Your American love no matter where you live – because at the end of the day we all replay this wonderful hymn in our thoughts, minds, and hearts, now let’s make it mean something!!!!
My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From ev’ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!