Everyone In Chicago Is Trayvon Martin Too!

The African American community’s reaction to the George Zimmerman trial was as predictable as the verdict itself. Some protested, others thought we needed a renewed discussion about race and still there were those who demanded an intervention by the Department of Justice.

But here’s what I know: 72 people got shot in Chicago over the July 4th weekend; and right now there are more black men in the grips of the criminal justice system than there were slaves in 1850. The white man might be out to get us, but sure didn’t murder my friend Stephan Pool last Labor Day weekend three blocks away from Nationals Park.

Prisons generate ten times more money than the NFL makes in TV revenue each year, a $70 billion industry that decides how many penitentiaries to build based on Second and Third grade reading scores. Nevertheless, only 20 percent of DC’s Fourth grade public school students are proficient in reading. The miscarriage of justice in Florida notwithstanding, the time to protest was when Tyler Elementary School had planks of plywood covering the windows, before the neighborhood was gentrified.

So what’s the plan? Will more black men serve as mentors to young boys; or will we continue to sign online petitions in overwhelming numbers? Will a greater percentage volunteer their time; or just protest? Political action sounds great until you realize that folks are getting shot a block away from the President’s house in the Windy City.

The 100 Black Men of America is an organization whose sole purpose is to mentor young men. They have leadership academies, science programs and built 12 charter schools throughout the United States. The Big Brother Big Sister program is looking for committed positive black role models. Fraternities have mentoring programs of their own, making a difference in our community one child at a time.

For those who doubt the impact community service could have, the following is a thank you note written by an eighth grader who was mentored by my fraternity in the spring: “Thank you for helping us tie ties and helping us respect women and other people. Also thank you for helping us be more like a man.”

My number one objective as the father of a 15 year old son is to keep him alive. He’s already witnessed his minority cross country teammates handcuffed at gunpoint by police officers for running too close to the train tracks while his white teammates (who ran side by side) were unaffected. He has friends who’ve lost relatives to inner city violence. He saw Stephan laid out in a casket and read his obituary that said, “Stephan Manuel Pool, decorated Iraq War veteran, college educated, network engineer , Department of Justice.”

It’s been said that 2012 voter turnout in the black community remained high because of voter suppression efforts, attracting what I call the “oh hell no vote!” Trayvon Martin must become the catalyst for the black community to demonstrate to our so-called lighter counterparts that we will fight for our children block by block, book by book. Only then, can we expect others do the same.

Ivory Johnson owns the local financial planning firm Delancey Wealth Management and lives a stone throw from Barracks Row.

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