As the beating death of Fenger High School student Derrion Albert made national and international headlines, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. and his guests explored the issue of youth violence on this week’s Upfront with Jesse Jackson television program on the WORD network.
Joining Rev. Jackson were: Dr. Reginald Richardson, vice-president, Northwestern University Family Institute; Richard Scott, former director of prevention, Cook County Department of Public Health; Jennifer Bishop, Illinois president, Million Mom March/Brady Campaign; Jonathan Jackson, national spokesman for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition; and Rev. Janette Wilson, executive director, Broadcast Ministers Alliance.
“The media is treating this like an incident rather than a pattern,” said Rev. Jackson. “The video of Derrion being beaten to death was an embarrassment to Chicago and the United States.”
Albert, 16, was brutally beaten to death while walking home from school last month. Reports have surfaced that tensions were running high between students living in Altgeld Gardens and the Roseland neighborhood.
Rev. Wilson weighted in explaining some of the dynamics surrounding the incident.
“Some children ride three CTA buses to get to Fenger,” she said. “They have to cross gang territories which cause cultural conflicts. “
According to the Center for Disease Control, a number of factors can increase the risk of a youth engaging in violence. However, the presence of these factors does not always mean that a young person will become an offender. Risk factors for youth violence include: prior history of violence; drug, alcohol, or tobacco use; association with delinquent peers; poor family functioning; poor grades; and poverty in the community.
“Kids who join gangs are usually children who did not grow up with two parents and who do not have that guidance or support system,” said Scott. There is an outpouring of anger. In some cases we have children who are mentally disturbed.”
Dr. Richardson turned the discussion to possible solutions to circumvent violence in urban neighborhoods.
He stated, “We look at violence as a disease. We have to reinstate intervention programs at the elementary level, not only working with at risk children but all children. We have to work with young people early before there is a problem.”
Jonathan Jackson expressed concerns for his three young children but explained learning does not only take place in the classroom.
“There is more to learning than reading and writing,” he said. “Children need arts and culture, some sort of athleticism. With adolescents you are going to have some kind of delinquent behavior. But these other forms of teachings can remedy some of this behavior.”
Bishop added “We have to shine the bright light of transparency. First we must end easy access to guns and second when we see the first signs of trouble we have to fund these programs that are proven to help with prevention.”
“Upfront with Jesse Jackson” airs every Saturday at 9 p.m. CST on the WORD Network.
The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization devoted to protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity. The organization is headquartered at 930 E. 50th St. in Chicago. To learn more, please visit www.rainbowpush.org or call (773) 373-3366. To arrange an interview with Rev. Jackson, please call the numbers listed above.