Almost a week ago now Lazaras Jones was killed… murdered actually… 2 and a half blocks from my house.
It happened last Monday night around 9:30 on a busy street outside a liquor store.
He was with friends when the guys got out of the van and began chasing them. His friends escaped but Lazaras apparentally slipped on the ice… and was killed when a hammer crushed his head.
He was 13… and wasn’t in a gang.
Last Thursday night I went out to that corner for a community stand in. Over 200 people showed up. Chicago’s Ceasefire organization spoke, a local alderman, a priest, and Lazaras’ aunt… his mother was there but didn’t wish to speak.
So I ask- WHY?
At the stand it there was talks of “turning in the gang members who did this” and “stopping the violence”… but I was almost angry when I heard this… gang violence goes so much deeper… a stop-the-violence campaign may help a little, but it won’t ever stop the violence completely.
And I thought, while standing on that corner on that cold Chicago evening… what needs to happen in my city so that this never happens again?
I looked around at the teenagers crying about Lazaras’ death. I talked to a few, I hugged a few, and a prayed for all of them. Gang members aren’t simply “evil teens” but teens that have been sucked in to an evil system of abandonment, abuse, poverty, and violence. And I knew that some of the teens there could be gang members- or could become gang members. And they could kill.
I pray the violence stops, that the community continues to stand against it… but even more, I pray that people begin searching for the real roots of the problem and stop blaming the “evil gangbanging teens” without considering the system that produced them.
Update: Area churches have gathered together to raise $10,000 in reward money for information on Lazaras’ death that leads to a conviction. 6 area churches decided to do this to show the Chicago community that they will not allow teens to be killed on their streets without something being done… To me, this is a beautiful example of the church. Multiple denominations, neighborhoods, and ethnic groups gathered together to sacrifice and give as a stand against violence here in Chicago. So beautifully united in the common cause of justice.