Is President Obama Coming to Chicago to Address the Violence? Sources Say He’s Coming on Friday


by Dr. Boyce Watkins

This week, Father Michael Pfleger of the St. Sabina Church in Chicago, issued the statement heard around the world on his Facebook page.   Right after a speaking appearance by Professor Cornel West, Pfleger made this announcement:

“Wow, what a great day…Wonderful Worship Service, Dr. Cornel West was challenging and prophetic as always. The Father (Nathaniel Pendelton and God Father Mr. Stewart of Hadiya joined us for service. While we were breaking bread afterwards we get a call that they are arresting the men involved with her Murder and then get a call that the President WILL COME TO CHICAGO FRIDAY TO ADDRESS THE VIOLENCE…God you are so AWESOME….I REALLY BELIEVE THAT THE HAND OF THE MIDNIGHT HOUR WE ARE IN IS GETTING READY TO MOVE TO MORNING!!!!!!”

I nearly fell out of my chair upon reading the father’s words, but like millions of other people, I felt that the appearance was long overdue.    The black community has spoken and someone has heard our words.  The senseless deaths of so many children in Chicago and in other urban communities around the country call for the president’s attention, and pre-existing racial disparities in the federal response to violence are entirely unacceptable.

The information released by the father, who I spoke with this morning, leads me to the following thoughts:

1) The president and first lady Michelle Obama deserve credit for the move, should it come to fruition.  The first lady attended the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year old honor student who died less than a mile away from the president’s house.  Hadiya’s murder has become a symbol of the horrible violence that psychologically cripples millions of kids before they reach adulthood.  Those who are quick to criticize Obama when he does something wrong should give him credit when he does something right.  Should he follow through on his commitment, this is a good move by the president and should do volumes for drawing attention and resources toward solving this very serious problem.

2) In politics, the squeaky wheel gets the oil.  Too many black people are afraid to squeak.  Being quiet does not help Barack Obama have a strong presidency, it creates one that is both weak and unresponsive.  Sometimes the bi-racial man raised by white people in Hawaii, quite frankly, needs to be made aware of what inner city black people are most concerned about.  This doesn’t mean that Obama’s not “black enough,” but it does admit that the white women who raised Barack might not have schooled him on the African American struggle the way our mothers did when we were babies.

The black community spoke up for Hadiya and the Obama Administration answered.  That’s how politics works, and I hope that we will soon realize that asking Obama to work with us is not treasonous, nor is it a waste of the president’s time.  As many of his staunch supporters will say (I endorsed him myself), Barack is the president of all Americans, and we are Americans too.

3) The fact that Cornel West was present on the date of the announcement has a powerful irony to it.  It means that we need both Barack Obama and individuals like Cornel West to speak truth to power, it is also possible to appreciate them both.   Cornel should be applauded for enduring tremendous ostracism for remembering that we should always love our people more than we love any leader.  Rather than converting the conversation on poverty, racism, mass incarceration and unemployment into a diatribe on why we think Cornel West is simply a jealous “hater,” it makes more sense to examine the issues that he brings to the table.  Even if Cornel West is angry about inauguration tickets (which is a ridiculous and insulting rumor), that doesn’t mean historically high black unemployment and incarceration rates (due to disparate drug sentencing laws) are not serious problems and that our president shouldn’t address them. Focusing on the flaws of Cornel West gives those in power an excuse for not addressing the issues at hand.  It’s a simple and effective tactic.

4) There are still some concerns about elitism.  Hadiya Pendleton was a good student and a beautiful child who was killed in an area where kids don’t normally die.  I believe that this is part of what led Michelle Obama to be able to identify with her, since she was also once a young, beautiful honor student on the south side of Chicago.  If Hadiya had been a black male student with bad grades on the “wrong” side of town, the incident probably wouldn’t have evoked as strong of a response.

If Hadiya had instead been a young Boyce Watkins or Barack Obama, the incident would have barely made the back section of the local newspaper, since the media presumes that dead black men were probably doing something wrong.  Whenever one of our children dies, all possibility for a bright future dies along with them.  Their future contributions to society die, their grandchildren die, and yet another gush of violent and traumatic energy hits a segment of our community.   Some of our kids live in war zones that will never be on the radar screen of the black or white elite, and we must give them an opportunity to be safe again.

Father Pfleger keeps a memorial for all of the slain children in his neighborhood right in front of his church. One look at these pictures tells you that we have a crisis on our hands.  Every time we put this crisis to the side so as not to disturb our political heroes, we are doing our children a tremendous disservice.

5) Black people who remain convinced that the president is simply too busy to deal with black issues might need to get a boost in their self-esteem.  Please note that other groups who didn’t give Obama nearly as much support as African Americans did are demanding his attention, and they aren’t taking  “no” for an answer.  We might want to get the memo and learn to fight for equal rights.  No one is going to give us our equality if we are too weak to demand it.

The bottom line is that we must love ourselves and expect that our taxpayer dollars be utilized to help us as much as they help everyone else.  Obama is not too busy to help us, just like he wasn’t too busy to come ask for our votes before the last election.  In fact, the president would not have been elected were it not for black support.  Also, those who believe that unemployment and violence only exist because African Americans have an inherent laziness and propensity toward killing might need to realize that this is also the rhetoric spewed by some of the worst racists in America.  It was not Hadiya’s fault that some black people have chosen to harm those around them, and most black people aren’t violent.

Yes, some black people kill one another far too much, but white people kill each other too.  Also, guns aren’t made in black communities, so those who want to place the blame for all of this on us need to elevate their thinking.  Unfortunately, many of the enemies of African American progress are also black, whether it’s an evil man with a gun or an elitist who thinks that poor black people are worthless.  All of these forces of oppression must be stopped in their tracks.

Our children DO NOT deserve to die.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and author of the book, Black American Money. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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  1. Jesus is the priorornce of peace until we follow his example and prraise him, will we know peace,know ourselves and becom one nation. NOT one world that god created.
    Let’s pray for peace. Until we find it n our own heart’s and minds will there any
    By the way I’m from E. St. Louis Ill, not that it makes any difference Well all must fight for what is right. In the nam of peace. No negatives just positives

  2. Yes, President Obama needs to go to Chicago and tell the killers to put their guns down! Eric Holder needs to implement laws for inner city violence, and the national guard should patrol the streets of Chicago. Rahm Emanuel has to be called out on the carpet with petitions to do something about the violence in the inner cities. A curfew needs to be in place, and if anyone chooses to ignore the curfew, they will have to deal with the law. We need mandatory laws that every child under 18 has to attend school. African American men and women must take back their neighborhoods. Parents who need help in controlling their children should have an 800-number to call to get help. Fathers and mothers who have abandoned their children should be arrested. Immigration, womens rights, gay rights are not a priority in my life, but huge murder rates are! WE NEED TO DEMAND AN EXCLUSIVE JOBS BILL FROM THE PRESIDENT FOR THE INNER CITIES. Stop being afraid to tell the President what we want. Stop being afraid to say “African American”. While we are sitting back keeping silent, Latino’s, gays, women are demanding their rights. No more excuses. We must save our communities and this poverty, unemployment, poor schools and murder madness has to stop. We did it in the 60’s and 70’s and we can do it again. Save our inner cities. Organize.

  3. It’s about damn time. It’s so sad that it took the death of Hadiya for the President to FINALLY address the violence in urban communities throughout this country. This beautiful, young soul with a promising future had to die for this man to finally acknowlege us. But more importantly, it was blacks who really raised our voices and let our concerns be heard loud and clear. Make no mistake, the Obama Administration were very aware of the growing disapproval and disgust they have shown towards our community. From petitions to blogs, black Americans were not going to sit by quietly on this one. Enough was enough. I am cautiously optimistic. It’s one thing to come to town and do lip service. Anyone can do that. Now, this man has to start DELIVERING results to our community. However, I must give him credit for at least finally showing up. I’m guessing Michelle had something to do with that by witnessing the unspeakable grief at Hadiya’s funeral.

  4. SOME…African-American males need to stop killing each other and women and children of their race. I resent you disrespcting the President by not following his example of having respect for our Lord, family and country.

    Shame on all of you who commit acts of violence.

  5. What was the point in pointing out he is biracial? What was the point in talking about elitism? So if he didn’t come, he don’t care about black people. If he does its only because she was not low income, dark and male. Actually we all should have been shouting a long time ago. Black people are the main culprits in dividing ourselves.

  6. If President Obama knows like I do, he’ll stay the hell away from that place. Cleansing comes from within.

  7. I would like to believe that President Obama was told about “some” of us being dissatisfied with his silence on the epidemic spreading in Urban America where we primarily live. Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, New Orleans…

    This still doesn’t make up for our plight not being mentioned during the inaugural speech though

  8. Violent crime has become one of the serious crimes can be in the future evolution of the stages difficult to control must address violence against innocent children and violence against groups and President Obama was able to solve this problem of violence

  9. Isn’t it strange that with all the people who have been killed in Chicago, the only time it is brought to attention is when they are trying to take your guns. If this beautiful young woman had been stabbed to death, it would have never made the news.

  10. THANK GOD FOR DR. WATKINS AND DR. WEST! Voices NEED to be heard. We’ve been silent too, too long! The color of one’s skin does not automatically right! The President has been silent TOO, TOO long on issues that affect the Black community. Would the President have come to chicago if no concerns were raised? I DOUBT IT!! No concerns were raised from Colorado and Connecticut, yet he QUICKLY responded! In Reference to his heritage, is it not true? And yes, there is a difference in one’s mindset when raised by different races. Why should anyone be given a pass just because of skin color? When you’re wrong, you’re WRONG, regardless of the color of your skin.

  11. THANK GOD FOR DR. WATKINS AND DR. WEST! Voices NEED to be heard. We’ve been silent too, too long! The color of one’s skin does not automatically right! The President has been silent TOO, TOO long on issues that affect the Black community. Would the President have come to chicago if no concerns were raised? I DOUBT IT!! No concerns were raised from Colorado and Connecticut, yet he QUICKLY responded! In Reference to his heritage, is it not true? And yes, there is a difference in one’s mindset when raised by different races. Why should anyone be given a pass just because of skin color? When you’re wrong, you’re WRONG, regardless of the color of your skin.

  12. Mr. David Jones voices like yours makes one wonder where you or what planet you been and on. Many people, including myself have called for Mr. Obama to take a stand on extending services to the entire Afrodescendant nation in more than just politcal ways and media sound bites. So Jesse and Louis are not the only voices, maybe the loudest, not the only. I’m from Chicago I know of people taking up projects and ideas and helping in every way they can. Instead of pointing fingers, lets see what comes out of all of this and what Mr. Obama, bring to help the situation besides talk.

    • @ Dhoruba:

      This is what I said in my post: It was Rev. Jackson and Minister Farrakhan along with the community who lead the charge.

      Did you see AND COMMUNITY? I suggest you work on your reading comprehension!

      I don’t know what your problem is, but I’ll bet it’s hard to pronounce. Why don’t you go to the library and brush up on your ignorance?

      • Yes, David. And don’t forget a special shout out to Father Fleger, that devoted Catholic priest at St. Sabina, who has shown such love and concern for our children and great courage in the face of threats against his life. Over the years he has been a tireless prayer warrior and spiritual support as well as an activist.

  13. Though is necessary the president addresses the issue of violence, the task of discipline lies deeply in the hands of parents.
    The upbringing of a child tells more of his future lifestyle.
    Charity begins at home. A charityless home brings up disastrous children.
    Teach your child the way he should follow, when he grows he will not depart from it.
    Parents, help to keep communities safe and secured.
    The mother of this murderer knows that he has a gun, but she failed to know what he does with it. Etc,etc.

  14. As other groups we have to speak up,this is the only way we will be heard.

  15. Dr. Watkins,why is that you always have to make reference to Presidnet Obama being bi-racial? Though I have said for the longest, President Obama should go to Chicago and address the gun violence there, please cut him some slack. We, as Black people need to also take responsibility for the killing of our children. Unless parents begin parenting their children along with other issues we have which will take me too long to list, Jesus couldn’t stop the violence,

  16. All I can say is, GREAT!!!

  17. “an inherent laziness and propensity toward violence”

    That describes the WHITES who dragged us across the Ocean to America and forced us to do their work for them; holding us captive and hunting us down if we ran away. All because they were too lazy to do their own work.