I suppose Chicago in 2016 was more important at the time than a 16 year old Chicagoan. Derrion Albert would have been 22 years old around the time the Olympic Games would take over the city of Chicago, supposedly joining the corners of one of the most segregated cities in the world through the welcoming of every nation participating into our "welcoming confines". Every real Chicagoan, from Wrigleyville to Calumet City, K-Town to the Low End, knows that it's a tall feat for us to get along with each other already, let alone millions of tourists envisioning a town totally different than the one they'd be stepping into for an Olympic Games. The grievances and issues Chicago faces are not the caliber which would be easily dealt with in a mere 6 years. Rather, a lifetime of struggle and resistance has existed in Chicago, with little ground gained since the years of the Civil Rights movement. People move to our city and stay in their comfort corner, with the majority never daring to go south of Roosevelt. Equally, the born-and-bred Chicagoan is one that rarely goes North of Roosevelt, unless it's for work purposes or to inquire within City offices. When such a rift exists between Chicago itself, how could the members of the Chicago Olympic Committee actually go through with making this pitch to the IOC? How, with teenagers dying every day in the streets -- not just through gang violence, but senseless acts like the one that took away the life of Derrion Albert -- could they actively say that the world would be safe here?

Derrion's story is no rarity here; rather, it simply came with visual evidence of a struggle that persists daily in our community. But how can we expect that to get through to the powers that be if we fail to confront it HERE, at HOME, where WE are? I could ramble on & on with criticisms about Mayor Daley and his practices in the past, but honestly none of that matters as much as this does to me. Lives are being lost. It's due to a lack of education, a lack of diversity, a lack of options. Simply put, if they knew better they'd do better. But the location of Derrion's beating is a clear indication of the troubles we face. Schools are supposed to be the safe haven for kids from the negative influences they may face in their neighborhoods. The mere fact that this happened at an institution of learning makes the future more ominous than ever for our youth. With broken homes, layoffs, failing schools, and a learning discrepancy between communities as wide as the hope that was obviously present to even THINK we would get the Olympics here in Chicago -- we've got a lot of work to do. And I see scary things on the horizon...

I recently made a stop at my old high school to check on the current status of things. I'll be the first to admit that I was a child of privilege when it came to education - the thought of dropping out or not going to college was never even an option for us. My grandmother was a schoolteacher for many years, my three uncles all surgeons and corporate types respectively, and my mother & father as studious of people as there ever were. My father, an Islamic Imam, a Ph.D in Religion, and a writer, while my mother, a M.D., M.B.A., and a Masters in Public Health from Harvard. Sufficient to say, school was cool for us. While I walked the hallways of my old school I ran into one of my favorite teachers, Mr. Weil, who was always one of those instructors who were as cool as a teacher could possibly be at the time. My class was a rowdy one, always getting into something crazy, pushing the boundaries as individuals while still being incredibly intelligent. As I spoke to him about the differences between my class and the classes that currently attended, he spoke to the belief that the personality had diminished since classes like mine had graduated. The kids were more into pop culture than ever, the internet had taken hold of most of their daily lives, resulting in what he felt to be a lack of personality, push-back, challenge of authority, and an all-around excitement. In few words he pretty much told me he was bored. The kids did their homework, did what they were told, and went about their business.

Ordinarily, one would think that as a teacher this type of behavior would be heaven-sent, but it immediately presented itself as an ominous fate when I juxtaposed it with what was happening with kids of the same age, in the same city, just miles away from good old Morgan Park Academy. The education-deprived kids of the impoverished neighborhoods will one day meet the culturally-deprived kids of schools like mine, and I am not excited about the outcome. Streetsmarts versus Booksmarts results in the same tired rigmarole that has us where we stand right now; mentally segregated and internationally humiliated.

So what can we do? For one, we can always keep our eyes and ears focused on what needs doing RIGHT NOW. A perspective plan is nothing if you don't have your current affairs in order to chase that plan. Imagine how strong our bid for the Olympic games would have been if our schools were improved...if our city was invested in it's own development...if kids in impoverished neighborhoods were able to broaden their horizons and know that there was more to fight for in the world than a neighborhood that doesn't care whether they live or die. Imagine if kids like the ones that attend my high school now were hipped to how truly blessed they are, acknowledged their upper hand in the game of life, and used their education to bridge the gap between themselves and the less fortunate. I happen to think a lot of the ground can be made up by an infusion of influence from the age ranges ABOVE those most afflicted, i.e. you & me. We must do ALL we can to show these kids real life is more than the block they live on, or the internet, but it's communication, face-to-face work, activity, community, and the like. Maybe then we'll be able to convince the world that we're ready to open our doors to them.

I made a song about it, like to here it here it goes.