Chicago is a wonderful city. Although I live in the Northwest Suburbs, I know I won’t say I’m from Chicago, I like to think of Chicago as a part of my home. We’re known worldwide for sports teams, food scene, and unfortunately our crime stats.
In 2014, so far, 34 children have been killed out of the 218 homicides that have occurred. Children. Its sad, very sad. In my opinion this is a problem for all of us. No matter where we live. Even if it is the NW suburbs or the California coast. In fact, I think as a human being we should be concerned with the atrocities that occur all over the world. However, I do think it is important to tackle things at home before we can aid others. (Still, in saying that I believe that aiding humanity is a very personal choice, and you have to assist where your heart leads you.)
I’m no sociologist. I studied molecular biology and art history in college, I don’t claim to know the statistics or the science behind social problems. I just have my own ideas and opinions based on my limited knowledge of the crimes happening in Chicago.
The shootings in Chicago are ridiculous. You have these young teens and young adults shooting at each other, missing their targets, and hitting innocent bystanders most of the time. Because they have this idiotic rationale. In their minds they’re being men. They’re being hard. In my mind they’re weak. Anyone can shoot and kill with a gun, a two year old can. It’s not macho, its not manly, its not gangster. Its weak. I do not promote or encourage violence, but if I had to get my revenge on someone to keep my reputation I’m doing it with my bare hands. Because that would take grit and physical strength. Forget guns, I’m ripping your face off with my hands, popping your eyeballs out with my thumbs, and immobilizing you with precise blows to your kidneys. Done. That’s hardcore.
But I digress. I don’t want to change the type of violence going down in Chicago, I want to end it. I’ve always liked the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” In my mind that means we need community. I’m not saying parents should rely solely on schools and others to monitor and care for their children and shirk their own responsibility. NO. I’m saying communities need to be built in these areas of high crime and every person living there needs to feel personally responsible for the state of safety in their community and for the safety of each other.
How do we build this sense of responsibility and in turn community? I think by having community programs, and I have one that I just made up, that I think can address some of the issues in these dangerous areas.
My idea is of a womb to grave program. I know that sounds morbid. I don’t have a name yet, but hear me out. Children who have good prenatal care, born healthy, kept healthy and lead healthy lifestyles are more likely to have better school attendance and performance. People don’t realize this correlation often. One of the difficulties in these areas is access to basic things like healthy food. There are tons of fast food places, and convenience stores, but no fresh foods. These are food deserts. I believe Mayor Emmanuel has started initiatives to combat food deserts, but that’s not what I want to do, because not only do I want to combat the food desert; I also want to build that sense of responsibility I was talking about earlier.
Okay. Gangs. Gangs are substitute families. You found or were pressured in to a group of people who say they’ll protect you, who give you a sense of purpose, something to be loyal to. To ride or die for. I want to replace gangs with something positive. Something that these endangered youths can make a life from. Something that will replace gang structure, eradicate food deserts, and create a sense of responsibility.
City Gardens. My idea is creating community gardens. I’m sure that sounds really simple, and naive. But I’ve been dreaming about this, and even when I tell myself you’re silly, everyone will think that’s silly, something keeps nagging me telling me to just say it out loud and maybe try it. Research it, implement it.
Why City Gardens? I love gardening. I’m good at it. I’ve provided food for my family from it. It’s saved us money. It teaches responsibility for another form of life, it instils an awe for nature and the outdoors. It calms the soul, and its productive. It takes time. It makes fresh food available in areas where there is none.
Now I’m not just saying throw some seeds in the ground and lets go. No. That won’t work, there has to be incentives. Incentives for families and individuals. One obvious idea is college credit, free college credit for working in the gardens. The University of Illinois already has an agricultural extension program in existence, with some modification or expansion of this program participants of a certain age and up can acquire credit and eventually use those credits towards completing a degree of their choice.
For families working in the the garden, having at least one member of your family working in the garden entitles you to an amount of free produce.
In the garden you’ll learn skills that will last forever, not just how to raise plants, but also how to cook those plants, sell them, turn them in to other products for use and to sell. In these classes you’ll meet people you live with, befriend them, care for them. Also the money made from the garden will go back directly to the community and families in the community.
The gardens would also be complete safe zones for a specific radius. A No-Tolerance, Gun free, Gang activity free zone.
I also want to incorporate The Garden Cup. Since each community has a garden. They can compete against each other and acquire points for different achievements, including impacting crime in their area, innovations, academic achievements, and more. (Yes I ripped off the House Cup from Harry Potter, I love Harry Potter ok, and competition gives people a common goal, we all wanted to squish Slytherin. Even though on Pottermore, I got sorted in to Slytherin like 5 times -____- )
The reason I see this a womb to grave program (for lack of a better term) is that this isn’t just a youth program. This is for everyone and anyone. The program allows mothers to get healthy food during their pregnancy and after for their children. Children are instilled with a love for learning in the garden from an early age. Hello gardening is science! Classes for Kids! There is so much freaking science in the garden! From genetics to physics! And you can eat it! Teens can earn credits, meet other teens and start making money! Adults can also earn credits and learn to make extra funds for their families. Elders, can share their wisdom, get outdoors, get gentle exercise, and pick up new a skill. Its the circle of life.
I know this is a simple outline of a plan. It is also a simple solution to a complex, dangerous, scary, sad situation. But it’s my contribution, my idea, and I’d like to take steps to implement it. I’m not sure how yet. To be honest I’m scared to, and I don’t know where to start. But at least getting it out in the open, instead of just in my head it a small step.