Harold Ickes News

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The violent death of 10-year-old Rita Haskins on May 3 was heart breaking, unconscionable and unnecessary. Rita was a sweet, loving, inquisitive, caring child, a daughter, a sister, a cousin, a student, a friend, a neighbor and a child of God.

She also was a beloved member of her community. As a matter of fact, at the moment of her untimely death, she was holding a smaller child on her hip, just like any loving mother would hold her own child.

The shock of her death, coming closely on the heels of the also-cruel death of maintenance worker Tina Noel, prompted another crisis meeting to be called by the Local Advisory Council President, Gloria Williams, to open more dialogue for unburdening the unbearable grief still surrounding the community.

This time the audience was mostly comprised of children. I counted at least 50 children of all ages who came to the meeting alone or with an adult family member. They sat quietly, with wide-open, teary, questioning, fear-filled eyes, angry eyes, hurt eyes, listening for snatches of dialogue that could explain what had happened to their friend. Many of them witnessed the whole thing.

As an unusual addition to the all-too-frequent meeting, LAC President Williams invited the Rev. Victoria Snow to come and be the facilitator who could possibly soften the molten turmoil created from such a rash act. Snow spoke words of comfort from a spiritual perspective to the people gathered together.

Oddly enough, she was the only member of the clergy present and standing with the community. Why must we be so isolated or stereotyped that no other clergy felt even the mothers’ pains? Are we so far removed from greater Chicago that no noted African American dignitary would grieve with us, help stir up our faith, and gather strength to face days of uncertainty for our children’s safety?

Are we truly the “island of the poor?” When it comes to Ickes Homes, the world seems to say, “Don’t go there. You may find someone to love.”

The Discussion
The attending adults were outraged and demanded of management to invoke the One Strike You’re Out clause to get rid of undesirable persons living in Ickes apartments. These parents noted that the undesirables are usually living here with someone illegally – meaning they are not on the lease.

The gunman, whose deadly bullets allegedly missed his intended target yet found another victim, was reportedly living with a leaseholder in 2330 S. State without being on the lease. Clearly, demanded the residents, the One Strike ruling should apply to this leaseholder, and he should be made to move out.

The panel of administrators chose to discuss the fact that no one wants to point out the offenders, the law-breakers. However, the attendees countered with the knowledge of a long list of so called “One Strike-able” families who are still living where they were when they broke the law.

Many voices spoke to this issue, claiming that management is fully aware of these families but has taken no action to put known felons out of their living space. At one quiet point in the meeting, a sensitive adult had been inspired to write a poem about the loss of our children. It was heartwarming and served to cool down the angry rhetoric building among grief-stricken mothers whose small children were present and being hugged to distraction.

“Whose child was killed?” “Our child was killed” was the outcry. “How could you separate them? What is the management doing?” asked many attendees. Mrs. Haskins, Rita’s mother, out of her mind with grief, spoke briefly, using phrases created out of deeply wounded passion, love and loss. We all shared her pain.

Through hundreds of expressions of sympathy and love which have adorned the lobby where her child fell, the hope is for peace to replace pain. At this point in the meeting, solutions of active participation on the part of the residents began to come to the floor. The residents suggested that everyone be aware the open public lobby is by far the most dangerous place, recognize that this is a wake up call, and let us all take responsibility for each other’s children.

One parent, during the fatal incident, was trying to get other adults to take the children that had gathered out of the area but could get no help. We all have to realize the truth of the saying “It takes a village to raise a child.”

There is a need to truly embrace each other and show love for one another. Talk to the children, teach them to go in the other direction and away from an angry group of fighters.

Open dialogue with the children. They can tell the adults a lot. Recognize the fact that many of our youth are spoiled and have not been taught conflict resolution. Let us teach it at home.

Mr. William from The Woodlawn Organization, Ickes’ private manager, agreed that what he could do is to hold monthly building meetings to discuss conflict resolution, grievances and other concerns.

“Unwanted activities that abound in our area will not get resolved without participation from the truly concerned residents who want to help change things,” said Mr. William. If you know that there is a conflict between neighbors, talk to someone who could do something about it.

The meeting wound calmly down with a call from the Rev. Snow to circle all the children who stayed at the meeting and clearly were deeply interested in what was going on. She also called on a few prayer warriors to express sincere, thoughtful, powerful prayers to end a very vigorous community session and have one and all feel the blessing of persons willing to share their faith with all.

My one regret is that Anthony White, AKA “Cold Pepper,” was not so eulogized as Tina Noel and Rita Haskins. White was shot in the head June 5 and killed. This was no ricochet. Not only was White killed but Reynard Tinkson, an innocent bystander, was shot in the knee.

Even though White’s reputation was not pristine, his mother had moved her family away, which nonetheless did nothing toward displaying the pain of losing a child. She has this reporter’s condolences.

I interviewed Mrs. Haskins, Rita’s mother. I was privileged she even agreed to speak with me. The interview wasn’t easy for her or myself. She was very gracious and candid.

RJ: “Many residents were concerned that you have to stay in a place where tragedy struck you so hard. Has CHA or management offered you a Section 8 option?”

Haskins: “I went down there. They (Management) said they can’t find it. They lost my number. They should be giving me a house. They made me very angry.”

RJ: “Who? How?”

Haskins: “Housing, period. They should do the sweeps more often, not just every three months, to find people who are not on the lease.”

RJ: “Is there anything specific you want the readers to know about what happened?”

Haskins: “I try not to think about it. I’ve got to stay strong for my children.”

RJ: “How many are there?”

Haskins: “Three left. It’s very hard. I’m trying to be the strong one.”

I can only hope Mrs. Haskins can find the peace she seeks and soon.

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