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Howard University > Alternative Spring Break 2013
Painting a Memorial that Shouldn’t Exist

By Victoria M. Walker
Howard University News Service

A stone is placed in the memorial to commemorate the deaths of  300 youth lost to gun violence in Chicago since 2007.

CHICAGO (March 13, 2013) – Brandon Little. Myron Jeter. Tito Lindsey. All were young people who are among the hundreds of victims who died from violence in Chicago from 2006 to now.  Their names are painted in stone at memorial that is part of  Kids Off The Block, an alternative program to gang life that provides positive outlets for Chicago youth.

Howard University’s Alternative Spring Break (ASB) volunteers in Chicago rolled up their sleeves, braved the wind and the cold and painted a memorial mural dedicated to over 300 Chicago youth who have been slain by gun violence in the city. The members of the creative team also spray-painted the names on bricks to be placed in the memorial.

The mural featured a quote from rapper The Notorious B.I.G., who himself was claimed by gun violence in a drive-by shooting in 1997 in Los Angeles

It read, "I always taught you that you could have whatever you dream baby. Well, I want you to hold on to that dream. Hold on to it real tight, 'cuz the sky is the limit"

His words went across a painting of the sky. 

At one point, there were so many victims’ names to be painted on bricks inside the memorial that volunteers ran out of space.  To compensate, they had to paint the victims’ names on the mural instead.  Some ASB volunteers said it was an incredibly emotional moment for them. Some paused and simply gazed at the names. The mood was serious but positive, as the volunteers tried to bring healing to a torn community.
Howard ASB volunteer weathered the biting cold in Chicago to paint a mural to highlight the gun violence in Chicago

While the memorial included the names of many teenagers and young adults, the stones included children, too. Some were age 10.  The youngest was 3 months old.

Residents passing by the mural paused to reflect on the deaths that the work marked.  They also offered support to the Howard students working on the mural. Some said it was hard to believe university students had travelled so far to volunteer.

Lamar, a Southside resident who asked to be identified only by his first name, was an original member of Kids Off The Block. As an adult, he said he now serves as a mentor to troubled kids.

“It’s a lot of unnecessary stuff going on,” he said.  “It’s my job to tell these kids right from wrong.”

Sadijah Wallace, a Howard freshman from Louisiana, said the project had a special meaning for her.

The finished mural uses the words of rapper Notorious B.I.G. to inspire youth and others to push forward despite the odds.  The rapper was himself killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles in March 1997 

She lost two friends and close family members to gun violence, Wallace said.

 “It’s just not in Chicago,” she said.  “It’s a nationwide [issue] that needs to be stopped, and it starts with us.  I thought it’d be a great opportunity to do something selfless.  I’m all about giving back, because so many people have done great things for me.”

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