Dear North Lawndale Community, Partners and Friends:
On Tuesday November 24, 2015 the world witnessed, yet again, a horrific video of an African American teenager being shot to death, this time, by a Chicago police officer.
We at the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN), a 15 year old workforce development agency located on the Westside of Chicago in the 24th ward, are deeply saddened by this video. The brutality and disregard for human life on display is of the most vicious kind. We praise efforts to bring justice to the McDonald family and the Chicago community, to eradicate the structural racism embedded in our policing and legal system, and we fully agree with the charge of first degree murder.
Yet, we are angered by the parade of excuses and talking points from officials throughout the city administration that have obscured the truth and delayed justice. We have waited, along with many in our city, for details about this case for over a year. Had there not been dashboard cameras and continual pressure from activists, journalists, and community leaders, we might still be waiting. This lack of accountability and systemic corruption conveys to black and brown youth of this city that their lives do not matter; that their futures are expendable.
The North Lawndale Employment Network has long fought to improve the earnings potential and the quality of life for these futures through the revitalization of our neighborhood scarred by chronic poverty and neglect. We are dedicated to working with formerly incarcerated men and women because we believe that people should not be judged by their worst mistake, but based on their potential, their resilience, and their hard work. We hope that others across this city can come to see this tremendous potential and believe that transformations are possible.
At NLEN, we know that there are good people who serve as police officers, far more then those who do evil. Over the past four years, we have become proud partners of the Chicago Police Department, specifically, districts 10 and 11. We respect the enormous responsibility and danger they face to keep our community safe. In his press conference before releasing the video, Mayor Emmanuel talked about building bridges between police and communities. Since 2012, NLEN’s U-Turn Permitted program—a program committed to helping ex-offenders gain employment—has worked to do just that. Further, in our Building Bridges, Building Connections program we facilitate dialogue between ex-offenders and police officers to increase understanding and humanize both our clients to officers and officers to our clients. This is an attempt to ensure that moments like October 20, 2014 never, ever happen again. We invite anyone interested in learning more to visit us and witness the honest, raw and promising dialogue that happens during our job readiness programs each cohort, 12 times a year.
In light of this respect, we demand the Chicago Police Department live up to its commitment to serve and protect. For us, this protection comes in following due process of law. We have heard far too many reports from members of our community and participants in our programs that officers in the Chicago Police Department have violated their rights with unlawful stops, intimidation, and unprovoked violence. We cannot accept this behavior. Nor can we accept the cover up of Laquan McDonald’s murder. We stand with our community in demanding systemic change as well as accountability for those involved in covering up McDonald’s murder. We demand consistent and fair practices that protect all the city’s residents, not just some. We demand that when officers do violate the law, that the response be swift and severe. This systemic change will allow us to continue the deep and difficult work of building bridges and mutual connections of trust and respect vital to effecting generational and systemic impact.
The North Lawndale Employment Network