I have a routine. On my morning bus rides to my job on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Campus, I peer down at my phone, scrolling down my various news-feeds, reading the latest information from news outlets, specifically looking for information about my hometown of West-side Chicago. Photo Credit: Rasheena Fountain Then, I see the dreaded headline — a headline that gives me pause, a burst of sadness, followed by feelings of helplessness and defeat, a headline usually starting with “Over the weekend…” I brace myself and continue to read the numbers of gunshot and homicide victims, frightened by the fact that in recent months the victims being well into the…

I have a routine. On my morning bus rides to my job on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Campus, I peer down at my phone, scrolling down my various news-feeds, reading the latest information from news outlets, specifically looking for information about my hometown of West-side Chicago.

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Photo Credit: Rasheena Fountain

Then, I see the dreaded headline — a headline that gives me pause, a burst of sadness, followed by feelings of helplessness and defeat, a headline usually starting with “Over the weekend…” I brace myself and continue to read the numbers of gunshot and homicide victims, frightened by the fact that in recent months the victims being well into the double digits in a single weekend.

While the news stories are disturbing for anyone’s eyes, my eyes have witnessed firsthand the devastation of gun violence running wild in my neighborhood. I have seen bloody concrete, bullet-riddled side paneling on houses, broad daylight muggings and gunfire, a bullet-riddled body lying outside of the corner store. When I lived in the Austin area on the Westside of Chicago, shootings and drugs were a normal part of the environment. Kids in our neighborhood enjoyed many laughs on a daily basis, doing what is normal for children, but a big topic of discussion for even younger children was too often, who got shot. And over the years even after having left the Westside in my teenage years to live with my dad in Fairfax, VA, there was always news from back home of former classmates being lost to the war and family being shot. It never stopped.

My childhood in the Austin area started in 1990 — a time before a growing public awareness of Chicago’s inner-city violence, yet the news headlines in 2015 feel all too familiar even over 20 years later. I feel as if I have long left a war that is continuous, feeling guilt for my knowledge that many will not escape and for the voice in my head that normalizes the violence, because it is all I have ever known there to be.

It has been seven years since I packed my bags, with a less-than-one-year-old baby with me, to head the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to finish my bachelor’s degree. Leaving the city I love, was one of the hardest decisions I made, but knowing how much harder life for a single mother is, I knew I had to try better myself if I did not want my daughter to experience some of the challenges I had living on the Westside of Chicago as a little girl where many of my family still live.

Now six years after I earned my bachelor’s, my daughter turned eight years old, the age I first witnessed gun violence. I have taken extra pride in tucking her in at night, hearing the cricket sounds mix with the silent nights surrounding our Urbana, IL home. I take pride in her innocence that is still intact — without the images and sounds of gunfire in her memories. And while there is this peace, I still yearn for home; I yearn for the familiarity of home, sweet Chicago. But the familiarity I find is the one I find to be sad. This familiarity haunts me and has been following me for years.

Some little girl similar to me will lose a classmate. Some mother will lose a son, and somewhere in Chicago a life will be lost senselessly to gun violence, all to be included in the next day’s headline that has become part of my daily reading routine. And although years and miles away from the violence that was once a common occurrence in my life, I empathize with those dealing with it because I am them, I was them, and I struggle daily with the fact that it shouldn’t be anyone.

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My Daily Routine — Haunted by Chicago Inner-City Violence