Tonight, on CNN’s United Shades of America, we head to Chicago, the home of the Bulls, Oprah and host W. Kamau Bell’s “awkward teenage years”.
It is also the home of famous gangster Al Capone, and one of the highest murder rates in the USA.
The city has a bad rap, but Kamau asks — is it warranted?
This former Chicagoan is sick and tired of the city, which he remembers fondly, being painted with “one very big black brush”.
Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in America according to stats.
But Kamau heads to some white neighborhoods to ask average people why the black neighborhoods are faring so poorly. They give some interesting insight.
Then he sets out to “Chi-raq’s” gang-infested black neighborhoods and as they say, the truth gets real. It’s chilling what people living there tell him.
Kamau then talks about how three energized young women started Black Lives Matter, and he shows how Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s legislation gutted the south and west side of Chi-town where the majority of kids attending school are black.
Then he tours part of the city and speaks with Kofi Ademola of the group Black Lives Matter Chicago, who also advocates with teachers of the inner city.
In a shocking and sad moment, one grandmother tells Kamau her grandson asked her what “art” was.
In an analysis, Kamau posits that All Lives Matter “is just an attack on Black Lives Matters”.
He then takes a moment for some patented cheeky Kamau humor and says that there are two things you can always count on in a black neighborhood — a billboard of Steve Harvey and a church.
Kamau also speaks with Bulls guard Dwyane Wade’s mother, a former addict and dealer, Jolinda Wade.
She talks about the gun violence that took her niece, and about her ministry and about changing hearts and minds to rebuild the community, which has become her life’s focus.
Railing off a list of black teens shot by Chicago police, Kamau says: “Across the country, Black Lives Matters is one of the hottest topics, and police brutality has been well documented.”
He then talks about how Chicago’s police force would routinely take gang members and suspects into enemy neighborhoods and put their lives at risk for information.
Kamau talks to Kofi about “investment” in neighborhoods, schools and career guidance to help black communities have a proper “come up”, with equal footing and access to resources in American society.
The episode also sees Kamau interview Diane Latiker, a community activist and founder of the nonprofit Kids Off the Block, who has erected a memorial for the youth fallen in gunfire.
The stats are staggering. Of this year’s 762 deaths, 75 per cent of all Chicago murders were black people, and 51 per cent were under the age of 25 years old.
How to solve this will be a Herculean feat and test of resolve.
United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell airs tonight, May 7, at 10pm on CNN.