We sat on the park bench. Just men. Young men. Older men. Middle-aged men. Baisley Housing Projects. Queens. NYC. Childhood home of rap superstar Nicki Minaj. Turf for some of the bloodiest nights our city has ever seen. Drug wars. Gang wars. Supreme Team fame. Mothers whose sons have disappeared cry out for their return. Men sit next to men trying to figure out just how we got here. Russell Simmons, one of Queens' crown jewels, is home, sitting on that park bench. Men of the mosque enlighten the younger dudes about their god-given talents. Their eyes light up. A life of crime is no American dream. Peacekeepers and street activists have converged on the battlefield of this urban conflict to bring love and unity to a community hurting. This is the United States of America. The USA today.
On the cover of the USA Today, this morning, is a story of the Aurora shooting survivors and their difficulty moving on with their lives. They can't shake the horrific memories and torment out of their heads. It stays stuck. A month later feels like last night. The numbness has not set in yet. We still mourn the lives of the dead and pray for those who are still in the hospital. But, nowhere on the cover of the USA Today or any other paper in America did it mention that 42 people were shot in Chicago this weekend, 6 of whom were killed. And a 14-year-old boy is in the hospital. As the roar from Aurora quiets down, the bullets keep flying in cities across this country. And young people have become numb to the pain. They have witnessed massacres, mass shootings and family funerals. They no longer wait to read about their struggles in the newspapers. Their reality blinds them every morning they wake up. Their stomachs are hungry for hope.
We sit on the park bench. Just men. The sun of summer is almost set. We've lost too many. More than half of the nation's murder victims are black, though blacks only make up 13% of the population. Most of these victims are young men. As the nation's murder rate has decreased over the past few decades, the murder rate for black men has actually increased by 10% since 2000. There were more black people murdered in Chicago this year than all the American troops killed in Afghanistan during the same dates. What I witnessed yesterday in Queens was a spark. A match lit against the concrete that could ignite a generation. A great generation. Possibly the greatest. We listen to fear of becoming the next Trayvon and their stories of struggle and triumph. They are still alive. We speak of the USA today.
is the Editor-In-Chief of GlobalGrind.com and the political director to Russell Simmons. Prior to this, Michael was an award-winning filmmaker. Follow him on twitter @MichaelSkolnik