Day 12: Harper High School

Continuing my recent obsession with This American Life and Ira Glass, I recently listened to a couple of episodes that Ira Glass thought were the most important ones that he had ever been involved in. When the reporting team heard about Harper High School, they discovered that in one school year, 29 students (recent and current) had been shot, with 8 losing their lives.

Just the description of the school is absurd. For 29 students to be shot in a year sounds like something out of a movie or something from a war-torn country across the globe, but it’s not. This is the South side of Chicago, where violence is the norm. According to the story, gangs are abundant, with nearly every student taking part. Yet these aren’t the gangs of drug smuggling and organized crime that usually comes to mind. Instead, they are like the social structure of Harper High School. Gangs are more or less like cliques in a normal high school, except that they are determined by where you live, everyone has guns and little disagreements turn into shootings. Each and every portion of the program was shocking in a different way and I couldn’t figure out a single way how I could even come close to identifying how it must feel to have had almost every person in my school to have been witness to at least one shooting.

What I find worse than anything else is my ignorance. A couple years ago, I knew nothing about the ridiculous murder rates in Chicago. Only when I began to listen to Chicago rapper Chance the Rapper did I began to see and feel how that world was. My favorite song in his universally-acclaimed mixtape Acid Rap was the highly emotional Acid Rain that focused on this violence, talking about a friend of his who was murdered in front of his eyes. This song is part of Chance’s mission to help solve the city’s issues, what he says has turned into a “scummy place”. This is so important. I’ve highlighted how much I value music and its power to reach people is unmatched. Thus, Chance’s mission with his music could be extremely important for the future of Chicago.

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