Column: Big Lessons From My Little Internship

By Samantha Latson

Samantha Latson
I CAN STILL SEE HUMAN palms covering the ground during prayer on a hot summer night shortly after a crowd stops at a street corner in Auburn Gresham at 8 p.m. It marks the spot where, just hours earlier before the march, a shooting took place. These are my summer reminisces.

 The group—men, women and children—followed Father Michael L. Pfleger’s lead. They kneel and place their palms where blood had been shed. “Peace, peace, peace,” the crowd of dozens shout in unison, commanding the streets and all within earshot to yield to their prayer for change.

Months later, with summer well ended and the first snow of winter already fallen, the marcher’s voices and chants still fill my head. Their hope. Their journey through some of Chicago’s deadliest streets in their fight to turn the cycle of violence around. I still see them, hear them clearly. And I doubt that I will ever forget.



"I learned that beyond the stereotypical stories that plague Black communities there are vibrant complex stories of daily life."



Father Michael L. Pfleger leads Peace Marchers in prayer at corner where two people were shot. 

Tears For Marquise

Pallbearers carry the casket of Marquise Richardson to an idling hearse.
By John W. Fountain

TEARS. THE PIANO PLAYED HAUNTINGLY, the soloist’s voice floating above the tears and sorrow inside this airy sanctuary on a somber Wednesday morning. Tears for Marquise. Tears for all Chicago children shot or slain. Agony and rivers of bitter tears.

Endless tears over the gunfire that crackles across this bleeding city, claiming the innocent and young with no relenting. That steals our children almost from the cradle. 

That now rings with numbing normalcy and largely is reduced to the weekend newspaper round-up. That robs us all of hope and humanity, leaving a trail of carnage wrought by evil.

A Grieving Mother Finds Purpose Over Pain

Members of "Purpose Over Pain" gather outside of St. Sabina for the 2021 Summer Peace March.
By Samantha Latson

Genell Taylor marched through South Side streets with members and supporters of the Faith Community of St. Sabina, chanting and clutching a portrait of her 14-year-old son. Taylor, 56, had only recently lost her son Tyrese Taylor to gun violence. 

Despite her grief, or perhaps partly to help her deal with it, she found it important to plant her feet on Chicago’s streets, comforted by other mothers present who know what it means to walk in her shoes. 

“I just want to honor my baby because he was murdered,” Taylor said, standing outside the rectory at St. Sabina on a summer night in June after a Peace march.

Taylor’s son was murdered just days earlier, according to police, fatally shot on June 10, outside their North Lawndale home on the city’s West Side.  

She said that as a mother she had strived to do what any good parent hopes to achieve: To raise her son and to shield him from hurt, harm and danger. 

Church Launches Summer Invasion

Faith vs. Violence: And They March

Father Michael L. Pfleger, Senior Pastor of the Faith Community of St. Sabina points the way
 forward as the South Side Catholic church kicks off its summer-long "Friday Night Peace Walk" 

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18

By John W. Fountain

Against the raging tide, against the forces of evil--as the golden evening sunlight on the first Friday of summer yields to darkness and shadows in Auburn Gresham, where the streetlights illuminate this faithful trail of prayer warriors--they march.

Led by a young Black man, hoisting a giant cross, emblazoned with “Demand Justice” on one side and “Stop Shooting” on the other, they march. West on 79th Street and beyond, through this South Side business thoroughfare and turning down tree-lined streets, they walk through the valley of the shadow of death. 

“I will fear no evil; for thou art with me…” 

Chicago: A Tale of Two Cities

By John W. Fountain

Let me say it again: Chicago is pretty and Chicago is ugly. Even on her most beautiful of days. And this is her glaring dichotomy for me as a native son who stands with a foot in each world. Chicago stirs within me both love and hate.

I love Chicago. And I hate her. She is a tale of two cities, two-faced. 

She is a glistening skyscraper-lit city on a shimmering sailboat-dotted Great Lake, the epitome of picture postcard beauty. 

She is a bloody city, where wanton gunfire rips Black and brown babies from their families, leaving a trail of blood, tears and carnage on streets littered with shell casings. 



"I love the Chi. But it’s complicated."



The Chicago I know is the city of succulent deep-dish pizza, Michael Jordan’s Bulls and Lollapalooza. Of safe neighborhoods in some parts, where children frolic freely in the summer sun. 

It is a Chicago of unsafe neighborhoods in other parts, where irreverent unsavory young men with automatic weapons and disregard for human life gun down children while they jump rope, make mud pies, wait in a McDonald’s drive-thru, or play in a bouncy house. A soul-less city of mounting child autopsies.

Chicago shines. Chicago bleeds. Chicago soars. Chicago falls. 

She uplifts. And she crushes. She is angelic and devilish, bipolar even. She is the meadow. She is the ghetto.

She is a Ferris wheel-twinkling safe zone. And she is a muzzle-flashing war zone. 

Chicago is good. Chicago is bad.    

Even when I am relishing her skyline and cultural gems, her scents and sounds of the seasons--even when the lake and city are white-frosted over--I am reminded that my love for her runs deep to my bones. The city intoxicates me.

But I am sobered by the portrait of Chicago’s dark side--by the faces and travail of those who dwell in her land of the forgotten beyond the Magnificent Mile, on Chicago’s insignificant isles, where poverty and gun violence rise assuredly each morning like the sun. 

“The American Millstone,” some have called them who dwell on the other side. “The Truly Disadvantaged.” “The Permanent Underclass.” 

I was once one of them. 

I am still one of them--my zip code eternally 60623, no matter where life or my choices take me. And my pen and heart are forever wed to that part of Chicago where I grew up and lived for more than two decades.

My writing as a journalist for more than 30 years, and as a freelance columnist for this newspaper for the last 12 years can attest to that, and also to my love for Bigger Thomas’ town. I love the Chi. But it’s complicated.

And inasmuch as I might ever be tempted to close my eyes to the grim realities that compose life for those who dwell beyond Chicago’s safe neighborhoods and her tourist thoroughfare, I cannot. No matter how much Chicago shimmers, I cannot. 

No matter who says that Chicago’s beauty and hope outshine or outweigh her goriness and bleakness, or that fewer shootings and murders or per capita violence stats make Chicago not America’s bloodiest city, I cannot. I’ve heard such rumblings lately.

But I know the truth: That in Englewood Chicago, and East and West Garfield Chicago, and Austin Chicago and Lawndale and Auburn Gresham Chicago bullets fly, the children die, and all the pie-in-the-sky platitudes over the city’s beauty ring hollow.

The number that matters most is one. If it is your loved one who is murdered or shot, that is one too many, and the impact on one’s psyche and soul immeasurable.

I know. 

Chicago is pretty. She is ugly to the bone and always my love-hate home.