Open Letter to Boys & Girls Club of Chicago.

To: The Boys & Girls Club of Chicago

Cc: Mimi LeClair

From: The youth of #NoCopAcademy and of Chicago        

Of course we want investments in young people. But this isn’t it.

For Black youth from the West and South Sides of the city, police are a frequent source of our trauma. From the oversurviellence of our communities, to the day to day contact we make with them in Chicago Public Schools, to seeing our family targeted in the streets and tortured in police stations and jails. Police are not a source of safety for us. So, adding a Boys & Girls club, which are meant to be sanctuaries for Black and Brown youth, on the site of a cop academy is absurd. As the Boys and Girls Club of Chicago, you say you want to “ provide members with emotional, educational, physical, and cultural resources that allow them to enjoy their childhood and thrive in adulthood.” But we already know the opposite is what will happen.

Why are Black youth only given resources from the city when they are tied to more policing? When the #NoCopAcademy campaign surveyed West Garfield Park residents, 95% of community members said they wanted investments made into something other than the Chicago Police Department. It is frustrating to see the city pretending to meet the demands and dire needs of residents, when it is actually sinking even more funding into the department that kills them on the regular.

The young people who need these after school resources the most will be alienated from the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago because of the lack of safety that comes with interacting with police on a daily basis. Police are already in our homes, in our schools and our streets. We don’t need them in our after school programs as well. We need money for housing, we need money for our schools and money to fund our futures all over the West Side and an investment into a cop academy isn’t an investment into the futures of Black youth.

This is $8 million being invested in PR for the police. Not for young people.  

Anthony Alvarez was 22 years old and Adam Toledo was nothing more than a child, only 13 years old at the time of his murder by CPD earlier this spring. This Boys & Girls club center announcement is damage control for these murders along with all the other misuages of law carried out by the Chicago Police Department. More and more people across the city of Chicago are recognizing the need for change the very way we define safety—not as punishment and control, but sharing resources and building community.

For Lightfoot and the CPD, this move is a PR strategy to ease those rising tensions between the general public and police. Black and Brown youth are being used as props that are dangled in front of the media and it’s sad that the Boys & Girls club is a willing participant. Now the mayor can paint any opposition as the antagonistic individuals trying to stop progress by opposing the cop academy and its new ornaments; without actually addressing our concerns for how to achieve meaningful safety. We know that police are reactionary, not preventative.Community centers with after school programs are preventative and restorative. Young people need after school programs that nurture our passions, without becoming photo ops for the police state.

This cop academy club is disrespectful to our ancestors, to the lineage of liberation struggles folks like Fred Hampton and the Black Panthers led on the West Side in the 60’s, and to all of us who have been demanding resources be brought to our communities in the form of funding for schools, housing programs, community centers, and after school programs for decades. West Side youth have been marching, protesting, and demanding real investments be made in our lives for years! But we know this Boys & Girls club is an investment in the police, not us.

Shame on you, Boys & Girls Club.  If you really support Black youth, stop collaborating with the police and build this club somewhere it can actually serve us – without strings (or cops) attached.  

Sincerely,

Destiny H., 19
Avery S., 18
Dontay G., 21, East Garfield
Mahogany, 21, South Shore
Laila R.L., 19, Humboldt Park
Christine J., 20, North Lawndale
Jalen K., 20, Albany Park
Asha E., 20, Hyde Park
Kayla M., 20, Summit
Zaria B., 21, KTown (Westside)
Chris H., 37, Humboldt
Gwendolyn., 45, Austin
Sandra Y., 48, Westside
Ling Y.
Alyicia K.
Cristal B.,
Abigail W.,

Veronica Rodriguez

Marlenne Garcia

Diana Guzman Rivera

Citlali Pérez

Karina Martinez

Alyssa Befumo

Andrea Mendiola

Esmeralda Montesinos

cristal bedolla

Sydney Pauta

Alycia Kamil

Ling Young

Deyana Atanasova

Robert Vanecko

Rachel Brustein

Jason Guthartz

Jennifer Diaz

Nancy Rodriguez

Jamie Cernek

Iris Postma

Tony Alvarado-Rivera

Trinity Thompkins

Erin Marie Barker

Jocelyn Nelson

Karlyn Gorski

Dejashana Boyd

Liz Gomez

William Smiljanić-Pérez

Subrianakhem Kheperu

Jung Yoon

Tanvi Singh

Aiyana L

Milo Chicago

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Frances Harris

Ariana Guzman

Madeline Wright

Leila Gutierrez

Sam Andrews

Mary Kate Clancy

Jahnavi Tipparaju

Jennifer Nava

William J. McInnes

Malcolm Grossman

Amaris Edwards

Damaris Rodriguez

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