Commentary: Hoping the Story of Michael Haynes Ends the Chicago Violence

Iona Athletics

In a city plagued by violence, Iona's Michael Haynes dreamed of making the NBA and getting his family to a better place. He was gunned down before he had the chance. I hope that his story can help end the insanity on Chicago's South Side.

The blare of the police siren pierced the ESPN camera's microphone. Reporter Mark Schwarz turned and looked concerned at what was occurring out of view.

He turned to the young man sitting next to him and asked if that kind of thing was common in the South Side Chicago neighborhood.

"I'm used to it now," Marcus Haynes said.

Marcus is the younger brother of Michael Haynes, the Iona recruit who was shot and killed as he tried to break up an argument over a necklace on July 26. The sad story of Michael's shooting was covered by ESPN's Outside the Lines on Monday.

Cut with shots of his brother and grandmother, two people trying to pick up the pieces with Michael gone and another brother in jail for trying to avenge his killing that night, were details of the violence that has overtaken the South Side of Chicago.

It should hit home. It should mean something to me. After all, I live here. Not the South Side, but in Chicago. I read the reports in the paper. I see the numbers on the Internet.

I remember being in graduate school and seeing the faces of the other reporters who covered the violence. I saw people who never seemed down a day in their lives broken down by what they were forced to confront day after day.

And yet, I am numb to it now, just like Marcus. And all because I don't see a solution.

When the news of Haynes' shooting broke, a part of me hoped that it would be the beginning of the end. If a high profile name could just make it into the news, rather than the nameless, faceless numbers, maybe it would make a difference.

Only it hasn't. Things have gotten worse with the end of summer. And unless something truly spectacular happens, nothing is going to change.

ESPN was there as St. Sabina parish teamed up with Chicago basketball stars to put on a basketball tournament in the hopes of curbing the violence. It made sense bringing together folks who would normally be fighting and having them focused on a common activity.

But you can't play basketball everyday like that. It won't end that way, even if it gives the neighborhood a brief respite.

Scoop Jackson thought it might work. He said he hoped kids would remember that day, and realize "how trivial what they are fighting over really is."

But Haynes' uncle knew the truth. He said that it is the code of the street and it will take a lot to teach the youth in the neighborhood that there is a different way.

He isn't wrong. I keep imagining a form of revolution on the South Side. I keep hoping that the neighborhood will rise up and say they won't take it anymore.

It won't have anything to do with more police, or basketball games. It has to do with people taking back their homes, and their streets and their neighborhoods by themselves. This is not a call for them to get guns. This is a call for them to get hope and move against the forces of bad in their neighborhoods.

You can do it without guns. Marcus knows that.

"Cowards run to guns in a fight," he said.

Michael wanted to get to the NBA -- a very realistic dream given his talent with the basketball -- and get his family out of there.

"He talked about getting us out of here," Marcus said. "All the time..."

But escaping shouldn't be the only solution. If everyone runs from the problem, that is giving up. That is leaving the city in the hands of what is killing it.

I didn't grow up there. I didn't have the same struggles as these kids do now. I have less of a place to talk than someone like Michael. So let's let Michael speak:

"Growing up here is real hard," he said. "There is a lot of stuff going on, a lot of distractions."

He fought against it. He was killed trying to stop the violence and silliness in his own neighborhood -- without a gun. A former friend cut him down because he hadn't learned the same lessons as Haynes.

You can't make everything better with a gun.

I only hope that more people can learn that lesson. I want my city to stop being so bloody. I want there to be more days where no one is shot, versus having to celebrate when a person isn't killed by a bullet during a day.

I hope that Michael's story can help change that. It won't be enough on its own, but I can still hope.

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