Obama to speak at South Side high school Friday


President Barack Obama will make his remarks on the economy and the middle-class at Hyde Park Career Academy high school when he comes to Chicago Friday. He is also expected to touch on gun violence. The school is located in the Woodlawn community, which wrestles with gang activity, shootings and other social ills. Last year 16 people were killed there, according to police data.

A few parents of slain Chicago youth spoke with the president and Congressional leaders in Washington in the days following Hadiya Pendleton’s funeral leading up to the State of the Union address Tuesday. They are expected to be in the by invitation-only audience Friday when Obama speaks.

Annette Nance-Holt lost her son, Blair, to a gunman who opened fire on a city bus in 2007 as the 17-year-old and his friends commuted home from school.

“We shared our stories … what it’s like to lose a loved one,” Nance-Holt said she and other grieving mothers and fathers told the president.

Obama will come home to a city on its heels, grappling with rampant gun violence. Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said publicly that overall crime was down appreciably in the city in 2012. Still, last year there were over 500 homicides in Chicago and police say that more than 80 percent of the deaths were due to gun violence. Community organizations count 108 youth among the dead last year.

McCarthy said so far this year police have seized over 700 guns. He has said that Chicago has a “unique” gang issue that drives a bulk of the violence in some communities.

Cleopatra and Nathaniel Pendleton learned while they were in Washington with the Obamas that the alleged gang-affiliated gunman who snuffed out their daughter Hadiya said he was avenging his own friend’s shooting and that the girl was not the intended target.

“She was just there,” he reportedly told police.

The call for Pres. Obama, who cut his teeth in one of the city’s deadliest communities – Roseland, to come home and use his “bully pulpit” to address the carnage here has been nearly four years in the making.

In April 2009 Phillip Jackson of the Chicago-based Black Star Project, the community organization that coordinates the annual, national Million Father March, called for a campaign to urge Obama to come to Chicago and other urban areas “to help us stop the violence among our youth.”

Over three years later, the president is making his way to Chicago. 

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