Merry Christmas, Mr. P Stone

by

This photo, taken by professional photographer and JPUSA resident Fred Burkhart, by sheer coincidence captured the moments after the shooting described in the below article.

 

I have lived in Uptown since the mid eighties. It is different now. Back then it was a bonified ghetto, with burnt out buildings, drunks to step over on the sidewalk and children of drug addicts playing on the streets in rags. Over the years it has changed. Like much of the North side of Chicago it has been gentrified. Starbucks and Borders, condos and a Target. Only there are still gangs.

Youth groups who visit will ask about gangs. They are the stuff of urban legend and tv movies, bands of terrifying black men with gold teeth out to kill and rape innocent whites for street cred. Remind them to turn on their headlights and they will follow you home to your nice house and kill you in your carport. Once a visitor asked me how to stay safe from gangs when they went shopping downtown. I suppressed a smile when I told her the Magnificent Mile was not really part of their turf.

The Black P Stones are a few blocks away on Magnolia, and they battle the Uptown Vice Lords who live on our street. In the summer the Vice Lords hang out near our building, behind the school. I hate that they are selling drugs, I hate that their leaders send younger members like so much cannon fodder to kill one another. Lives ruined, mothers crying for dead children. Gangs are easy to hate. It is easy to see the insanity of what they do.

When I was a teenager my drug dealer drove a nice car and lived in a nice house in the suburbs just like me. When he got caught his parents sent him to rehab. I think he ended up going to college. Wars by governments are complicated, and they have people whose job it is to spin it to the people who foot the bill, with their taxes and the lives of their children. Maybe there are good reasons to kill one another. It is hard for me to wrap my head around.

Once when someone threw a juice box over the wall of our yard, hitting my autistic son, I marched back to the group of Vice Lords doing business on their phones and demanded they tell me who did it. They stared at me for a moment, clearly thrown by this white lady in shorts and crocs addressing them without fear. When they recovered they expressed outrage at the drive by juice box incident, and offered to find the culprit. “That ain’t right.”  I declined the offer, picturing them beating the crap out of an eight year old, and thanked them. They admired my tattoos to one another as I walked away.

In the summer my family walks to where the P Stones hang, a park across the street from Starbucks that has a big water fountain. They are there with their families. The dads play basketball and the kids play with my kids in the water. The adults get a kick out of Jude, my big autistic son flapping and laughing in the water, and Eden, my eight year old, runs around with the other kids. Once one of the men made a joke about Eden’s bright red hair, and he scowled at the group of men, not wanting to be singled out.

I brought Eden over and had him apologize. These members of the P Stone nation were incredulous, this lady making her kid apologize to them. “Just trying to teach him to be respectful,” I explained. Not because they were P Stones, or because this was their park. Because they were humans, people, who God loves and have mothers and children and matter. How am I going to teach my son that the homeless man on the corner matters if I deny the humanity of someone in a white tshirt? I didn’t say that. Mr. P Stone smiled at me, and nodded respect to my husband.

Since November the gunfire has been nightly on Wilson Avenue, and it has been loud. It has been warm so the windows are still open, and when we hear the crack, crack, crack it seems like the city noises all stop for just a moment, the streets holding their breath, and then the sirens. The other night my husband was out walking to the corner store, and we heard the shots. I ran from the kitchen, down to the first floor, in my socks. I began calling Don on his cell phone, no answer. No answer. Sirens.

Not answering the phone. He did not come home. He did not call.

I stayed in the lobby, frozen to the floor. Peter walked by, and he looked at me and told me he would go find Don. Don did not come home, he did not call.

I had a bad taste in my mouth. Someone went to get my mother. I stood waiting. Thinking how I could not do this, raise these boys, sleep in a bed alone. He did not call. My thoughts were for myself. I cannot do this alone.

Don and Peter walked through the doors. I ran up to Don and started hitting him. “Answer your PHONE, how many times have I told you, ANSWER YOUR PHONE!!”  And then we both burst into tears.

Don had walked past a group of Vice Lords, and as soon as he got across the alley back on to the curb, the shooting started. Instead of calling me or leaving, he went back and helped one of the men who had bullets in his leg and hand and foot. That is who I married, I would expect nothing less. I went upstairs and threw up, and thought about moving to New Hampshire.

The next day I heard a group of men talking. “And this one tall white dude, he was helping the one who got shot in the foot..”

I have no way of knowing this for sure, but I believe in my heart that the people who did the shooting from the car across the street waited for Don to get past before they shot. Maybe they didn’t want the heat killing an innocent white guy brings. Maybe they remembered him from the park. Maybe there was a little scrap of humanity in there, in the midst of this war over a couple of yards of pavement, he didn’t want to take a civilian away from his kids at Christmas. I will never know.

I only know that these men have mothers, and God loves them, and they were children once, and are fighting a war that makes no sense, and dying for no good reason. It would be easy to see them as evil personified, to dismiss their humanity, which is what they have done to one another, and what we all need to do to inflict violence and injustice on other human beings.

So no moving to New Hampshire. Uptown is my home, just like the guy with the white tshirt at the park. Just like him I have sin, and a mother who loves me, and I need some direction, somehow to make sense of this sinful, broken world. Merry Christmas, Mr. P Stone. Thanks for not shooting my husband, and try to stay safe. Hope to see you next summer at the park. God loves you, and I am guessing your mother does, too. Take care.

36 Comments

  1. Dear Lord,

    Please watch over these good people, including my son, Tyler, my daughter-in-love, Carolyn, and my granddaughter, Olive.

    Amen

  2. Rebecca,
    I googled you. It’s been a while since we spoke last. You are still the same, full of grace and humility, and your blogs still make me miss JPUSA so much.
    After reading the comments I can’t help but think that but by the Grace of God any one of us could be right where the P. Stones are.
    I am moving to IL soon and I have to see you!
    Going to search you out on fb.
    Love you!!
    Julie Sumrall Mikul Parker

  3. Great post, I miss uptown every day I’m not there. It is a home in my life. I learned more and grew more in that year then I could ever know. Thank you JPUSA and friends in UPTOWN.

    Don, this is why I considered you a dear friend while there. I knew you were a good person the moment I met you. God bless you and thanks be to God for your safety!

  4. Thanks for the link Rebecca. What a compelling reminder of the many shades of gray in which we all live. So many seek to categorize… black or white… good or bad. Thank you for sharing your gift. It is a privilege to see through your eyes for a moment or two.
    Beth

  5. Honestly I have not been keeping up on all the comments, mostly because life has been typically crazy. There have been some pretty scary rants from people saying that “God has left Uptown” and calling all gang members animals. I have no wish to start up another round of vitriol, but I do want to make a few observations of my own.

    Everyone has sin. White people in nice houses commit sin, and murder, and steal, and hurt one another. It is easy to call people who scare you animals, especially if it makes you feel better about yourself.

    Our new alderman has not been able, so far, to do much about the violence. It has gotten much, much worse since he came into office. Praying that he will be able to help in some way, as opposed to polarizing the neighborhood more.

    I am amazed at the hatred and racism that spouts from the very people who are so happy to call people “subhuman” and “animals.” Perhaps you are not as civilized as you would like to believe.

    Finally, I would like to say that my children are growing up in a place that is diverse, and real, and are surrounded by people who believe that all human beings have worth and purpose. Every day I read in the paper about kids in the suburbs dying senseless deaths from drugs, car accidents, suicides, shootings. We are by no means immune to such things, but violence and despair comes in every color and does not just live in the ghetto. God lives here. I see HIm every day, and His love sustains me. No Mr. Jenkins, God has not left Uptown, and He never will. The Bible says He wills that no man should perish, but that all should come to Him and know His love.

    Merry Christmas.

  6. Fred, you are a beautiful addition to our family, and you bring us joy.

  7. Thank you, Rebecca. The accompanying photo, while it was somewhat of a “coincidence,” I believe also that God had placed me there to observe the love that sustains your relationship with Don. When I realize that God must have also placed Don in the vicinity of the shooting, I am humbled, for he exhibited more courage than I might have in the same circumstance. The both of you have given me new insight into Christ’s love in the short 16 months I have lived in Uptown, at home with the Jesus People. Thank you.

  8. “E. Gadds” — if someone poops on my rug, I likely won’t let them back into my living room again.

  9. I see the fascist ….I mean liberals are true to their color. Deleting opposing thought.

  10. All I can say is “WOW”! I worked as a corrections officer in a gang unit for almost 2 years and dealt with these misled men daily. I only wish I had the strength, wisdom, and love you have shown them. You are definately a bright example of Christ’s love. Thank you so very much for sharing and leading by an example.

    • Mr. Pander it is easy to be kind to someone a few times a year. Dealing day in and day out with broken, angry people would be very difficult I am sure, and a person would need a whole lot of prayer and strength to do it! Thanks so much for your kind words. God Bless.

  11. Obviously, some of the reactionary voices from the neighborhood have shown up here. I posted their comments more as examples of a certain mentality which needs no refutation. Wilson Station will not, however, become what some other sites about Uptown are, and posters should be aware of that fact. We appreciate dialogue, even sharp dialogue, but disrespect and anonymous posters annoy us and may be treated to the ‘delete’ key. Just sayin’.

  12. My god lady. Are you crazy? You live in the ghetto. Who cares how many Targets or Starbucks are around the corner. There are bullets flying!! Hello?

  13. These comments just cement the fact that Uptown will continue its downward spiral and you really do deserve the ongoing savagery. It’s completely disgusting but you accept it.

  14. Rebecca they choose to be animals it is a choice. Every bible i have ever heard of says you shall not take the life of man. Make no mistake about what would have happened had you husband been in the way. You are right their mother, homeboys, babys mamas and kids probably love them , my god doesnt love those who kill, rob, rape, and pillage. I for one will not thank someone for not doing something they arent supposed to do. I wish you and your family the best i truly hope that these gangbangers leave you guys in peace a word of advice dont carry anythig flashy to the park.

  15. Uptown’s history is a very long one, and it has been both an impoverished area and an area of incredible diversity. Those two historical facts are intrinsically related.

    Bear with me…

    In the 1960s, Uptown was the poorest neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side, a “port of entry” neighborhood for each new wave of poor entering the city. It was also one of the foremost areas where poor whites (from Appalachia for the most part) and poor blacks made common cause. Groups as diverse as the Black Panthers, J.O.I.N., Rising Up Angry, and (a bit later) The Heart of Uptown Coalition worked in Uptown. This social activism led to many social service agencies also locating in Uptown, along with a sizeable amount of public housing developing.

    Progressive politics came head to head with reactionary politics in Uptown, over and over again. As time developed, our neighborhood seemed mired in a class war. The poor had nowhere to go, and the incoming more well to do wanted the poor (and the problems accompanying poverty) to go away… quite literally. So they priced the poor out, evicted them, did whatever they could to attempt to rid Uptown of the very diversity which made Uptown what it is.

    So… One approach is to try to homogenize Uptown economically and perhaps even racially. In fact, the last census shows that already happening. White population is up; hispanic, black, and asian population is down. That isn’t what is happening in the rest of the city of Chicago.

    Another approach is to build bridges between various groups and attempt to make it safer for *all* of us, but to also attempt quite consciously to preserve the low-income housing stock we have left.

    Where gangs come into this is that they provide those who want the poor gone an excuse to continue gentrifying Uptown. “We’re just making it safer,” they say.

    Which is, of course, a different kind of gangsterism… or as some folks call it these days, banksterism…

  16. Unbelievable. These people destroy your neighborhood and you show them an ounce of respect? Why? I can’t fathom it.

  17. MCS, just wondering, where do you live? And what does a person have to do or be to qualify as human? Who gets to decide?

  18. Ms Hill, I cannot believe that you are subjecting your family to this life. My jaw hit the ground several times while reading your essay. What you are doing is not making things better but making them worse. These Black P Stones you love so much are nothing but a pack of savages. Everybody has a choice to make in life. You can chose to do good or to do evil. These people chose to do evil. They ruled Uptown under the protection of a corrupt alderman, who prevented police from doing any proactive work up there. All I can say is keep drinking the cool-aid and pray every night that one of those savages does not victimize your family. PS God left that area years ago.

  19. I’m sorry, but you are being willfully and dangerously naive. You overheard someone talking about how your husband helped the one who got shot? Then they now have him marked for taking sides, and it’s only a matter of time b4 they go after him. You should move today. Get out of Dodge sooner rather than after it’s too late. There is no god in Uptown that will protect you. The sub-human gangbanger animals will get you and the rest of your family if you remain.

    See http://secondcitycop.blogspot.com for the opinion and reaction of the Chicago police on your misplaced “respect” and mistaken sense of divine protection.

  20. Well done you are soo full of faith and love. Back to reality up town is not the ghetto send your kid to that park with a smart phone and hope he leaves with it. Go hang out in englewood, grwsham, chattam, auburn, grandcrossing, or any other south or west side park and thank mr bd, gd, cvl, tvl, mc, lk, sd, 4ch, bps, and hope all he does is punch you in the face dor being stupid gangs only tend to shoot rival or members of their own gang if the are in violat ion. Or sometimes they shoot regular joe if they resist in a robbery. Why did your kid apologize? Because he gave a dirty look to some one who disrespected him ate you kidding? Hate to break it to you but you hubby didnt get shot because he wasnt in the way gangs in chicago spray and pray and dont care who gets hit as long as it isnt them.

  21. Wow, Rebecca! Thanks so much for reminding those of us who live in quiet neighborhoods how bad it can be, and what we need to pray about and be thankful for. There is so much we can do..and don’t. I wish you and your family a very joyous Christmas!

  22. Wow… Don is my hero… You married an amazing man. This is intense.. You and your family are shooting stars amongst thousands still. Inspired. Thank you. I’ll be praying for peace.

  23. i have been watching the news and posts from the community and praying for you guys and your safety and for the community. so glad don is ok and we are praying for peace.

  24. Wow, awesome story, praise God for HIs mercy, keep that wonderful heart and continue living for Him.

  25. Thanks, Rebecca. Well done.

  26. Real good, Rebecca. That’s the heart we need towards this crazy, deadly, situation we all find ourselves in. –Chris Ramsey

  27. BEAUTIFUL

  28. Thank you for your post. It is always good to hear fellow disciples acting like fellow disciples. Tell your husband he’s admired. Noah

  29. Becca, thanks for being you.

    We love you all up there… and you’ve got a whole church down here praying for you guys!

  30. i’m at the library tearing up right now. you and don and the boys are such a shining example of christ’s love. i love you all so much and miss you oodles.

  31. Too many gifts to comment on here. Brilliant! Amen. -Glenn

  32. Becca, I’m struck by your story. I had no idea your family just escaped the cross-fire. I’m grateful you guys are okay.

    Thank you for a gripping article and sharing your heart…

  33. Hey becca lovely words .. you and don have watched me grow up and reading this brought tears to my eyes… i dont even want to think of Don getting shot.I love you and your family tons .

  34. rebecca – you are so full of love! K

  35. You’ve done it again, Becca. Right on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>