African-Americans flee Chicago amid violence

For many, summer brings barbecues, vacations and memories to warm up the frivolous winter months that lay ahead.

But summer means something different to Chicago residents.

August brought the most violent month in over 20 years, and big weekends like Labor Day and the Fourth of July mean 120 shot and many wounded. The violence, which is prevalent in African-American communities on the South and West sides, is just one explanation as to why 180,000 African-Americans left the city from 2000-2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“We cannot afford to lose another generation to the gangs and to the streets and to the guns and to the violence,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a press conference on Thursday.

Mayor Emanuel disclosed a three-part plan to end violence after the number of homicides reached 500 — making 2016 Chicago’s deadliest year in a decade.

His agenda is outlined as follows:

  • Enforcement: 970 more police officers will be hired and the city will implement harsher sentences for repeat gun offenders.
  • Investment: All officers will have body cameras and tasers. Additionally, gun-detecting cameras will be placed in Chicago’s most dangerous neighborhoods.
  • Prevention: Tighter gun store policies will be enforced to prevent criminals from obtaining guns.

Still, to many, his plan comes too late.

Violence tears down communities

In what is known as The Reverse Migration, more than 9,000 blacks reportedly left Cook County from 2014-2015, reports The Chicago Tribune.

Though other factors play a role in Chicago’s population dip, including Chicago’s weather, cost of living and the unemployment rates, many seek to escape the surging violence and the demolishment of black communities.

Corey Hardiman, a mentor in Chicago’s South Side told The Trace in March that leaving the city “is a common conversation, especially within black millennials.” Hardiman admitted that exposure to street violence is apart of his daily routine and he has lost several close friends to guns.

“People are constantly being killed and at the rate they are being killed, it is depressing,” he said.

History repeating itself

But this isn’t the first time blacks have migrated due to violence and inequalities.

The Great Migration from 1940 —1970, saw six million African-Americans migrate from the Jim Crow-rigged South to the Northern states, in two waves. With almost 120 lynchings occurring daily, African-Americans migrated to the North for economic and social prosperity.

“[It was] the first mass act of independence by a people who were in bondage in this country for far longer than they have been free,” wrote Isabel Wilkerson in her novel “The Warmth of Our Other Sons.”

Any migration is a referendum on the place that people are fleeing from, and The Great Migration was “a major redistribution of a people” that changed the dynamics of the U.S., she said.

Changing spaces

And that dynamic is changing once again.

In 2015, Atlanta’s black population increased, luring in educated, middle-class black Chicagoans who hope to escape the violence of the big city.

But the effects black flight has on local communities are felt instantly and over time. Local businesses suffer without the support of the black middle class, said Schmitz Bechteler director of research and evaluation at the Chicago Urban League.

But for some, there is no other option but to flee.

“I’d never fault a family for leaving, but it does present challenges for the community they leave behind,” he said.

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